Suryagarh, Jaisalmer: Part 1
Set against the idyllic backdrop of the Thar Desert, Suyagarh Jaisalmer strikes a great balance of luxury and heritage.
So long as there are discerning travellers who see tradition and culture as having its rightful place in the contemporary travel environment, too precious to be lost, properties like Suryagarh, Jaisalmer will continue to mesmerize audiences from far and wide. As for me, it will continue to be the closest to my heart among all the places I have been to.
Source: Yatinder Kumar Photography
Monsoon brings a whole new dimension to tourism. The gentle drops of rain that only hope to quench earth’s thirst are often mistaken as rude intruders who can ruin travel plans. But have you ever travelled during rainy season and experienced #monsoonmagic? When I said “Yes” to Suryagarh, Jaisalmer in the monsoons, little had I expected to find that my trip would turn out to be such a beautiful one. The hotel had promised that my experience would be a “representation of a unique way of life in the Thar” and unique it was indeed!
The true glory of the Western Indian state of Rajasthan is its exemplary hospitality which leaves travellers with the most beautiful memories of their trips. Suryagarh takes this culture to a whole new level with every member of the staff courteously and pleasantly handling every interaction during your stay. The hotel is a member of the Preferred Boutique Hotels and the overwhelming precision with which the hotel combines luxury and leisure in its heritage-like environs bears proof of the fact that it exists solely to amaze its guests and indulge them in the most fascinating stay of their lives.
The colossal hotel gates open to let me through and as the car slowly moves towards the entrance a roar of drums fills the air – at that moment all I can imagine is the similarity of this welcome to that of the imperial age when the entry of Indian royals was announced with drums. It would seem that this fort-like property knows its history very well. Friendly voices greet me with a shower of rose petals and the traditional “Khamma Ghani.” A tilak on my forehead seems almost inevitable to the train of events so far and the refreshing welcome drink is all but needed to rejuvenate after the long journey. At the lobby I find chilled water and wet towels waiting for me and I eventually learn that this is usual for the hotel every time a guest returns from exploring the desert around or after meals.
The sprawling impressive entrance with carved pillars and intricate lattice work
The desert is a quiet retreat. It takes away all the noise of the outer world and the inner soul replacing it with a soothing peacefulness of the mind. This quietude is replaced by bursts of song from the Manganiyar musicians as I arrive in the hotel courtyard.
Our busy schedules may have edged out the cultural context in luxury but here at Suryagarh, luxury is all about being in the warm embrace of the cultures and traditions of Rajasthan.
The lobby along with its anteroom capture my attention with its display of traditional swords and shields that decorate the walls. These are but small details in the bigger design that makes this stunning property reflect the golden era of Rajasthan when Rajahs and Maharajahs walked these lands. Every element of design is added to resonate with the traditional sentiment of the region, so if you look around, you would notice some of the most fascinating aesthetic facets of Rajasthan.
To satiate my curiosity I ask one of the staff members if Suryagarh is a heritage palace that has been converted into a hotel. Acknowledging the compliment he smiles and answers that the hotel was inaugurated in 2010. This leaves me awe-inspired as the beautifully latticed windows and the sprawling courtyards seem to perfectly mimic the historical forts of the region. The truth is that Suryagarh is the labour of love of an extremely passionate young gentleman who wanted to build a luxurious property which would resonate with the rich cultural history of Rajasthan. It is built with every detail in mind, ensuring that the hotel personifies the perfection which its owner had in mind while conceiving this project.
I am escorted to my suite which is spacious and handsomely decorated in adherence to the theme of the property. Hand woven fabrics in earthy tones adorn the room adding lustre, while a chilled glass of champagne along with a tray of Indian sweets sits smugly on the table at the centre of the living area waiting for me to fall prey to their tempting seduction. As I unapologetically bite into the mithai, I notice a letter from the hotel that welcomes me and hopes that I have a wonderful time. There is another letter mimicking the royal seal, inviting me to attend an evening of Rajasthani folk dance and music.
