A ROYAL OASIS
Words: KRUTTIKA NADIG
Photographs: VAIBHAV MEHTA
GREAT FROM Jodhpur, Jaipur, New Delhi, Ahmedabad
GREAT FOR Couples of all ages
It’s a quiet afternoon in Rajasthan and you’re fishing in a small private lake. A blue bull dozes on the opposite bank, and flocks of peacocks fly overhead. You’re tempted to take a dip in the water but it seems too full of aquatic life, so you turn around and jump into a personal plunge pool instead. You lie in the backyard of your cottage, with a book or a sherbet, until you’re summoned for lunch in the erstwhile mardana section of this 19th-century hunting lodge. It’s a lovely, indulgent and completely indolent life at Lakshman Sagar, one that you could very easily get used to.
Founded by Rajput ruler Lakshman Singh back when hunting was a royal pastime, this restored property sits by a large and lively watering hole. Natural and recycled materials are shaped into earthy luxury – be it the lakeside cottages made of wood and stone, a dramatic rock-cut swimming pool, or pathway lamps made from old milk cans and engine-oil filters. Clothes hangers padded with tribal fabrics, attar (perfume) bottles holding liquid soap and fruit squashes, and fireplaces that resemble a weaverbird’s nest bring Rajasthani life and culture right into your bedroom.
Twelve eco-friendly rooms dot the 32-acre rocky desert around Lakshman Sagar’s two original structures, called mardana and zenana – male and female quarters. But with the days of gender segregation left happily in the past, today, everyone comes together for a sundowner on the zenana’s terrace every evening. You’re offered ginger tea or local liqueurs in fragrant varieties like rose, mint and cardamom as the sun sets over the mehendi fields. Soon, the desert wind starts to nip and nudge you towards the crackling bonfire, where you’re plied with kebabs while local folk artistes brighten the night with song and dance.
The food and scenery here is familiar yet different – the road is blocked by camels instead of cows, and the halwa in your dessert bowl is made of sweet potato instead of carrot. Most of the veggies here are grown on site, which is a good excuse to take a look around.
Apart from peering at rows of veggies, you can go on a nature walk and discover a porcupine’s burrow or a jackal’s footprint, and immerse yourself in the cacophony of babblers, whistling ducks and others. Or take a jeep safari into the neighbouring villages and find out first-hand from a potter just how difficult it is to make a small clay kulhad. Amble on and you can watch a shoemaker in the market rolling leather sandals into a ball to prove their suppleness. Later, visit a red chilli farm to see how some people’s lives are wrapped up in carpets of spice. Get a glimpse of royal life by dropping in at the 17th-century Raipur Fort and take one of its resident horses out for a trot. The fort and Lakshman Sagar are owned by the same family, who allow only resort guests this access. For another exclusive experience, sign up for a field breakfast to enjoy the warm hospitality and wholesome rustic fare served up by a farmer’s family. It doesn’t get more authentic than a plate of fresh churma laddoos placed on a comfy cot in the outdoors, along with buttermilk churned the traditional way.
Everything you see, touch and imbibe here is an echo of the land’s character. By the end of your stay you’re sure to feel a great connectedness to it.
From hotel options and activity timings to loo stops, find all the practical information you need to plan this trip now – in LPMI’s March 2015 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.