Suryagarh, Jaisalmer: Part 3

Suryagarh, Jaisalmer: Part 3

Set against the idyllic backdrop of the Thar Desert, Suyagarh Jaisalmer strikes a great balance of luxury and heritage. 

Access Part 1 here and Part 2 here

 

There is nothing else in the world that can awaken us to the reality of life than the knowledge we gain through our journeys. Over years of travel and accumulating profound memories which have acted as a catalyst in my transformation to what I am today, I have realized that it was the paths less travelled that taught me most and taught me best. I am in love with the exploration of new lands, unveiling myths and legends that tie the people of the land to their cultures, and joyfulness in experiencing new flavours and cuisines. I was recently a guest at the magnificent Suryagarh in Jaisalmer, a hotel that sits on the edge of the savagely beautiful Thar Desert and is fittingly dubbed as the Gateway to Thar.

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Suryagarh has been built with remarkable virtuosity to fuse the local culture with modern day luxuries and yet blend in perfectly with the golden hued background of the Thar Desert

 

The Thar has beguiled those in search of nature’s truthfulness – not just its promising beauty, but the challenges it can create for life to simply exist. Amidst the illusiveness of the dunes and the allure of the golden sands, lies the immaculately created Suryagarh. With every piece of stone used for the hotel having been hand crafted carefully by master artisans, this hotel emerges as an uncommonly sincere re-imagination of luxury in the most stubborn of terrains. The intricate jaali work, stunning jharokhas, superbly designed pillars and stone benches are all components of a larger more beautiful design which gives Suryagarh, Jaisalmer its personality. The rugged-looking guards are a reminder of life in the Thar while their colourful attire and exquisite jewellery prompt me to believe that splendid enchantments can dwell in the most secluded of places. This hotel exists in harmony with its surroundings, making a conscious effort to blend in to the background and yet in its solidarity is its individualistic spirit that shines brightly through.

Sojourning in any part of Rajasthan is a celebration of tradition, culture and colours. Suryagarh Jaisalmer values each one of these fundamentals and brings it to you in the most beautiful form. Everything from the architecture to the environment within the hotel is a reflection of the Rajasthani ethos. In the three days I stayed here, I experienced luxury and accumulated the most colourful travel memories of my life. You may read an account of my experiences on day 1 here and day 2 here.

 

Breakfast With Peacocks At Khaba Fort

The second day of my visit to Suryagarh culminates with the sumptuous “Thar Dinner” experience, which is a part of the Thar Trail organized by the hotel. The staff have planned a breakfast with the peacocks at Khaba fort on my third day in Jaisalmer. I enjoy idiosyncratic experiences that trips unfold, and having breakfast at an old fort with the gentle rays of the early morning sun reaching out to wish you a good day is a “one of a kind” experience which will be cherished forever.

For an urban dweller like me, peacocks are hardly an everyday experience. This is why I feel totally mesmerized when I sit having my breakfast with not less than a dozen peacocks around me. They move around unhinged by the presence of people while I gaze at them wide-eyed hoping to capture the moment in the deepest ridges of my mind where it can stay forever.

Simplicity is the need of the hour. The breakfast table has an assortment of cookies, muffins, cheeses and multi-grain bread – minimal yet adequate. After all, I’ve been filling my soul on a deeper level as I absorb the beauty of the place.

As dawn breaks, Khaba Fort carves its silhouette in the sky creating an eerily beautiful picture in my mind. Folklore has it that the region was once inhabited by the Paliwal Brahmins who abandoned it under dramatic and tragic circumstances. The hour is serene and the tranquillity of the place soothes my soul hoping that I could enjoy this peacefulness more often in my busy life back home.

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The leisurely breakfast here, enjoyed from the vantage point of the Khaba, is one of the signature offerings from Suryagarh. It is an experience that explores the beauty of Jaisalmer in its purest form with no one else to interfere between the bonds you create with your surroundings.

 

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Two of my favourite people: Mr. Nakul Hada and Mr. Sunil Paikaray

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A Visit To The Haunted Village Of Kuldhara

In Jaisalmer, even the most inanimate of things have a voice. They speak loudly to you; all you need to do is make a conscious effort to listen to them. My wanderlust soul begins exploring the area around after breakfast and that is how I reach the village of Kuldhara. It is a well-planned village that shows the presence of civic amenities and has temples and houses built in an organized way. For a village that looks so perfect, I am surprised to find out from the locals that the place is cursed and not a single soul lives there now.

The sweltering summer heat is on to me, but I am a stubborn traveller and I have no intentions of giving up on my explorations.

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Jaisalmer Fort

Jaisalmer glistens with a certain regal-rustic charm that has wooed travellers for ages. Its attraction lies in its historic forts, mystical temples and the unforgiving Thar Desert.

From a vantage point in Jaisalmer Fort, I view the grandiosity of the city of Jaisalmer which captures the true essence of Rajasthan in its latticed facades, arched roofs and gossamer screened windows. There are 99 bastions and three rows of walls creating a hive of palaces, fine merchant houses and temples at the fort. The yellow sandstone used in its construction is the same stone used in architecture throughout the city. With the sun transforming the yellow into hues of gold, Jaisalmer aptly gets its name as the “Golden City”.

