Variety

Review: Suryagarh, Jaisalmer

July 10 | Updated on July 10, 2013

Suryagarh, Jaisalmer

Suryagarh, Jaisalmer

Suryagarh, Jaisalmer

Suryagarh, Jaisalmer

Suryagarh, Jaisalmer

Suryagarh, Jaisalmer

Suryagarh, Jaisalmer

Suryagarh, Jaisalmer

Sun, sand and splendour in the deserts of Rajasthan

Get wind and sand into the same equation and the result is an undulating landscape filled with mystique and breathtaking views. Perhaps, this is the reason why so many hotels and resorts are mushrooming all over Rajasthan; making it difficult for a property to truly stand out. However, breaking away from the tried-and-tested lot is the stunning bespoke hotel in the middle of the Jaisalmer desert, Suryagarh. It's the brainchild of Manvendra Singh Shekawhat, the managing director of this fort (a new structure and not a heritage monument) that now stands tall in solitary splendour. But the journey has been a long one. He wanted to carve a space, which would celebrate the land, and thereby enhance the experience for people like him — well-travelled and wanting something unique from their holiday. “That is why a fort made sense. I wanted it to look as if it was always there,” he adds. By chance, he met Jaipur-based architect Ravi Gupta, who is known for his heritage architecture and has designed the Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur.

Manvendra wanted this project to blend with surroundings. What worked in their favour was that they had the luxury of space — a full 40 acres of it. So, he gave the architect a one-point directive: to build the place imagining that he was 300 years back in time. And Ravi, following the brief to the T, disguised the hotel as a medieval sandstone fort.

Oasis in stone

Suryagarh occupies a bluff atop a low hill. Right from the entrance — with its large doorways, water bodies and arches — it transports you to the age of royalty. And, much like the fort, the hospitality, too, is grand. As you enter, rose petals gently waft from the rooftop to greet you; the rhythmic beats of large drums are almost hypnotic; folk artists create an interesting spectacle; a pandit blesses you and a smiling general manager ushers you in. The hotel has been planned on a sprawling scale: the property, with three floors, has 62 rooms and suites; a spa called Rait; a fitness centre called Akhara; restaurants Nosh and Legends of Marwad; Draksh, the bar; Tash, the cards and billiards room; and Neel, the indoor swimming pool. All this is in the midst of lush gardens, elegant courtyards, lakes and other water bodies. The interiors of the hotel were done by interior designer Aparna Kakrania of Design Dimensions, New Delhi, and fashion designer Raghavendra Rathore, using local artisans and traditions. One specification from the hotelier's end was to incorporate a design element, wherein the pillars in the courtyard should sport large stones, put together vertically, and made to look like a bundle of logs.  

Apart from the courtyard, the ground floor houses a lobby and a special seating area nearby, a pool, spa, billiards room and the restaurants. The coffee shop, Nosh, has yellow walls, casual seating, contemporary pendant lights and interesting artwork. The name, an Urdu word for a quick repast or light meal, was decided upon even before the space was conceived. Despite all the modernity, Manvendra wanted the coffee shop to reflect the landscape of the region. So, he got pictures clicked and digitally printed on canvas, varnished and touched them up with strokes of colours, and placed them in between mock windows that give one a feeling of sipping on a cuppa in the middle of a desert. The second restaurant, Legends of Marwad, has been designed as a formal space in a striking hue that swings between red and pink, with several mirrors and chandeliers.

The bar, Draksh, is also filled with things that you associate with the region. Cushions with a digitally printed image of a typical Rajasthani man with a big mustache, a wall with a man walking camels and motifs of the sun can be found here. The bar area is particularly striking. The curvy shelf (for the bottles) has been inspired by the famous (and fierce-looking) Rajasthani moustache, while the counter is actually a captivating light box fashioned out of Pakistani onyx. Next up was a trip to Akhara, a fully-functional gym with a central sand pit like that of traditional Indian wrestling pavillions; Rait, a unisex spa filled with special individual quarters that have a steam room and a floral bath. You can even opt for a dip in Neel, their indoor pool with deep blue walls; and to end the evening, a visit to Tash, the cards and billiards room with comfy leather-upholstered chairs and wood-panelled walls, is a must.

Local flavour

Tucked away on the first and second floors are the private spaces, comprising of basic rooms and plush suites, all adorned with colourful cushions and pretty wall patterns. Most quarters have a small living area, separated from the bedroom by arched columns. The bathrooms have a rain shower cubicle, a tub and easy-to-use fixtures instead of confusing high-tech gadgetry. Almost all rooms open to tiled balconies. However, the top-end Jaisalmer Suite spells out more indulgence. Lined with Jaisalmer stone, it has a large living space and comes with a private terrace and personal splash pool overlooking the desert landscape.

Every nook and cranny in this fort reflects the effort that went into its building. No space has been left vacant, yet there is no overcrowding of memorabilia. Some corridors are like photo galleries with pictures of local people and surroundings; others display ancient fossils and antiques that Manvendra procured from villages and old havelis. The seating space next to the lobby features swords and other artefacts from his family’s collection. For the outdoors, he bought a set of two doors with intricate carvings in the wood, layered with thick brass. The buffalo cart outside has thick wooden wheels and is over 200 years old. What’s most fascinating about the hotel is its eco-consciousness. They have a lake filled with rainwater; a sewage treatment plant (STP) recycles water for gardening; the roof has been insulated using the age-old technique of upturning terracotta pots and packing them with broken tiles; and almost all rooms have windows that open into the courtyard, which ensures that they receive indirect sunlight, significantly reducing the heat. And, local materials have been used wherever possible. If this doesn’t get you excited, you can always opt for a dinner on the dunes, a picnic by the lake, a halwai breakfast, a chudail (witch) trail and a host of other interesting activities. A visit to Suryagarh ensures retro revival with a contemporary twist... besides, a vacation can't get more royal than this.

– Better Interiors

Published on July 10, 2013

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor