Samode Mahal, Rajasthan
Offering an enticing insight into the lost world of Rajput royalty, 500 year-old Samode Mahal, still captivates all who enter through its studded elephant doors. Nestled between hills at the edge of Samode village, 40 kilometre north of Jaipur, the palace was inherited by brothers Rawal Raghvendra Singh and Yadavendra Singh and converted into a hotel in 1987.
The desert town of Samode in the Shekhawati area of Rajasthan has long been ruled by the noble Kachwaha clan, to whom the Jaipur royal family also belongs.
This clan, renowned for their bravery and horsemanship, claims descent from Kusha, the younger son of Lord Rama. Samode was historically a rich town in the kingdom of Amber and was put under British ‘protection’ for a time before being restored to the ruling family in 1757. Their lineage continues today along with the title of ‘Rawal Saheb’ conferred on them in recognition for service and valour.
A 19th-century ancestor, Rawal Berisal, who served as chief minister of the state, converted the fort into a fanciful palace replete with tiered courtyards, chhatris and painted halls. A descendant, Rawal Sheo Singh, prime minister of Jaipur, further enlarged the Palace, which now has 43 guest bedrooms, including four royal suites. He created the durbar hall that is still the glorious heart of Samode Mahal today and was described at the time as ‘an extravagantly florid and hand-painted affair’.
A short drive takes visitors to the flower-filled Samode Bagh, an 18th-century pleasure garden established by Rawal Sheo Singh as a retreat for the royal family. Stables with handsome horses lead to an enfilade of fountains, flower beds, and arched pavilions, set in a garden filled with dune-coloured tents evoking colonial hunting parties. This is a place where the contemporary world melts away into a scented, peaceful scene that is utterly timeless.
Samode Mahal’s recently restored mirrored Durbar Hall has been the setting for grand events and weddings for centuries