Rajasthan is undoubtedly one of the leading Indian hotspots when it comes to tourism, but the establishment of this new heritage resort in Bishangarh, a quaint village in Shahpura district, is a diversion from the otherwise popular destinations in the state.
Perched magnificently atop a granite hill, the bold and striking architecture of Alila Fort Bishangarh appears seamlessly sculpted from the surrounding rustic terrain, providing a 360-degree view of the impressive Aravalli Hills. The all-suite resort boasts 59 stately suites that are designed for quiet indulgence. Every suite in the property is carefully curated and provides panoramic views of the stunning surroundings.
Udaipur, Jaipur, Mt Abu and Jaisalmer, among others, are the usual cities of interest for tourists travelling to the pristine state, but Alila Fort Bishangarh, approximately six kilometres off the Delhi-Jaipur National Highway, will certainly emerge as a new destination in Rajasthan. It is some 210 kilometres from Delhi.
And why not if you look at the rich history of this ancient warrior fort, now steeped in luxury. It is perhaps the only warrior fort converted into a heritage resort. This historic landmark embraces elements of Jaipur Gharana architecture, featuring Rajput and Mughal influences. A perfect example of this can be seen in the Amarsar restaurant, where Tudor and Cusped arches harmoniously coexist — aptly styled for a warrior fort. The walls have been finished not with paint but with modern adaptations of the traditional surkhi (stone dust) and araish, the dying Rajasthani plastering art that results in glistening surfaces.
The resort still features the fort’s original two-metre-thick walls and its battlement turrets and arches. Over the duration of its transformation, the soul of the fort has been passionately brought to life, recreating the courtly flavour of Shahpura’s royalty while retaining its stark and inherent simplicity.
The pristine village of Bishangarh belongs to the Royal Shahpura Gharana, established by Rao Manohar Singh in 1584. The Shahpura thikana had been a part of the Jaipur Durbar, ruled by the Suryavanshis from Amber Fort. Fort Bishangarh was built by Rao Bishan Singh, the ruler of Shahpura district from 1793 to 1810, as a warrior fortress in the last few years of the 18th century.
This rich history of the fort will definitely be a tempting factor for many tourists, but the property has a lot more to offer than just a dose of its own history. My two-day stay at the resort was marked by all things luxurious, but at the same time there was an air of difference all through. Most importantly, it is a quiet and serene place.
There are little elements to keep your interest alive. The library, set amidst old marble pillars, bears testimony to the old kingdom with the size of its holdings mapped out on the wall, and Spa Alila, carved out between granite rocks in the old dungeon, provides the perfect setting for relaxation.
The food experience and the menus have been innovatively curated by Chef Ranveer Brar to bring back the older ways of cooking on open fire and in the hot sand, where the food is slow cooked in its own juices. Simple, fresh and artisanal with a throw-back to tradition are the operating mantras at Alila Fort Bishangarh.
The adventure continues even as you step out into the village. A typical “historical day” (one of the many experiences that the property offers to guests) begins with a brief lesson on Rajput and Mughal history, where guests visit Amer Fort, Jaigarh Fort and Jaipur’s City Palace to recreate the moments of the Maharajas. Guests seeking adventure can experience a combination of off-roading in a Land Rover, driving ATVs, riding horseback and trekking in the Aravalli Hills. Art and culture enthusiasts can engage in touring Jaipur’s famed Rajasthani jewellery manufacturing units to learn about semi-precious and precious stones.
It is the combination of all such factors that may very soon turn this quaint village into one of the new destinations for tourists in Rajasthan. Alila Fort Bishangarh is not your usual resort; it is an experience in itself that lives in you long after you check out.
(Saket Suman’s visit to Alila Fort Bishangarh was at the inviation of the Alila Group of Hotels. He can be contacted at [email protected])