Home Inspirational Stay in a Konkan Palace! This Royal Couple Run a Boutique Homestay

Stay in a Konkan Palace! This Royal Couple Run a Boutique Homestay

Stay in a Konkan Palace! This Royal Couple Run a Boutique Homestay


Let me take you again in time to an easier period — the sixteenth century.

In case you had been to enter any Moghul courtroom again then, an amusing sight would greet you. On sizzling summer season afternoons, courtmen would collect round and play a sport of playing cards, apt for the season. Whereas to the uninitiated eye, it might look like a normal card sport, a better look would show in any other case.

The ‘playing cards’ had been made with ivory and tortoiseshells, as an alternative of paper (generally used as we speak), and bedecked with illustrations of kings atop horses, chariots, royal fits and palaces. The current rectangular design was then a round body. And the secret was ganjifa.

Whereas the Moghuls performed ganjifa to their coronary heart’s content material, its reputation waned over centuries, ultimately solely remaining in Maharashtra’s Sawantwadi — the place you should purchase your self a pack of ganjifa playing cards from the native bazaar even now! As the sport misplaced favour in locations the place it was as soon as a every day ritual, the artisans of Sawantwadi tried to protect it by studying it from the Chitrakar group, who had been expert in making the playing cards.

Right now Sawantwadi is the one remaining place in India the place ganjifa continues to be practised.

The royal couple — Yuvraj Lakham Sawant Bhonsle and Yuvrani Shraddha Sawant Bhonsle — shine with delight as they inform this story. Their love for tradition is obvious. And the Sawantwadi Palace Lodge, a boutique homestay that could be a restored marvel preserving the ganjifa artwork is a testomony to this ardour.

The ganjifa card game came to India from Persia in the 16th century
The ganjifa card sport got here to India from Persia within the sixteenth century, Image supply: The Sawant Bhonsle household
The Princely State of Sawantwadi was ruled by the Royal Family of Sawant Bhonsles
 The princely state of Sawantwadi was dominated by the Royal Household of Sawant Bhonsles, Image supply: The Sawant Bhonsle household

A keep steeped in historical past

Upon getting into Sawantwadi, the air appears totally different. The villages are blanketed with a sort of mystique, and historical past will whisper to you from each nook should you take the time to hear.

Referred to as the land of the artists, the princely state was dominated by the Royal Household of Sawant Bhonsles. The Sawantwadi Palace was constructed by Khem Sawant III and its vibrant pink laterite facade is complemented by arches that draw from English architectural kinds.

When the Sawant Bhonsle household determined to open their doorways to the general public as a homestay, it was backed by the intent to take Sawantwadi artwork one step forward by making it accessible to individuals from throughout.

“The boutique artwork resort is constructed so that you can expertise these artwork types of their purest kind,” Shraddha says. She and Lakham are the nineteenth era of the Sawant Bhonsle household. They’re united by their shared ardour for the humanities and meals (each are skilled cooks who studied on the Culinary Institute of America).

As you will notice, the revival of the palace quarters and its journey to a homestay has roots within the couple’s love story.

“The plan was to get married in Goa,” Shraddha shares. “However, whereas planning, we realised we had a ravishing palace proper right here. So, we started restoring it and that’s once we noticed potential. It was an knowledgeable resolution by the household to show a portion of it right into a boutique resort that includes six suite rooms.”

The mentioned portion was referred to as ‘Taisaheb Wada’ — a wing devoted to the 5 queens of Sawantwadi. The remainder of the palace continues to be a personal residence.

