By Tiasa Bhowal: When was the last time you took time out from your busy schedule and sat on the patio with your favorite person and stared at the stars? Oh wait! If you’re a Delhi resident, clear skies aren’t what you’re probably used to; forget about spotting a star in the night sky! However, if we tell you that there is a hidden gem just about 100 km from Ajmer that offers you not only the opportunity to look at the stars but much more, would it pique your interest?
The prospect of visiting such a dreamy place also piqued my interest. It wasn’t just the starry sky, but the idea of staying in a cottage in the lap of nature that came up as an interesting prospect. So I left Delhi early in the morning. My destination was Raipur, Rajasthan, about 500 km from the national capital. Traveling by road would have been a chore, so the most plausible option was to take the New Delhi-Ajmer Shatabdi Express. From Ajmer it was a 2 hour drive to our destination.
Oh wait, I haven’t told you about the location yet, have I? Well, it’s Brij Lakshman Sagar, which was originally built in the late 1800s as a hunting lodge and later transformed into a boutique hotel. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, as soon as you step into Lakshman Sagar you will realize it is a world unto itself. It gives you the taste of a rustic life laced with luxury.
LAKSHMAN SAGAR IN A NUTSHELL
It was built in 1858 by the then Thakur of Raipur, Lakshman Singh Ji. It was used as a hunting lodge by the royal families and British envoys. Initially, this place boasted two main buildings – Zanana and Mardana. These quarters were historically designed for women and men respectively. While these are still part of the heritage, they now serve as the communal dining and lounge areas for the guests. 12 new cottages have been added after the property was converted into a boutique hotel. Spread over an area of 32 acres, it would not be an exaggeration to say that this Rajasthan resort is an oasis in a serene rural setting.
RUSTIC LIFE STRIPED WITH LUXURY
Brij Lakshman Sagar is an experience that you probably have not experienced anywhere else. As soon as I set foot in the hotel, I was welcomed with warm and smiling faces from the staff. The first thing you see as soon as you enter is the Zanana and Mardana Mahal overlooking the vast lake.
After completing the formalities, I was escorted to my room, or rather, my magnificent cottage. It has rich Rajasthani architecture and every other item in the room is recycled. While you’ll hear several hoteliers swear by their sustainable approach, this was one place that did an impressive job of incorporating recycled items into the room’s decoration. An example: a wind chime in the opulent room was made with old kitchen utensils.
Everything about this place has the zero mile concept. Rajasthani culture is incorporated into almost every aspect of the room decor. The room came with a private pool overlooking the vast and dense greenery.
It is a paradise for people who want privacy. Each cottage is at a distance from another.
INJURED FOR CHOICE
The food at the resort is another aspect that needs to be discussed in detail. To be fair, it’s not just the taste, but the organic ingredients used in making your meals. They have their own ‘Bagh’ where the chefs get their fresh ingredients. Not just the Rajasthan fare, you can enjoy salads, soup, continental, Italian and a range of cuisines here. The staff love to spoil you and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say they work magic in the kitchen.
My first meal at the resort was lunch, which was served in my room itself. Oh boy, I was having a hard time figuring out what to eat. I was served a three course Rajasthani meal, which I enjoyed by the pool of the room. From laal maas to gatte ki sabji, everything was to die for.
AN EVENING AT LAKSHMAN SAGAR
I was at the resort for three days and two nights and I can’t deny that evenings at the resort used to be my favorite. The resort offers additional experiences such as pottery making, nature walks, canoeing, spice blends, sunset in the Zanana area and bird watching, just to name a few.
On the first evening we were led to Zanana by naturalist Sarthak Awhad. We sat on the roof where we sipped piping hot tea and snacks and enjoyed the sunset. At a distance you hear a man playing the flute. Watching the sun set accompanied by the sweet tunes of the flute, the combination is nothing short of magical.
THE LITTLE THINGS
I dined at Mardana the first night. I enjoyed my dinner with some live music. The staff told me that the performers are all locals. Their soulful voice accompanied with the music of sarangi, rawanhattha was absolutely blissful. After dinner I was escorted to the room. And I was literally moved when I saw a handwritten note with a bowl of almonds on the bedside table. Not only this, the center table in the room had a small bowl of fresh aloe vera for my hair and skin. These personalized notes just made me smile as I retired for the night.
I woke up early in the morning, ready for the activities planned for the day. We started the day with canoeing or kayaking. I have taken several boat trips but the experience of kayaking was just amazing. I boarded a kayak and rowed across the lake. I was accompanied by a naturalist who talked about the different aquatic plants, birds and animals we saw while in the water. It was an exciting experience because you get to be so close to nature.
We then moved on to our next activity – pottery class, followed by spice mixes.
That was quite an adventurous start to the day, but it was time to replenish the lost energy, so I was directed to the breakfast room. The breakfast setting, in case you thought it was in the hotel room or lounge, you are mistaken. Breakfast was served by the lake and there was a man playing the flute right under the huge banyan tree. I just sat there, eating my bread and eggs, listening to the flutist and marveling at the beauty of nature.
After breakfast I took a walk through the property. I also visited the vegetable garden attached to the property. Mainly fresh tomatoes, carrots, peppers and other vegetables are grown.
When you stay at Lakshman Sagar, these and many more activities are free.
THE SUNSET TO DIE FOR
I went back to my room at noon and spent some time by the pool reading a book. I had the staff bring the lunch to my room. For a Bengal, afternoon nap is a must, and I retired to my bed for a quick nap. By 4am I was all set, as requested by the staff, for the nature walk which would be followed by high tea on the rocks.
I was not alone as I explored the property with other hotel guests. We were making our way through rocky terrain when our naturalist introduced us to some plants we had no idea about. After about a 30 minute walk we reached the zenith from where we could get a great view of the village. When we reached the top we were welcomed with tea and coolers. Then we sat down and waited for the sunset.
Now you can go to lots of tourist spots to get the best sunrise or sunset view, but you can’t enjoy the peace and serenity there. In those places, there are usually several tourists in line. You don’t have to fight to get the view; you can enjoy the sunset sitting, hold your loved one and enjoy a colorful moment. There I recreated the Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani moment, but without Bunny (giggles)!
The walk back to the resort was something you can only dream of. When it got dark we went back to our rooms with lanterns in hand. Now imagine you are walking through a dark area with no lights nearby except lanterns. Pure magic I bet!
THE FOOD KEEPS COMING
I wanted to explore their broad menu and since I was told vegetables and fruits for salads came from the garden itself, I was craving something healthy. So I asked them for their garden fresh salad. What was offered to me pleased not only my stomach but also my soul. My last night at Lakshman Sagar went by in no time.
The basic package for one night at Brij Lakshman Sagar is Rs 32,000 plus taxes. Prices include accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening tea.
In house activities such as pottery making, nature walk, sunset on the rocks, bonfire by the lake, farm tasting with the chef, breakfast at the farm, spice mixing class, canoeing, dinner by the lake, sunset in Zanana area, watching peacocks fly, planting trees and stargazing are free.