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Sawai Madhopur Lodge - A memorable Independence Day: Submitted by: Padmanabhan Krishnan | Date Added: 11 Apr 2011
Listed in: Destinations / India - North India Synopsis

This is a short review of the Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge, where I had a recent two –day sojourn during 12-16, August 2010. Sawai Madhopur Lodge is one of the finest safari hotels of the Taj Chain, located in Sawai Madhopur. We had gone there by train from Jaipur, a three hours journey, in a First AC Coach, not withstanding all the stops they make by chain pulling en-route. We had a luxurious wandering grounds of around 12 acres of lush green garden surrounding this seventy years old hunting lodge constructed by the Maharaja Sawai Mansingh and re-designed and maintained in immaculate condition by Late Maharani Gayatri Devi, until Taj took over. The Maharani visited the hunting lodge, till last year. Many old timers said that she used to be at the lodge for celebration of Holi every year.

We were initially disappointed when Mr. Nagendra Singh, General Manager told us that our preferrred suite, normally occupied by Her Excellency Late Maharani Gayatri Devi, once occupied by HM Alexandra Elizabeth II, Queen of England and her husband Prince, Phillip. Mr. Nagendra Singh Hada took us up and showed us the suite being tastefully re-decorated rectifying the ravages of time that have destroyed the ethereal beauty of this heritage property and its fixtures. Our ground floor suite had very big a living room, a huge bedroom and a bath, with full length tub and all that regal extravaganza.

The Ranthambore National Park is very close to this Lodge, famous for Royal Bengal Tigers, being one of the most picturesque tiger reserves in the world and also one of the most significant efforts going on for the reservation of Royal Bengal Tigers. In all, the two day holiday package that falls within our budget was not adequate to be of any use to the wild life lovers. But the traditional hospitality of Taj was the foremost reason we booked this hotel for. The staff are generally warm and genuinely understanding, but never intrusive or over doing. Their smiles are genuine and gestures warm and magnanimous. Each one’s privacy is valued and that is Taj hospitality, dutifully preserved, nurtured and cherished by the Taj staff. The Ranthambore National Park was closed for the season this time too when we went and we entirely depended upon the officers and staff of the hotel to make our stay otherwise worthwhile. In the season beginning from October till May, the hotel would have been overflowing with visitors, but being off peak period, hardly there were guests but we were fortunate because the hotel stewarded by the GM celebrated the Indipendence Day in a grand scale. We were fortunate to be the Guests of Honor. After flag hoisting and swet distribution, Mr. Hada took us to a remote village where a huge gathering of students, young children and parents eagerly waited us. Mr. Hada explained to us that the Taj Group had adopted the village and on every festive day, the hotel distributed sweet and food packets to the students. The headmaster greeted us warmly got us seated and began an elaborate function that took more than an hour. Traditional speeches, colorful cultural show and finally an extravagant fete hosted by the hotel. The teachers, staff and students treated the GM, Taj as local deitya and showered love on us, the supposedly royal guests. On our return, we made a stop over at the hunting lodge of Rani Gayatri Devi, dilapidated though is remniscent of the Royalty of Jaipur. We had snacks and Mr. Nagendra Singh rode us to a magnificent Shiva Temple. I can never forget the opulence of the Sawai Madhopur Lodge and its grandiose hospitality, nor the love and affection of Mr. Nagendra Singh.

Full Review

Talking about the hotel, even in this off season, the rooms and bathrooms were squeaky clean and the ornate bed was extravagant and relaxing. The living room was well refurbished, retaining all the royal glory of its original charm and splendor. The Rajasthani Culture and tradition were manifest in every piece of furniture and furnishings. The main building has preserved the gorgeous architecture of 1930 and even the original fans are intact. Behind the reception office there is a huge stuffed leopard and an antique bar or lounge that has the original paintings and photographs. In the dining room, Mr. Jagat Singh, Operation Manager showed us the stuffed heads of a few tigers and leopards. I saw one photograph of Her Majesty the Queen of England with a felled tiger in the company of Maharani Gayatri Devi in her jodhpurs with her courtiers. Mr. Nagendra Singh also showed us a private album of the Rani and my wife was touched. The swimming pool was not very big and the depth not more than five feet but maintained very clean and fresh, very luxuriant and relaxing. The lawns are well manicured, constantly attended to and cared by friendly ‘malis’ willing to explain about each tree, when enquired about. There are bicycles available for roaming around the lawns and the hotel provides electric cars for moving around the crisscrossing roads intersecting the lush green gardens.

