What are the synonyms for Opulence? This is the thought which hovered around in my head as I spent 2 days in Narendra Bhawan Bikaner.
There are various ways to reach Narendra Bhawan Bikaner
Bikaner has a small airport and there are daily flights to delhi and Jaipur. If you are from another city, you will have to take a connecting flight. I flew from Kolkata to Delhi and then from Delhi to Bikaner and came back the same way.
There are also ways to reach Bikaner through train as well as by bus. Bikaner train station is Bkaner Junction and there are several trains from major Indian cities which go to Bikaner Junction.
Will you prefer Tea or Cold drinks – Welcome to Narendra Bhawan Bikaner – splendid
The impeccable hospitality was evident from the time we stepped into Bikaner. We were recieved by Mahendra ji, the soft spoken chauffeur in a traditional dress and a mutli coloured turban from Mahendra Bhawan. The signboard confirmed that Bikaner main city was 14 km from the Airport and as we travelled through the highway, we passed by the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences spread over 200 hectres of land with various sections/ departments nestled into characteristic Rajasthani Havelis. It was confirmed by Mahendraji that all these buildings and lands belonged to Maharaja Ganga Singhji who was a great pet lover. When the flight landed, my fellow passenger who was also travelling to Narendra Bhawan had received a call – asking for her preference – chai or cold drinks?
The history of Narendra Bhawan Bikaner – grandiose
Maharaja Narendra Singhji was the last king of Bikaner and after he passed away in 2003, the property was taken up by MRS Group led by Mr. Karan Singh around 2009 and the operations started in 2016. For a stranger, it is hard to believe that most of the artefact today that is visible has been collected/ created to recreate the lifestyle of the Maharaja. Maharaja Narendra Singhji was born a year after independence, travelled extensively across the world, got trained in military and had an immense love for his country and his pets too. The entire building is designed keeping in mind how Late Maharaja Narendra Singhji would have lived his life now.
The walk through at Narendra Bhawan Bikaner – the ground floor is a place to watch for. Non Je regrette rien – luxuriant
Narendra Bhawan Bikaner is a landscape of memories of Maharaja Narendra Singh ji. Each nook and corner is rebuilt in a way which will portray the house of Maharaja Narendra Singhji. As one walks through the entrance, the olive green Morris Minor car and a jeep will adorn the pathway. A place which earlier used to give shelter to 100s of cows has been converted into an open air all day dining called Gaushala. One of the evenings when we sat there with our drinks (Insider tips – Please order the Black Russian and ask for the perfume treatment. In case you find the secret element in the drink, let me know). It was a memorable evening with the entire palace being lit up and music playing outside.
The Patio sees the unique combination of Bikaner red sandstone with Italian marble with Jaipur marble with Portugese tiles which is perhaps a reflection of fact that when a person lives in a house, he collects things through his travels. During this age, Mumbai Art Deco is almost a dying form so that form has been considered as an inspiration. The outer verandah has large windows with Asan chairs and Balam tables. One of the mornings, I tried out the combination while watching the rain through the large arched windows – one can sit in a padmasan on these chairs and the balam tables are a love story between brass and marble. As one sees 1000 penguin classics thrown in here and there, one can also see rich leather covered sofas. Just as one finds chinoiserie motifs strewn in all across as a representation of the times gone by, one cannot miss the stools in Inner Verandah which has horse leg shaped stands. Small showcases which has various collections from Maharaja’s personal uses, to collections of Gods. As one moves along the place, it is like a maze with layers woven into each other. There is a drawing room where we were welcomed for the first time with bela serbat (jasmine cordial) which has gold patterns on the wall and an adjacent billiards room. The Den, the quiet corner, which proudly exhibits a real taxidermy leopard which was shot in 1942 has a couple of Playboy Magazines from 1975 kept casually and are bound to draw your attention. To see is to believe. Hence I won’t move around ground floor any longer but before I leave – The red antique baby piano with Edith Piaf’s lyrics – Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.