The Sawantwadi Palace was built by Khem Sawant III during his reign from 1755 to 1803 stands as the pride of the city
The Sawantwadi Palace was constructed by Khem Sawant III throughout his reign from 1755 to 1803 and stands because the delight of town, Image supply: The Sawant Bhonsle household
‘Sawantwadi Lacquerwares’ was established in 1971 as an attempt to revive ganjifa art and lacquerware
‘Sawantwadi Lacquerwares’ was established in 1971 as an try to revive ganjifa artwork and lacquerware, Image supply: The Sawant Bhonsle household
The artisans who are closely associated with the Sawantwadi Palace are an integral part to preserving the ganjifa art
The artisans who’re intently related to the Sawantwadi Palace are an integral a part of preserving the ganjifa artwork, Image supply: The Sawant Bhonsle household

And thus, the couple acquired began — Shraddha’s culinary prowess and Lakham’s pure intuition for artwork, a mix that unveiled the misplaced grandeur of the 18th-century palace. For Lakham, the half he totally loved was seeing life being breathed again into the silence of the place he calls residence.

“Previously, earlier than India acquired independence, there was once lots of people who would come to the palace to fulfill my grandfather. There can be actions occurring, chatter and laughter. However lately my household had been the one ones dwelling right here. Palaces are constructed for individuals. The human vitality was lacking,” he notes.

Beginning the homestay, was an try at bringing it again.

From deciding to revive the palace quarters to internet hosting their first visitors in January 2023, the couple recount the four-year journey to be some of the iconic adventures they’ve had collectively. Probably the most great half, in keeping with them, was inking friendships with the native artisans of Sawantwadi who had been delighted to be part of the method.

In case you recall the legacy of the ganjifa artwork you had been handled to initially of this story, you’ll be thrilled to know that the artwork finds its purest expression within the palace resort — within the facades, the decor, the cutlery, the furnishings, and the village.

A heat welcome into the palace

It’s astounding how a lot the Sawantwadi Palace depends on the bounty of the village’s heritage and tradition. Proper from the cultural workshops that allow vacationers experiment with the ganjifa artwork to the furnishings of the palace.

“A number of it has been preserved,” says Shraddha, elaborating on the furnishings and the foundational construction. “Nevertheless, we needed to strengthen a few of the partitions by putting in metallic planks particularly since there’s an inflow of individuals now. We want the construction to be robust.”

The food at the Sawantwadi Palace Hotel has Konkan influences and is prepared by the local staff,
The meals on the Sawantwadi Palace Lodge has Konkan influences and is ready by the native workers, Image supply: The Sawant Bhonsle household
The Sawantwadi Palace Hotel has six suite rooms that are furnished taking inspiration from the ganjifa art
The Sawantwadi Palace Lodge has six suite rooms which might be furnished taking inspiration from the ganjifa artwork, Image supply: The Sawant Bhonsle household

The couple additionally had fashionable bogs constructed. However other than this, no matter you see is the unique construction. Taking us on a digital tour of the room, Shraddha says the decor is an ode to the ganjifa artwork.

“As an alternative of numbering the rooms, they’re named after avatars of Lord Vishnu. The thought is for individuals to grasp the historical past of Sawantwadi. Once you enter a sure room, every part from the doorknob to the decor is a work of our artisans and has ganjifa symbols painted on them. We’ve inculcated the artwork in bits and items within the night time lamps, the tea trays and in all places we might,” she says.

However whereas that is fascinating, Shraddha says you must hear the legacy of the furnishings. “These have been made by the Sawant Bhonsle household of their unit ‘Sawantwadi Lacquerwares’.

Apparently, that is additionally the place the place the ganjifa revival occurred.

“When my grandfather-in-law HH Rajesaheb Shivramraje Bhonsle visited the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, he seen a label studying Sawantwadi Playing cards. He and his spouse learnt the artwork from the 80-year-old artist Pundalik Chitari who at the moment would make solely two units of ganjifa a yr. They began Sawantwadi Lacquerwares in 1971 to revive and promote the artwork of ganjifa and lacquerware.”

True to the message championed by their ancestors, the couple is insistent on empowering the native artisanal communities by means of their creation of the boutique resort.

“We solely employed locals. We’re at all times instructed that the method would have been simpler and faster if we had employed architectural companies from larger cities, however we had been insistent that we wished the locals to be an integral a part of the restoration from begin to end,” she provides.

And the couple is glad they opted for this. “It led us to find so many attention-grabbing aspects,” smiles Shraddha, sharing an anecdote of how they got here throughout enormous stones whereas they had been clearing the bottom the place the swimming pool presently is.

