One of the most atmospheric hotels that I have been to is the Ahilya Fort Hotel in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh.
Ahilya Fort was built in the simple Wada style of Maratha architecture- with wooden pillars and supporting beams made of lime and bricks. Today, part of it has been converted into an atmospheric and intimate heritage hotel with fourteen tastefully decorated rooms by Prince Richard Holkar, her descendent and the son of the last Maharajah of Indore.
The hotel is a splendid maze of low, white washed buildings, hidden terraces and turrets, corridors and lush gardens.
Rattan furniture painted black and white, wooden ceilings, piles of books almost everywhere-on eclectic subjects from history and art to philosophy and fiction, an internet room with an antique door, two adorable pugs called Yoda and Alhambra…the ambience created is warm and cosy.
Gods and goddesses smeared with vermillion, urns and planters filled with flower petals, paintings of local scenes and sepia photographs of the Holkar family all create a back-in-time feel…
Each room is unique and is named after the tree that it overlooks-I am in the Gulmohar Room with a lounger and antique desk, soft Chanderi quilts on my bed, marigolds in brass vessels and old style fans. The bathroom has modern plumbing but the endearing details continue- a brass bucket and lota with rough stone floors.
Delicious meals are served alfresco in different places- in the terrace overlooking the Narmada or the courtyard garden of the erstwhile cow shed or the lush Poshakwada filled with greenery.
Come night, Ahilya Fort takes on a bewitching look. Oil lamps are lit everywhere, casting small, warm pools of orange light and creating a dramatic stage for aperitifs.
There is the Lingarchan courtyard where Ahilya Bai used to conduct prayer services and had hundreds of Shiva lingams…today it has two quaint rooms called Neem and Imli with window seats that have panoramic views of the Narmada.
I took a boat ride on the Narmada at sunset and was bewitched.
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