Alila Fort Bishangarh in Jaipur is a blissful confluence of Rajasthan’s vibrant culture and Shekhawati dynasty’s splendid history
BEYOND THE MAGNIFICENT palaces dotting the geography of Rajasthan — from Bikaner to Udaipur, — the state also boasts of a warrior fort in Jaipur that has been restored into an opulent heritage hotel by Hyatt Hotel and Resorts in 2017. The 230-year-old Alila Fort Bishangarh, 69km from Jaipur Airport and 200km from New Delhi Airport, stands tall like a knight overseeing the village of Bishangarh. Perched atop a granite hillock, the over 300 metres high fort, is an engineering marvel and it’s hard not get awestruck by the grandeur of the colossal structure of the erstwhile Shekhawati dynasty, as you approach the luxury hotel through the tortuous route of the village.
Covering a sprawling 1,00,000 sq ft, Alila’s architecture is a tasteful symmetry between the rustic and robust structure of a fort with influences from the Jaipur, Mughal and British architectures. And you get to see the glimpses of the confluence in their restaurants, corridors and of course in their living spaces. The touch of luxury accentuates the sixstorey marvel that boasts of 59 stately rooms and suites (two Presidential suites, eight regal suites, 20 grand, 11 royals and 18 heritage rooms). While the
Presidential Suites have personal outdoor areas, some suites promise to add more romance to newly-wed couples with a swanky jacuzzi just beside the bed. Each of the rooms offers a spectacular view of the Aravalli Hills running asymmetrically from east to west and a bird’s eye view of the village below that moves at its own pace. Beyond rooms, Darbar, Dawat and Saheb comprise the conference halls and banquets that are ideal for meetings and get-together.
World Of Hyatt - FIND, launched in 2018 lets you soak in some unforgettable experiences, curated for the guests, and in our two days and two nights stay at the luxe hotel, we were introduced to the local culture and tradition of the region. A tour of the village via the camel cart is a must here and as our decked up ride meandered through the narrow walkway of the village with a seductive gait accompanied by synchronised melodies of the ghunghru (bells) adorning the ship of the desert, it attracted village kids who followed our trail. The square or rectangular shaped houses with courtyards as a distinct feature, and elaborate work on the windows and doors, speak volumes about the craftsmanship. On our royal sawari (ride) we made a few stops and met local artisans. Our first halt was a potter’s work beside a field awashed with sun-kissed mustard flowers. We did not mind soiling our hands in the smooth clay and created bowls, vase and diyas with the assistance of the artisan. The feeling of creating something so simple yet beautiful fills your heart with pride, and we brought our creations back home after they dried up. Next, we stopped by a silversmiths atelier and their collection reminded us of our ancestral silver jewellery, which is still in fashion in the region. Our last tetea-tete was with the carpet weavers where the dexterity of the weavers who have been into the trade for generations, impressed us.
There are a lot more outdoor experiences that the property offers and they include A Taste of Rural Life where one can try their hands at milking cattles like a buffalo or goat, cooking local dishes in the rasoi on a firewood stove. Again, Take to the Sky and Fly with The Wind comprising helicopter and hot air balloons tours respectively, will give you an aerial view of the village and the fort. There is horse-riding as well that will give you a taste of royalty. Or go the green way and explore the area on a bicycle. Another interesting experiential treat, inside the premises, is the Rajasthani Rasoda Masterclass and it will appeal to the culinary ninjas and even the ones who enjoy enriching themselves with new information. The chef introduced us to local ingredients and prepared three recipes — Choliye Ka Shorba, Ker Sangri and Sarsoon ki Macchi — live as we sat to taste the culture of the rich State through its food. Ker Sangri, a traditional recipe made from overnight-soaked dried ker berries and Sangri beans, native to Rajasthan, is a must-try delicacy for their earthy flavours. The arid region is a powerhouse of spices, we must say.
Talking about food, the gastronomic experience at their four diners here offering world cuisines is overwhelming. A larger portion of the ingredients for their kitchen is sourced from their capacious farm. We took a lazy tour of the farm and spotted tomatoes, turnips, mint, lettuce, mustard, custard apple and guavas. Haveli, their boutique poolside restaurant, the first gastro stop for us, specialises in Mediterranean cuisine. We were welcomed here by the melancholic melodies of Raavantha, a solo stringed musical instrument, native to the region, played live. Cherishing the confluence of traditional and modern sensibilities here, we savoured soft tacos, creamy pasta and risotto, and fresh salads, in this courtyard style diner. Amarsar, the all-day dining space that was once the sleeping quarters of kings and named after the birthplace of the royal clan, offers thala breakfast and recipes inspired from the silk route. Marked by clean and uncluttered interiors with Jharokha-style windows and wall frescoes with Thikri mirror work we sampled Afghan Mantu, a steamed lamb dumpling preparation and Turkish Lamb Baklava here. Their Laal Maans was fiery yet succulent.
We enjoyed one of our evenings at Madhuveni bar named after the Bishangarh Village’s river that serves delightful cocktails and premium liquors with tapas. Sipping some potent mixes we teased our taste buds to the tender and smoky Stone flower smoked lamb, flavourful Wasabi Edamame Hummus and a fiery Gochujang Jackfruit Lukhmi. The bar also boasts of an elevated cigar lounge offering cigars and cognacs. Dinning at Nazaara, at the top floor, under the open sky is an experience in itself and it specialises in hunter cuisine cooked in sandpits and open flames. Our yoga session was invigorating at the open-air Yoga Deck. We charged our senses and watched the village wake up to the screeching calls of peacocks and parrots, flights of pigeon touring around the fort, sound of the bells emanating from the village temple — all forming the distinct music of Bishangarh mornings as the sun spreads its warmth. The chimps and their entourage also gear up for a brand new day.
For complete wellness submit to the pampering rituals at Spa Alila that specialises in the use of medicinal herbs and spices from the region. We would want you to make a note of their lemon and ginger tea that has the right balance of ingredients in the detoxification drink.
The fort is perfectly situated for a sun-downer and not catching the golden hour will be a big miss. Though you can watch the sun retire, from any part of the property, the best view is from Nazaara. This top view of the sun finally calling it a day before bathing the village in its golden glow and the Aravallis fading behind with each passing minute has a therapeutic effect on the mind.