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Wandering through the narrow alleys of Jaisalmer, I stop here and there to take a look at the handcrafted trinkets sold in its bazaars. This very place once served as the trading point where products from India and China were exchanged for goods produced in Arabia, Persia, Europe and Africa. I purchase some beautifully embroidered clothes and traditional jewellery as tokens of my golden memories of Jaisalmer.

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Back At Suryagarh

I return to Suryagar where the melodious tunes created by the Manganiyar desert tribe soothe my senses. For lunch I head to the retro in-house bar which serves delicious Rajasthani delicacies and fusion tapas. I am not quite sure how many dishes I am served because I lose myself in the elegant preparation showcasing the chef’s expertise of cooking and the pleasant hospitality of the servers.

A majority of the staff are Rajasthani locals who take great care to represent the traditions of the state in the most beautiful way. All are conversant in English and are well-trained in the mannerisms of the hospitality industry.

The colourful clothes of women, the vibrancy of the musicians and dancers, and the majestic palaces add to Rajasthan’s landscape; you have a place of beauty, enriched by its people and their many cultures. Similarly, Suryagarh if depraved of its staff and décor is but the outline of a fort which loses itself in the colours of the desert. It is the musicians who fill the courtyard air with vitality, the staff members who bring the place alive and the detailed décor of the place that lends a soul to Suryagarh.

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Featured below is a shot of the Manganiyar or Rajasthani folk singers at Suryagarh: musicians who have a style that stirs your soul… I spend a few moments here before my drive into the desert for the Desert Oasis Sundowner.

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Sundown At The Dunes

Suryagarh embraces its topography in the most beautiful way curating unique experiences for guests instead of limiting them to the luxuries of the hotel alone. Visiting the Thar transmutes my perception of its harshness replacing it with amazement as I travel into the desert. I am captivated by its uncontainable splendour which almost seems like terra incognita with its abandoned villages, ancient ruins, and cemeteries. Driving deeper into the desert I realize that life exists, but on a different stride. We pass small oases where sheep or goats are grazing and shadows cast by the age-old khejri trees offer some solace from the sweltering heat of the sun.

The nomadic Bhils, living in mud houses and tending to their goats, seem as if they belong to an age bygone. Having adapted themselves to the ruggedness of the desert terrain, they’ve known life to be as is. Visiting a place like this has a much deeper impact on your life than you may imagine. It changes your outlook of existence and fills you with praise for the grit of the people who live in such harsh conditions and yet find reason to be happy.

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We stop at a Bhil settlement and I get chatting with one of its oldest residents

 

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I travel on camelback to the Lakhmana Sand Dunes where a pre-dinner cocktail has been organized by the hotel. The fiery sun has finally mellowed down and its final rays softly light up the desert sand and a dance of shadows begins to reveal the intricate patterns left by the wind. I have carried a change of clothing to make sure that the day’s journey doesn’t catch on to my looks.

Here, in the middle of nowhere, isolated from my city life, I indulge in concoctions that are being served from a make shift bar, and enjoy the glow of the embers in a coal-fired grill. I gaze at the orange sky from my seat under the canopy as customary Rajasthani music plays in the background.

 

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Apéritifs at sundown in the captivating setting of the Lakhmana dunes with the soulful singing of a desert musician

 

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For a place that is often called Marusthali {Land of the dead}, The Great Indian Desert has much more to offer than what you may have been led to believe. This surreal evening at the Lakhmana Dunes is right out of a dream. Words fail to describe the magic I feel in the air as I absorb the magnanimity of the place.

 

From a beautiful evening under the desert sky, I am driven to a hillock adjacent to the hotel, where I witness a stunning sunset that basks Suryagarh in a fantastical mellow afterglow. Nights under the desert sky are a treat for star gazers. I am served a six course alfresco dinner in true princely style. Free-spirited music by traditional singers of the Managniyar community brings energy to my soul despite my long day of travel.

Suryagarh is everything a traveller needs from their destination. It brings together luxury, culture, traditions and hospitality, fusing each to bring to you an exceptional experience. This is the way of life at Suryagarh, and it’s their way of making you embrace Jaisalmer.

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End Note: At the end of three days, I look back at my stay with absolute fondness. The hotel and its staff have gone to great lengths to ensure that my experience has been a unique and remarkable one. It is the way in which the Suryagarh, Jaisalmer holds on to its Rajasthani roots, glorifying the many elements of its culture and helping you explore the place in the least intrusive way. This luxury boutique hotel exists as a destination in itself for visitors looking for an exceptional experience in the heart of the Thar Desert.

 

Fact File

* How to get there: The nearest airport is Jodhpur, which is four hours away {300km}
* Where to stay: Suryagarh Palace, a luxury boutique hotel offering unique experiences and is the best place to begin your journey into the Thar.
* What to do: Visit Sam and Lakhmana sand dunes, Kuldhara, royal cenotaphs, and Jaisalmer fort.
* What to eat: Local sweets like gotuwan laddu, staples like dal bhati churma, gatte ki sabzi, snacks like mirchi wada, pyaaz ki kachori.
* What to buy: Silver jewellery, leather goods, embroidered fabrics, bandhej and lehariya saris.

 

What are your first impressions of Suryagarh? Would you like to experience it someday?

 

* 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.

 

Photography: Harsha Praveen

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* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *

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