It’s the nuances that make your stay memorable and not just the visual aesthetics of the place. I appreciate the flaming Indian marigolds picked from the garden outside that adorn my room, the red desert flowers arranged beautifully in a brass matka, and the framed photo of me and my husband on the bedside table.
Suryagarh is a soulful place leaning against the isolated sprawl of the Thar Desert creating a silhouette of majesty with the sands rustling in the backdrop. With the objective of upholding the rich and diverse culture and traditions of the land, the property has been built in yellow sandstone which is used in construction throughout the city. The amazing craftsmanship of the artists is visible in the intricate carvings and detailing on the stone – something that sets this property apart from all other buildings in Jaisalmer. Every window, balcony and courtyard gives you a generous view of the expansive desert that surrounds this property. A view that astounds you in the daylight and leaves you enchanted in the moonlight.
The rooms have huge terraces with an overlooking view of the windmills, and the hotel is designed in a way that every room opens to the central courtyard. So whenever you leave your room to enter the galleria of your floor you are floored by its beauty. The central courtyard is the highlight of the property, and includes a garden area that adds colour and vibrancy.
With a chill breeze sweetly coercing me to wrap my arms around myself as I step into the open courtyard area, I find tables laid out for guests to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in the serenity of the calls of peacocks and doves. Just then the moment gets more beautiful, as I hear the faint strains of the Algoza and a traditional folk song to elevate my senses to a new level of awareness.
A three-arched entryway opens into the large Central Courtyard that serves as an al fresco dining area with a reflecting pool in the centre
Another striking area of the hotel is its magnificent entrance that speaks volumes about basking in the soothing feel of Suryagarh’s expansive surroundings. Myriad shades of gold seep into each other as the sun decides to craft a magical palette for the majestic hotel… it makes you realize that green is not the only colour of nature’s beauty.
Beautifully detailed stone work that showcases the skills of the craftsmen and the beauty of the place
Just like Rajasthan, there is beauty in the smallest nooks & corners of Suryagarh
If you would like to enjoy a dip in cool waters then the indoor pool called ‘The Neel’, because of the interiors reflecting the colour blue, is the place for you to be. But if rejuvenation is what you seek then ‘Rait-The Spa’ is just the place to shake off the weariness of your urban life.
The rejuvenation centre at Suryagarh takes the art of relaxation very seriously. Rait which means sand, in keeping with the theme of the Thar Desert, provides treatments that utilize age old healing traditions of the region while adding modern day study of therapies to ensure that your experience is a relaxing and refreshing one.
After my luxurious spa treatment at Rait, I head to Draksh- The Bar and indulge in a sumptuous “Nastha”
In the last few moments as I see the setting sun kiss goodbye to the Thar promising to return the next day, I walk towards the central courtyard … and as it grows darker, it’s a sight to see Suryagarh basked in the glow of lights from the outdoor lanterns.
Dinner on the first night of my stay is a memorable one. Operations Manager, Mr Nakul Hada joins me to share his insight of the place and the work they do. I am fascinated to learn about the cultural past of Jaisalmer, the secrets of opium, the Chudail trail and many other interesting facts of the region. I also find out that all the impressive curios and art work that I had been vying have been handpicked by the owner and MD of Suryagarh, Mr Manvendra Singh Shekhawat himself. In fact some of these amazing pieces have belonged to his family for years. Most of the furniture used in the hotel is antique and have been sourced from various parts of Rajasthan while the rest are replicas used solely to keep the traditional feel.
The hotel’s essence is tightly interwoven with the Thar life and landscape, and it is this delicate relationship of the ravaging desert and the hotel’s opulence that adds that something special making my stay at Suryagarh an unforgettable one!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my stay at Suryagarh, Jaisalmer.
* Disclaimer: This review was done on an invitation from Suryagarh, and is a narrative of the author’s experience at the property. Due judgement and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review.