It is one thing to know your history and it's entirely something else to experience it. And I think it was this feeling that made my excursion to Samode a lifetime experience. When I was asked to go to Samode, I thought I pretty much knew what I was going to expect. After all Rajasthan is known for its homely hospitality, history, its culture and of course the most charming locals you can ever meet. But what I did not expect was the larger than life experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. It's where you can find the harmonious amalgamation of the simple and the luxurious. I found it, Intriguing.
This 450 years old town still manages to keep its rich culture and traditions intact. I know, I know long gone are the days of the Maharaja's but what is unique about this town is that it still keeps its legacy alive. It gives you the opportunity to go back 450 years and experience the life, which was.
Samode's history and grandeur has been restored and protected meticulously, in the Samode Palace and Samode Bagh which have now been turned into Heritage properties by Rawal Raghevendra and Rawal Yadavendra Singh ji of Samode, the descended of the erstwhile ruling family.
The Walled Fortress
You travel into an entirely era the moment you enter the walled village, you get a sense of the uniqueness of this town. A world where there is a royalty in the air. Nestles in the middle of the Aravalies, the Samode palace is sight to die for. The hotel staff, greeted us with the traditional tikka at the Grand entrance, followed by the tour of the hotel premises by Gopi Singh, an employee of the hotel for the last 16 years and probably the most photographed man. One look at him and he was the epitome of Rajasthani culture, attired in a crisp white Dhoti Kurta and leather jutties, and his big moustache. He even took the time to show us his pictures in the various travel magazines. We began our tour from the famous Durbar hall also known as the Diwan-e-khas and the Sheesh Mahal. Gopi Singh took time to explain and show us the ornate and intrinsic work done on all the walls. If you look carefully you will see the beautiful stone work on the walls with gems such as Ruby and the Emerald. You can also see the mughal Ariash work adorned by the walls. The Sheesh Mahal and the Durbar hall are the finest examples of the Rajput-Mughal Palace architecture.
Being in those closed halls, I couldn't help my imagination from running wild, thinking how it would have been 450 years ago, when the preceding of the Diwan-e-Khas would be on and the women would be looking down from their windows. In some odd way it was an eerie feeling, when I stood at the window staring down at the Durbar hall.
Enjoying the Opulence
By now I was too excited to get a tour of the hotel rooms. I had heard about one of the royal suites, which had a private fountain for itself. From, here we were escorted by Lalit, one of the staff members again who painstakingly had, giving in to all our wishes, willingly. He showed us around all the luxurious royal suites and gave us a list of all the famous Hollywood and Bollywood personalities that have stayed at the hotel. Lalit has saved the best for the last. He now took us to the most expensive room of the Palace- the Imperial Suite. The moment we got into the room, the first thing that caught my eye, and probably everyone else's too- the big white bath tub and Jacuzzi right in the middle of the room. I mean I thought that was bizarre. Lalit obviously saw the expression on our faces and answered... "Well it's just a modern concept to go with the rest of the ultra modern amenities of the room".
The hotel staff has tried to retain the 450 years old history of the palace by maintaining the rooms and the premises of the Palace as close to what it was during the times of the rajas, to keep the royal experience as authentic as possible.
Each place says something, each room has a history to tell, and each photograph adorned by the palace rooms speaks to you.
After taking a tour of this marvel of a Palace, it was now time to explore more about Samode. My next destination was 376 steps away, The Samode Fort. It was 3:00 pm in the afternoon when we started walking and the by the time I reached up, the weather gods had become extremely kind to us big black clouds now saved us from the wrath of the sun.
While having water from the piao, we were told that the fort is now a private property and owned by Mr. Shanti Ram Kothari, a Jain who had bought this property almost 20 years ago. Once we reached the fort gates, his son Sumit Jain, who gave us the tour of the fort, greeted us. For now the property is being used, as a family residence by the father son duo but is open for visitors for a minimal fee.
The fort was purely built to protect the Palace from any kind of an enemy attack. Luckily since the fort and the village of Samode were never attacked the fort is pretty much in its original form.
The fort was so strategically built that it would keep and eye out for the enemy from 360 degrees. The fort is an architectural masterpiece and gives us an insight about the planning and forward thinking that has gone in to the making of the fort. For one, the fort survives only on the rainwater that gets stores in an underground tank that was built 450 years back. Till date there is no water supply to the fort and the underground water satisfies all the water needs and the tank has never dried up. Interestingly, in those days when only the soldiers occupied the fort, the fort premises had an abundant plantation. In times of attack the army could survive with the food and the water from within the premises for a length of good 6 months without and outside supply. While taking a walk around the courtyard of the fort, Sumit was now talking about the apparent treasure that is hidden below the water tank for a number of years and how it is guarded by the "muuchar sanp"- "the Mustached Snake" and how it would eat any intruder who tries to steal the treasure. I was tempted to ask him if he ever tried to venture in to try and find the treasure and prompt came the reply- "I think I will, when I nearing my death bed, at least I would have lived my life to the fullest and won't mind being bitten by the snake...if at all".
The sword of Tipu Sultan
While the tour was still on, for some odd reason the thought kept re-occurring as if I had seen this place somewhere, Weird right? I mean why would I keep thinking as if I have really seen this place? It all looked as if something about this place was really familiar but really couldn't figure it out. After admiring and imagining thousands of things that could have happened here, I just happen to say, " You know, it all looks as if I have come on the sets of Tipu Sultan" and bang came the reply, " Well, its because is was filmed right here in Samode" said Sumit. So here I was with all my weird thoughts answered. After the tour of the fort, we sat under the hue bale tree and I asked him why have they undertaken the mammoth task of restoring the fort, with a lot of thought he replied "If we don't keep our history alive, who will?, it's only if we take care of our historical monuments, will we teach our new generations to appreciate it".
After the much walking both up and downhill, we were now much in need of some rest, and what better than the beautiful Samode Bagh. I call it the - "Tranquility Bagh". A garden retreat steeped in luxury providing an excellent stay away from the noise city life. We were received here by the very polite Niranjan Sharma, one of the staff members who was kind enough to sit with us and tell is the history of the Bagh. These beautifully laid out Mughal gardens, now painstakingly restored to their former glo