“It was a forest earlier. In the course of the clearing spree, we started seeing mosaic patterns on the stones, and that’s once we realised these had been really tiles. Finally, we got here throughout the primary wada our ancestors had constructed.” Right now, you will notice those self same stones within the boutique resort premises.

The furniture in the rooms at the Sawantwadi Hotel Palace is made by 'Sawantwadi Lacquerwares'
The furnishings within the rooms on the Sawantwadi Lodge Palace is made by ‘Sawantwadi Lacquerwares’, Image supply: The Sawant Bhonsle household
The food at the Sawantwadi Palace is made using produce grown in the organic gardens
The meals on the Sawantwadi Palace is made utilizing produce grown within the natural gardens, Image supply: The Sawant Bhonsle household

Involving the artisans within the restoration was symbolic for a lot of causes.

Lakham shares that these households had been at all times an integral a part of the household’s work. However with time, their youngsters moved to cities due to higher alternatives. “Convincing these artisans’ youngsters about our dream was powerful, however we instructed them what we had been making an attempt to create and so they understood. We additionally promised we’d match their metropolis salaries.”

Discuss a stroll with royalty

The attractive half about staying on the Sawantwadi Palace is that together with dwelling in royal quarters and witnessing historical past, you additionally get a front-row seat to the household’s iconic journey. The museum is breathtaking.

“It’s extra of a photograph gallery,” Shraddha is modest about it. Designed by Lakham’s grandparents, the area showcases the household historical past and occasions that stood out. “There are photos and tales of sure untold occasions. As an illustration, earlier than the large Dandi March occurred, Gandhi was really in hiding at considered one of our summer season palaces. There was additionally a go to from Nehru. There are coronation pictures of my grandfather-in-law, the final coronated King.”

The dip into tradition doesn’t finish right here.

The Sawantwadi Palace Hotel is surrounded by the Amboli Ghats where guests are encouraged to take a picnic and go
The Sawantwadi Palace Lodge is surrounded by the Amboli Ghats the place visitors are inspired to take a picnic and go, Image supply: The Sawant Bhonsle household
The museum features pictures of the history of the Sawant Bhonsle family along with iconic moments through history tied to their legacy
The museum options photos of the historical past of the Sawant Bhonsle household together with iconic moments by means of historical past tied to their legacy, Image supply: The Sawant Bhonsle household

A brief drive away from the palace resort lies the Pinguli village the place visitors are handled to the story of the origin of leather-based puppetry. Honoured with a prestigious Padma Shri award, the legacy of the founder’s exceptional contributions stays and his son, the gifted Chetan Gangavane, will personally information you thru the fascinating puppetry museum.

A few of the puppets additionally function within the palace resort. Shraddha finds them an amazing ice-breaker. “We love placing up conversations with our visitors. It is a great method to.”

One other dialog starter is the ganjifa playing cards and Shraddha is proud to share that the household has acquired the biggest assortment of ganjifa playing cards throughout India. On the homestay, you’ll additionally be capable to attend an unique workshop the place you possibly can study all concerning the famed artwork kind.

Agreed, there’s a lot to do throughout your keep. However, we suggest spending a night of bliss within the natural gardens on the property the place the household cultivates their greens — chillies, eggplant, edible flowers and different greens.

The gardens are fascinating and you’ll solely think about why the lunch is a kaleidoscope of flavours, the colors paralleling the fantastic thing about the place itself. The Konkan affect is seen in every dish and fish is the plain hero with curries and fried delights that convey out its flavour to perfection.

The Sawantwadi Palace Lodge is bliss in all its splendid geometry. And I’m nonetheless reeling over the truth that I’ve spoken to royalty themselves.

However I can testify that neither the grandeur of the Sawantwadi Palace Lodge nor the gorgeous shades it turns because the solar units can parallel the heat of this couple who says all they wish to do is dream larger and carry the legacy ahead.

Edited by Pranita Bhat



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