by Nutan Thangan
Seeing Rajasthan in India today one cannot help but conclude ‘feudal hospitality so easily translates into tourism business. And, when this traditional hospitality is offered in medieval castles and fortresses, the experience is absolutely mind-boggling….
After independence the new and democratic India went about merger of the Princely States, abolition of jagirs, and finally, the withdrawal of the special privileges and Privy Purse from the royal families. While larger royal families could cope with these changes by digging into their ancestral treasures, the jagirdars and the smaller nobility, having lost their traditional means of revenue, found that their forts and palaces had suddenly transformed into a big liability. As a result they were forced to leave them abandoned and unattended…until a few enterprising pioneers realized that perhaps the only way to maintain these historic homes was their appropriate re-use.
Like they had done throughout the history, the Maharajas led from the front and converted their large palaces into luxury hotels. Following suit, the jagirdars and noblemen converted their fortresses and mansions into smaller heritage hotels. And, gradually entire Rajasthan was dotted with these small palace-hotels.
The Rajput fortresses, where hospitality towards visitors formed part of the lifestyle for centuries, were thrown open for travelers. The erstwhile ‘first families’ were now welcoming guests into their homes offering traditional hospitality – marked by personalized attention and utmost regard to comfort and privacy. Until recently what was reserved only for the important guests was now available to all.
Each of these palace-hotels is different from the other with its own exceptional history and tradition. The ambiance is perfectly reflected through photographs and family memorabilia adorning the rooms and the corridors. While the traditional character has been retained, there have been changes too; the homes are modernized to meet the needs of today’s international traveler, with adjoining bathrooms, running hot and cold water, modern plumbing and even a swimming pool – giving a complete experience of medieval ambiance with modern comforts.
So, next time you visit India, make sure you experience feudal India. It is like opening a window to an exclusive old world – a peep into the life and times of Maharajas….