Mr. Nagendra Singh, General Manager takes individual care of the guests as he did us and makes one totally comfortable. And he took us around the property showing off the old paintings. We had the privilege of calling at hsi bungalow too and my wife was very much impressed with the family-type hospitality showered on us by the GM's wife. My wife never got tired asking about the Late Maharani, who, Nagendra Singh told, had immense zest for life and undying love for the staff of the palace. Her dinner was always elaborate as she talked untiringly of her old times, sipping a glass of champagne that was never finished. The chirping birds and the humming of the lawn movers is the only sounds in the morning, Otherwise, it is total silence. We cannot comment on the regular cuisine of the hotel because it was off season. But what we had was very good. The dinner was not very sumptuous with varieties of menu but we got what we wanted. The chef concocted some special delicacies, every time we visited the dining room. It was highly magnanimous and signature style of the Taj that they go about satisfying the individual customer needs. One day during dinner time the local women made Macca and Bazra Chapati with butter and spicy Garlic Chutney. The dinner was always accompanied by traditional folk singers renditioning the mellifluous music with musical instruments like ‘bind’ to the tune of which the musicians themselves danced in gay abandon.

The hotel also arranged a visit to the Ranthambore fort with a guard serving as escort cum guide. We had taken time to climb the hundreds of steps of Ranthambore fort listening to the fables told by the guard cum guide, whose yarn was a toxic diversion that kept our spirit and body intact. We also visited a temple of Trinetra(three-eyed) Ganesh on the ramparts of the Ranthambore Fort. The trinetra Ganapati is believed to be more generous than the Sidhivinayak of Mumbai. After we climbed down, we were treated to Biscuits, snacks, water and tea -everything nicely packed by the Taj kitchen on the back of our open jeep. So considerate, so concerned, so Taj take!

The Ranthambore National Park has a very thick forest that would have given the bonus of sighting of wild animals like deers, tigers and sambars. One of the staff Mr. Himmat Singh narrated the episode of a visitng couple who made seven trips to Ranthambore National Park and did not make a single sighting of animal and demanded back the money they paid for the safari and were advised to check out once more. On the last safari, a tiger came near the jeep and nudged the wife with his paws and was caught shrewdly by the husband standing at a distance in his camera before he rushed to the aid of his wife, gleefully unaware of the ferocious animal that was yanking her pallus. Taming of the shrew, huh?

The staff take pains to explain that the tigers are not man-eaters and they are harmless. There is not a single history of the bewildered tigers attacking any human beings. But if one wants to go on a safari, you have to sign a declaration absolving and indemnifying the hotel against any loss or claim. Just like Taj, what to say!

One does not go to a Taj hotel with a specific agenda. The Taj stay itself is an agenda. The Taj is a journey and destination, purpose and method where season and non season do not really matter. Moreover, how do we the lesser mortals enjoy the beauty and marvel of the Taj unless we choose the off season, less intimidating in financial terms than the seasons, which take the most part of the year. On the day of check out the General Manager Shri Nagendra Singh, came down and presented my wife a book by Maharani Gayatri Devi- ‘A Princess remembers’. A senior executive drove us to the Railway station in the Scorpio and gave us a pack of snacks and water for the train journey to Jaipur where we were to take our return flight to Mumbai. Small gestures for a big price you will say. But who else cares? And how much. Taj stands for the Indian hospitality and personifies what our Hindu ancestors taught us- Atithi Devo Bhavah – The guest is God!

And this is one of the best ever, memorable ever celebration we had of our Nation's Independence Day

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