My Stay Experience at Narendra Bhawan, Bikaner
Rajasthan means Land of Kings so obviously this translates to Rajasthan is a Land of Palaces! And last weekend I was lucky to experience the lavishness of one such palace. It belonged to the last reigning Maharaja of Bikaner, His Highness Narendra Singhji.
As I stepped in through the arched frames I was welcomed with sights which were a creative mix of traditional antiques and modern curios. The Hotel’s décor reflects the traveler cum nationalist personality of Maharaja of Bikaner, His Highness Narendra Singh. Nothing was matchy matchy yet the coordination of latest and antiques seemed so smooth. While at one end was the bright red piano ‘Edith’ at the other side you will find framed Benarasi prints. Nothing there seemed to fall out of place and the ambiance kind of embraced me very warmly. The beautiful interiors made me wish to live there forever!
History of Bikaner
A little bit of history of city of Bikaner where this majestic hotel Narendra Bahwan is located. This region of Bikaner was earlier known as Jangladesh. Rao Bika, son of Rao Jodha, was the founder of Bikaner. A small family tiff and Rao Bika left his father, the King of Jodhpur to form his own kingdom. With blessings of Karni Mata and under the guidance of his uncle Rawat Kandhal, Rao Bika carved out this kingdom inhabited by Jat clan. The kingdom adopted the name Bikaner after its founder Rao Bika.
After him there have been several upheavals, wars, mutinies, peace treaties through several generations of kings of Bikaner. Most notable among these kings was Maharaja Ganga Singh. During his reign, Bikaner had great socio-political and economic development in every sphere of life. Education, health, sanitation, water supply, power generation and electricity, irrigation, post and telegraph, roads and railways, trade and commerce all flourished. He died in 1943 and in 1947 after the independence of India Sadul Singh acceded Bikaner to India. His son Rao Karni Singh was Member of Parliament 1952 to 1971.
Maharaja Narendra Singh
Narendra Singh, son of Maharaja Karni Singh, was a man of different interests. He left the royal family to live like a commoner and that is why he built this house. He was an animal lover and his house Narendra Bhawan sheltered several cows (500 approx.) in its royal cowshed, the Goshala. He used to call cows by name and they used to come to him. He loved dogs too, yes 86 of them! And the statues of several kinds of dogs in the hotel lobby are a reminder of that. Narendra Singh died at a young age of 57 due to several ailments (1948 – 2003).
My Stay Experience at Narendra Bhawan – The Hotel
We were introduced to various parts of hotel by none other than Manvendra Singh the hotel owner. He explained to us the fine details and different trivia surrounding the life of Maharaja.
Exterior looks grand with red sandstone jaali (Indian lattice work) facades and little balconies with greens. Exteriors are Rajasthani but interior is a different world! They focus is more in the interiors. The foundation of the original building has been left untouched. They built a retaining wall all around the original residence.
What was once a Gaushala (cowshed) is now converted to a happening entertainment spot for guests. They have plans to celebrate evenings with Rasa Leela in play (the courtship dance of Lord Krishna) utterly romantic and engaging. An enticing menu of petite collations and beguiling cocktails are presented; designed to ﬂatter the evening, the mood, and you that makes a wonderful stay experience at Narendra Bhawan.
The terrace of the original house is the floor of the courtyard, the Diwali Chowk. Courtyards are the major features of most houses of Rajasthan, suits well from both environmental point of view and also social context. Rest of the hotel came up around the original structure without disturbing it. This courtyard is dotted with canopies, fruit trees and low Indian style seating. Here you will be treated to Bikaner Badakhana and Marwari cuisine with the pomp and circumstance that is emblematic of a Royal Bikaner!
Newer portion of the hotel is infused with tastes and choices of Maharaja Narendra Singh. The tiles at the entrance in verandah (indoor-outdoor easy lounging area) have a geometric pattern with rich colors, imported Richmond tiles. The artifacts and furniture collected over a period of time and none seemed to match or have any similarity just like residences are.
According to Manvendra Singh this is the picture that defines the hotel: “A coat, the painting reminds me of travel by someone with eclectic taste! That is what this hotel is all about.”
Mad Hatter – The Bake House of Narendra Bhawan
The Bake House presents traditional confectionery and baked goods. Familiar and utterly comfort giving, Puddings and Pies sit right beside Toffees and Rum Balls and Fudges of all sorts. You will get Indian Estate Coffees and Teas Cold Press Coffee Towers and deeply decadent Hot Chocolate, all across the same table.
P&C – The Dining Room
One of the most elegant dining tables I have seen! This definitely deserves a dedicated post in my blog. Chef Sachit Jha and his team have meticulously searched out menu items that were once served to Royals of Bikaner. Add to that his team members who kept serving several dishes one after another till we burst. Like I mentioned in previous posts on Rajasthan their hospitality is beyond comparison. They left no stone (read plate) unturned to give us a memorable stay experience at Narendra Bhawan. We the team of bloggers, spent many happy over satiating moments here.
Very well located in the terrace of the hotel! The view from here is mesmerizing especially in the twilight hours. Ideally positioned to offer great vantage views of the city, both the old and the new. One of our dinners was hosted by this pool side.
Accommodation at Narendra Bhawan
In my opinion each and every room would offer a grand stay experience at Narendra Bhawan. There are 5 room categories at Narendra Bhawan.
- 53 Residence Rooms – 330 Sq. Ft. “are a tribute to the eclectic tastes of the household. Elaborate ceiling details, Bikaner terrazzo ﬂoors and traditional crafts sit in harmony with Portuguese tiles and a distinctly English colour palette.”
- 18 Prince Rooms with – 530 Sq. Ft. “reﬂect his growing leanings towards a western lifestyle. Featuring Luxe velvets, English prints, glittering mirrors and mosaic, the PRINCE ROOMS reﬂect a youthful exuberance that beget glamorous living quarters”
- 3 Regimental Rooms – 634 Sq. Ft. “these reﬂect a ceremonial order that appealed to the military man who was king. Elements of army regalia are sensitively interspersed with modern conveniences adding uniformity and symmetry”
- 4 India Rooms – 530 Sq. Ft. “Here, strokes from pastoral India sit comfortably with the modernity of a contemporary India. Curated primarily in Indigo – the symbolic colour of India”
- Republic Suites – 730 Sq. Ft. “dramatic rooms where strong conﬁdent lines and a colour palette in steely blue and concrete grey suggests a very contemporary conclusion. Chic to the core, this is an architects’ room”