The rooms at Narendra Bhawan Bikaner – magnificient
Four category of rooms out of the different stages of life of Maharaja Narendra Singh ji has been planned. The Resident rooms are the basic ones considering when the prince was young, he would have loved to see his cousins and friends staying comfortably. The Prince rooms – when the prince would have been in teens and velvet, mirror works would predominantly be prevalent. Headboards like camel humps, curtains, all the touch points have an evidence of years of research. There is Regimental rooms which represent that part when the king had just completed military training, graduates to India rooms which has muted down colour tones of fabrics, a charkha, khadi strings. a char pai, dumroo table, indigo on the wall; all depicting a time when India was just independent and slowly about to create an identity of its own. The final category is the Republic room which redefines luxury in every possible way. A walk in closet, Badal Mahal themed fabrics on the wall, exclusive photographs, scaffolding themed furnitures – that’s present India proud about its past and looking forward to the future.
I stayed in the Prince room and the first entrance to the room was a surprise where they had a picture of mine from 2013 nicely placed in a photoframe by the bedside table. Red boxes in which the queens were supposed to recieve mails were placed in all the rooms with a personalised welcome letter from Mr. Himanshu Bhargava – the operations manager.
Mad Hatters and Pearl and Chiffon – Two time zone but indispensable from each other at Narendra Bhawan Bikaner – lavish
Lewis Caroll comes into play when we speak about the bakery – Mad Hatters. Shirley Bhatnagar has done her interpretation of Alice in Wonderland at the entrance while the back wall is made of handblown glass by Mr. Bakshi. This bakery is open for local crowd so they cater to orders too. Adjacent to this, jumping to 1960s is Pearl n Chiffon- the all day dining. Pearls and Chiffon were a strong fashion statement and since the kitchens would be always ruled by the queen or the princess, thus the theme from Pearl necklaces and chiffon sarees. We had gone to Naredra Bhawan Bikaner for a food meditation and all the meals here and as well as at Laxmi Niwas palace deserves a separate mention or few more blogposts perhaps. Spend some time in Gaushala too which is the perfect place for a sundowner .
What did I miss in all this – lush Narendra Bhawan Bikaner
I live my day as if it was the last
Live my day as if there was no past
Doin’ it all nite, all summer
Doin’ it the way I wanna – Zara Larrson
I have seen Narendra Bhawan in bright sunlight in the morning where all the pigeons get into a very intimate personal conversation. I have seen how the entire building looks on a gloomy overcast day. I have smelt the petrichor on a rainy night and the wind which carries the distinctly local fragrance. I have seen the city skyline from the infinity pool on the 4th floor. The personal conversation with myself on a morning when the entire property was sleeping remains priceless as the feeling of missing out on spending some more time on the Diwali Chowk. Diwali Chowk is one of the smartest conversions of the property as this used to be the terrace of the earlier palace and this is perhaps the most interesting corner (a courtyard). Someday I would like to come back here, get drenched in the rain alone with water drops falling on my cup of coffee. I wanna spend a typical wintery evening with traditional Rajasthani music playing there and some barebque … I want … I want ..
A grand note of thanks to everyone at Narendra Bhawan Bikaner
If a stay of two days can evoke such emotions then it is a repsonsibility to thank the entire 136 member team of Narendra Bhawan team including Balveer, Ram Saran, Mahendra ji, Chef Sunil Singh ji, to name a few under the able robust stylish leadership of Mr. Siddharth Yadav. A complain that I had against Siddharth was – he made us indulge in gluttony but never broke a bread with us instead when we slept, he hit the gym. It’s rarely that a place/ hotel makes you feel at home so easily. Narendra Bhawan Bikaner was effortlessly successful in achieving that.
P.S. – Narendra Bhawan Bikaner is not a property. It’s not a boutique hotel either – if opulence could be built with care and attention to details to have a face, to be felt, then Narendra Bhawan Bikaner it would be.
Pin these for future reference ?