Once home to the last reigning Maharaja of Bikaner Narendra Singh, this boutique hotel makes one step back in time
Three smiling men dressed in crisp cottons sat in front of us, but we were busy camouflaging our crumpled clothes after an overnight train journey from Delhi. I thought to myself, maybe, just maybe I didn’t look like a ragamuffin sitting on the designer sofa in Narendra Bhawan. Our gracious hosts were the heritage group’s president Karan Singh Vaid, vice president Siddharth Yadav and area general manager Faisal Nafees. Once the home of the last reigning Maharaja of Bikaner Narendra Singh, these days, Narendra Bhawan is a 82-key property where you can leave behind the urban humdrum, sip some wine or whiskey and put up your feet in the luxurious verandah. Maybe experience nirvana at The Clinic spa where you can be treated to the famous flower therapies of Dr. Edward Bach.
After about 10 minutes, the trio probably figured out our discomfort and let a khidmatgar (someone who would wait on us for the entire stay) escort us to our princely rooms. But during those few welcoming minutes in the lobby, or living room as it appeared to me, my gaze had travelled over the expensive artefacts: a red piano with the name Edith painted on it, marble sculptures, framed Benarasi silks from the house of Ekaya, porcelain vases, Portugese tiles and paintings. Breaking away from the traditional reception and lobby styles, the artsy interior of the hotel is the work of Jaipur-based designer Ayush Kasliwal. Reds, blues, yellows, greens, magentas and browns come together to create a symphony. The overall look and feel is of ornate luxury, though warm enough to remain a home.
With four thematic styles, the 82 rooms include Residence Rooms, Regimental Rooms, India Rooms and Republic Suites. The décor match the names, and there are luxe velvets and bright colours, but you have to experience them. However it’s the courtyard in the centre, Diwali Chowk, where lamps add that fairytale touch in the evenings. “We plan to hold musical performances in the evenings here,” says Singh.
Old is gold here for sure, and a short ride in the brown Wily’s or the green Morris at the entrance makes you feel on top of the world. Sparrows chirp and pigeons strut on the parapets.
Every corner of the hotel possesses elements that connect to the erstwhile Maharaja’s life. Born in free India in 1948, his life was an amalgam of the multiple influences of that era, when India was still trying to wash out the remains of the colonial mould and salvage its roots. “Narendra Singhji was a humble man, a Maharaja who believed in giving to his people. And the interior is our interpretation of his life which ended in 2003, done after extensive research. He liked to play the piano and lived with 500-plus cows and 90 dogs. We have plans to keep two rathi cows, as Narendra Singhji particularly liked this breed,” says model-turned-hotelier Manvendra Singh Shekhawat, the group’s managing director. Precisely for this reason, Nala and Simba, the two golden labradors find a home here. And the hotel welcomes pets too.
You see the alchemy of Indian royalty and Victorian influences when you walk into P&C or Pearls and Chiffons, the multi-cuisine restaurant which boasts of a private dining area and a parlour for some hot gossip and chai. The blue flowery wallpaper, an emperor’s chair and delicious food from Chef Sachit Jha’s kitchen—that’s all you need to make the most of a holiday here.
If there is still space, you could try desserts from Mad Hatter bakery, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, which the Maharaja loved to read. And when in a mood for some physical movement, there’s also a gym and a rooftop pool. It’s just the perfect place for those special moments with your special ones, more so if it’s a full moon night.
But what does wrap you in a sheath of pleasure is the pampering, right down to keeping a small table for you to climb into the SUV. All shall go smiling from this home, laughs Singh who loves to feed people.
Location: Narendra Bhawan, Karni Nager, Gandhi Colony, Bikaner – 334001, Rajasthan (India)
Accomodation: 53 Residence Rooms, 18 Prince's Rooms, 3 Regimental Rooms, 4 India Rooms, 4 Republic Suites.
Tariff: Start from Rs 12,000
Contact: +91-7827-151 151