A comfortable drive of about an hour and a half from Gurugram, through the rustic countryside and the Aravalli mountain range, you suddenly come across the ramparts of an ancient 19th Century fort that majestically stands out above a semi-arid landscape that surrounds it. The latest property of the Neemrana group, the Tijara Fort Palace was bought by the group in 2003. Built in the Rajputana Afghanistan style of architecture, it was extensively restored for 13 years after which it finally opened its doors to guests in 2016.
In 1835, Maharaja Balwant Singh of Alwar laid the foundation stone of his dream project with master masons from Kabul and Delhi. He, however, passed away, leaving the revival of the medieval capital of Hasan Khan Mewati, incomplete. The nine-acre area of the property offers a lot of wide, open spaces for early morning jaunts and post-dinner strolls. Walking through perfectly manicured, seven-tiered hanging gardens laid out against the stunning ramparts of the quaint fort on a barren hill feels almost other-worldly.
The hotel has 71 suites and rooms, all named after the country’s leading painters, designers and aesthetes. A lot of thought, creativity and innovation have gone into the restoration and reinvention work, with each room having a different character. The rooms in the Rani Mahal wing enjoy a particularly splendid aerial view of the town’s green countryside — with papaya, banana and palm trees as well as yellow mustard fields below. Several artists, including Anjolie Ela Menon, Anju Dodiya and Laila Tyabji, also have original artworks that were specially created for Tijara. In 2010, Menon also put together a magnificent painting in the hotel’s lounge.
Similarly, the Mardana Mahal has original works by male artists such as Mukesh Sharma and Sanjay Bhattacharya. The Surya Mahal, for instance, has lampshades made of waste and cardboard with names of mango varieties written on them. The interiors of another beautiful room, John Mahal (named after John Bissell), have been put together by Fabindia, complete with curtains, lamps, tables, fridge boxes and mirrors. Another of the rooms has been designed jointly by Vadodara-based artist couple Nilima Sheikh and Gulam Mohammed Sheikh. Then there is the Amrita-Vivaan Mahal, having Amrita Sher-Gil’s famous 1935 painting called Three Girls. The room also has works by Sher-Gil’s artist nephew Vivan Sundaram.
Every evening at six, the hotel organises a conducted guided tour for guests. Every Saturday, there is also a gala dinner along with cultural performances. While the ‘non-hotel’ is already a popular weekend getaway for Delhiites, of late it has also become a favoured destination for hosting conferences, weddings and cocktail functions. Further, the huge swimming pool is a delight to splash about in. Sunken on a slope of the hill, it has some of the most spellbinding views. The poolside area also has a unique mango tree theme created out of the garbage by one of the artists. There’s also a lovely lotus pond by one of the dining areas as well as an outdoor play area for young guests. And in case all the walking around leaves you tired, you could head to the in-house spa and treat yourself to a 60-minute Signature Tijara massage that combines the best relaxing techniques from Swedish, Aromatherapy and Deep Tissue massages. It’ll leave you feeling brand new!
Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul,’ an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. All her published work can be accessed on her blog www.nehakirpal.wordpress.com