The Heritage Drive
Part five continues the exploration of forts around the country
Our quest to discover forts dotting the Indian landscape continues as we and the Hyundai Verna head out to explore not one, but two locations that have stood the test of time. Fort Trip with Hyundai has, so far, taken us far and wide in search of such places, but for the fifth edition, we decided to look closer to home and made our way to Tijara and Kesroli forts. The Tijara and Kesroli forts have one thing in common. Both are currently under the care of Neemrana Hotels and are being run as hotels.
Our first stop was Tijara. Located around 108km from New Delhi, it takes around three to four hours to reach depending on traffic on the busy Delhi-Jaipur highway. While an early start helped us avoid traffic, heavy rains en route did hamper our progress but we made it to Tijara in under four hours, thanks in part to the good roads and Verna's 121bhp power unit. The road leading up to the gates of the fort is cobbled winding path. Tijara fort sits atop a hill overlooking the countryside of Alwar.
It was in 1835 that Maharaja Balwant Singh, who lorded over a third of Alwar, commissioned the construction of the Tijara fort. It was intended to be his primary residence comprising Maharani Mahal for the maharanis, Mardana Mahal for the king and princes and a common area labelled Hawa Mahal. But his alleged murder ten years later meant the fort was left unfinished. It remained under the possession of the state following his death until Neemrana Hotels took over in 2006. After around 10 years of careful restoration and construction work, the Tijara Fort Palace, as it
AFTER AROUND 10 YEARS OF CAREFUL RESTORATION AND CONSTRUCTION WORK, THE TIJARA FORT PALACE WAS OPENED TO THE PUBLIC IN 2016
is known called, was opened to the public in 2016.
The decor of each guest room has been done up with inputs from artists, fashion designers and the likes ensuring a unique ambience in every room. The location of the Tijara fort palace atop a hillock ensures fabulous views of the surrounding areas. The staff informed us that the Tijara Fort Palace is a popular destination for weddings and frequented by travellers from Delhi looking for a quick weekend getaway.
But as much as we wanted to, we couldn't stay too long to admire the grand halls and marvel at the Rajput-Afghan style architecture as we had another fort to explore. We made our way down the winding path and hit the Alwar-Bhiwadi road once again. Despite rains over the past few months, the roads in this part of Rajasthan seem to have help up well. Rough patches were few and far between, which meant progress to Kesroli was brisk. Located 66km from Tijara and 162km from Delhi, Kesroli is relatively smaller compared to Tijara and hence, has a lesser number of rooms as well. However, built around 700 years ago, it is much older. In fact, it is one of the oldest heritage sites in India where one can stay and has been operational as a hotel for longer too. It was built by the Yaduvanshi Rajputs, who are said to be the descendants of Lord Krishna. They converted Islam in the mid-14th century to be called Khanzads. The Kesroli Fort was conquered by the Mughals and then Jats until the Rajputs took back charge in 1775. Between 1882
and 1934, it remained under Thakur Bhawani Singh’s possession. Restoration work at Kesroli started in 1995 and it opened its gates to the public as hotel in 1998 christened Hill Fort Kesroli.
Over here we helped ourselves to a meal at their restaurant accompanied by a selection of their best desserts. Like Tijara, this one too is located at a height so one can enjoy views of the countryside and hills.
If you’re planning on venturing out to explore the areas surrounding the Tijara and Kesroli forts there are several options. One of them being the Silisehr lake. Nestled among the Aravali hills, it covers an area of 7 square kilometers and said to be home to more than 250 crocodiles. Unfortunately though, we weren’t able to spot any. There is road that leads up to the Silisehr fort palace. There is a Government run guest house and also has a cafe overlooking the lake. The only disappointing bit is that the menu isn’t very extensive. Those looking to delve deeper into history of Alwar can head to the 17th Century Bhangarh Fort. Compared to the lake, this fort is farther from Kesroli and Tijara located at a distance of 99km and 147km respectively. The 17th century marvel is open to the public. A word of caution, though, this fort is said to be haunted. Entry into the fort is restricted after sunset. Sariska Tiger Reserve is also a couple of hours from either fort. Apart from Tigers, the national park is also home to the Indian leopard, striped hyena, wild boar among other animals. It remains from July to September so, those looking to go tiger spotting will have to plan their trips accordingly. Plus, there are specific timings for the safari as well so we suggest you look them up before heading to Sariska. And of course, popular destinations like Jaipur and Pushkar are all within driving distance. Un-
KESROLI AND TIJARA GIVE
US MERE MORTALS A CHANCE TO EXPERIENCE THE ROYAL LIVES THEIR OCCUPANTS
fortunately, time constraints and incessant rain meant were able to check out only Silisehr lake before making our way back to Delhi via NH48, which by now was chock-a-block with cars ferrying people home after a hard day at work. This pushed the time take for our return journey to well beyond the four hour mark.
The Tijara and Kesroli forts give us a glimpse of the opulent lifestyles led by the Rajas and Maharajas who used to rule these lands. Some might argue that their current status of privately run hotels restricts their accessibility to the public to an extent. But the company is responsible for carrying out restoration and preserving the grandeur of these forts. Also, the fact that they are being run as hotels gives us mere mortals a chance to experience the royal lives their occupants once led. Or, at least some of it.
Tijara Fort is located just 107km from the capital but traffic on the Delhi-Jaipur highway can hamper progress
Inputs from artists, designers and aesthetes have influenced the decor of each guest room (below) of the Tijara Fort Palace
The conversion of Kesroli (left) to a hotel has resulted in the inclusion of modern amenities like a pool. We got a chance to sample a selection of desserts (below) at Hill Fort Kesroli's restaurant