Luxurious beds, warm service, great food and surprisingly good art. I cameback from a jüSTa property after a Holi weekend with happy memories. Almost 10 years on, I find that it wasn’t a flash in the pan.
Aesthetics continue to shape the jüSTa experience. The car, from Udaipur airport, gobbles up the kilometres along a new highway to the rural vistas of Chittorgarh and finally on to the lovely Nahargarh water palace, set on a private lake. Originally a royal hunting lodge, it was converted into a palace by Raja Jitendra Singh Rathore of Ralavata and is now managed as a four-star hotel by the jüSTa group.
Amidst the shimmer of the blue water, Lake Nahargarh Palace rises gracefully to welcome the boat transporting me and my companions, a fellow journalist and a son of Bengal—Pandit Santanu Bandyopad-hyay, part of the bill of fare for Chitrashala 2016.
An annual international art residency driven der Ashish Vohra, the event gives artists from different parts of the globe a chance to mingle in the former palace’s chambers and gardens. This year’s Chitrashala is set to be a rich experience, with 40 artists from home and abroad participating. Among them are Jogen Chowdhury, Peter Markus, Reiner Langer and several from Jordan, Egypt, China and France as well as a few displaced artists from Syria, Iran and Iraq.
The minute the boat reaches the palace, I go bounding up the ramp and gaze around at the tranquil surrounds, set against the pale hills of the Aravalli range on the far side of the lake, where horses graze on a patch of green. Horseriding, wildlife safaris, forest treks and birding at the lakeside are some of the activities on offer here.
An unfussy check-in at the surprisingly minimalistic reception and traditional Rajasthan hospitality sets the tone for my stay. My room, an airy retreat which is alive with jewel-toned cushions and bedspread, and art on the wall, is one of many set along the wraparound verandah leading directly to the Fountain Lawn (set in Charbagh-style) and riotous flowering bushes.
Several stairways lead directly to the first-floor rooms. I like the deluxe rooms (twin beds or a massive king-size bed) with a pool view or garden view, along with shower and bathtub options (state your preference when booking). Even better are the first-floor suites with picture windows opening up to a lake view. They come with a living room and a separate bedroom area, each with their own TV sets.
From the garden, there’s a neat little exit which opens on to the swimming pool overlooking the lake. I linger, long after the livid sunset disappears into the lake, to watch the stars come out one by one.
On the first floor, breakfast buffets are served in a multicuisne restaurant that offers views of the central courtyard and lawns, while another side offers a balcony seating with a lake view. On the first night, we relish the scrumptious barbequed fare conjured up by Chef Bishen.
On a pearly dawn, I step out on the lawns and see Peter Markus (a painter from Hungary who has discovered his Indian roots) up on the first floor verandah working on the piece he would show on the retreat’s final day. It’s a novel experience—mingling with the artists as they work on their easels set up on a clingwrap -protected verandah. Over lunches and dinners, language barriers limp away as stories unfold — stories of creativity, of human courage and of brave smiles drowning out the saddening events of the Middle East.
Planning a quiet holiday or an intimate get-together? Lake Nahargarh Palace is great for that, even though the wi-fi is erratic. Access from the highway is a bit fiddly as there’s a short drive through a ratty village— but it’s worth it. Check ahead, though, if there’s a big fat wedding going on. That can single-handedly turn the tranquillity of the place upside down.
LOCATION: Village Parsoli, just off the Udaipur-Kota highway, about 45km from Chittorgarh
ACCOMMODATION: 40 deluxe rooms and suites
TARIFF: For a 2N stay including all meals: ₹13,000 for a deluxe room, ₹15,000 for a suite, applicable from April to September 2017, taxes extra