The Darbargadh Poshina Heritage Palace lies in northern Gujarat amidst the ruggedly beautiful Aravalli range of mountains and close to the borders of Rajasthan.
Poshina is a tribal village deep within the rural environs of the region and while it might seem like an unlikely contender for the affections of tourists from the world over, it yet attracts them in large numbers.
So what puts the Posh in Posh’ina? This is a land that is vibrant with colorful tribals and their exotic customs. Visitors are attracted by the allure of the unusual experiences that they can be a part of and these are the ‘luxuries’ that draw them here, at times repeatedly.
The erstwhile royal family at the heritage stay are gracious hosts and they have a well curated range of excursions and tours into the surroundings, where they personally escort their guests.
So jump into the Jeep and set out with our host and guide Harendrapal Sinh ji who is popularly known as Hanu ji and experience an entertaining and endearing time in the charming environs of tribal Gujarat.
At Darbargadh Poshina, the package usually includes all meals, 2 jeep excursions and a village walk. Apart from this there are various options that the hosts will inform you about, which you can opt for if staying there for a longer duration.
Apart from the charming locales and the pleasure of interacting with the tribals, the tours are made even more interesting by Hanu ji’s wit and humor. He is a natural, entertaining his guests with information laced with tongue in cheek remarks 😀
Hanu ji is also a great favorite among the tribal children because they look forward to the stash of biscuits that he always carries for them in a large bag.
Morning Jeep Excursion to the Adivasi village –
This begins soon after breakfast at around 9.30 am. Everyone clambers into an open jeep that embarks on a relaxed and informal trip where Hanu ji drives towards a nearby Adivasi (indigenous tribe) village, stopping en route, wherever there is something interesting to see.
On our trip, our first halt was at a cart selling fresh brinjals that glistened purple in the morning sun. These eventually found themselves into our lunch that day, handpicked by Hanu ji.
Going further ahead, we then parked along the main road and were taken to view one of the Terracotta horse armies, which is one of the most amazing sights to view in that region. These votive terracotta horses are promised to the deity while praying for various favors. On obtaining their desires, the vows are fulfilled by performing a puja (ritual) and ceremoniously placing the horses in the existing clusters.
There are said to be 3 main shrines like this and each with a staggering number of horses with their pointed ears and round, silent, open mouths that create a surreal aura.
The first shrine we visited was a place called Demi Bhoti on the banks of the river Sai. We were lucky to view a ritual in progress where a villager who had prayed for his barren cow to give birth, had been blessed with a calf. He had brought a container of the colostrum and performed a small puja as we watched in fascination.
From here we opted to walk through the fields of cotton, wheat, millets and corn to our first Adivasi village.
Being a Sunday all the tribal children were at home and there was great mutual amusement and entertainment as we clicked their pictures and they followed chanting ‘What is your name’ 😀
We visited a few homes and got an insight into the uncomplicated lives of these friendly and simple folk.
Our next stop was another Adivasi village which was a bigger settlement and with a larger terracotta horse shrine.
The shrine here lies under the large canopy of an old tree and against the backdrop of the distant Aravallis, which add to the scenic beauty of these earthenware equines.
The villagers have very active communities with some social event or the other happening at frequent intervals. On the day that we visited this village, we happened witnessed the sorrowful 12th day ceremony of a young woman who had died leaving behind a family 5 little children.
As is usual, the entire village was pitching in, cooking food in large cauldrons and contributing rotis from each house. Even little children were involved in carrying the food to the central location.
It was a strange feeling to watch and hear the Rudalis who are the designated mourners who wail in unison, as they trickled in from the surrounding villages.
Quite subdued after this interaction, we set off again in the jeep past golden hued Mahua trees on the verge of flowering and crimson Palash trees ablaze with new flowers, both heralding the onset of summer.
The trip takes 2-3 hours depending on how enthusiastic the guests are and how much time they want to spend.
Evening trip to Ambaji –
Ambaji is a well known pilgrim destination in the neighboring district of Banaskantha, which has the famous Ambaji temple which is one of the 51 Shakti Peeths in India. This temple attracts lakhs of devotees every year.
Ambaji town also has the Kumbhariya temple complex with a cluster of 5 Jain temples that date as far back as the 11th century.
This is around 30 km from Darbargadh Poshina and Hanu ji drove us along roads lined by the rocky Aravallis with large, black fossilized lava outcrops and deep marble quarries and where for some reason there is a very South Indian style temple too.
Kumbhariya temple –
At Ambaji, we visited the Kumbhariya temple with its temples that are marvels in marble, with some very large sculptures carved out of monoliths. The Mahavira temple is the most intricate. We spent some time here in the peaceful environs of the complex.
Garasia evening market at Ambaji –
Our next stop had a distinctly contrasting atmosphere, as Hanu ji led us into the colorful, noisy and vibrant market place of Ambaji. Every evening the ladies from the Garasia tribe converge upon the main street where they come to sell their vegetables. Squatting along the central median of the street, the rows upon rows of sellers in their traditional, multi hued garb are a photographer’s delight. Some of them are shy and do not permit being clicked but some are smarter as they get you to buy their vegetables in return for a picture 😀 The interaction is entertaining both for the guests and the tribals and there is a lot of giggling and posing and modelling.
A photograph cost me Rs 10 worth of plump red tomatoes, a small price indeed for the outcome. Some of the smaller children were bolder and obliged us with several poses. I got some good pictures of a little girl called Antibai whose name was embroidered on her clothes.
The market is flanked by rows of shops selling a mind boggling array of goods right from pooja articles, to clothes, vessels, food, tea and even weapons.
One can also view the golden shikara (temple spire) of the Ambaji temple from the road.
The entire tour was around 4 hours in duration and we reached the hotel back in time for dinner.
Folk dances –
On special requests, the hosts arrange for folk dancers and drummers to perform in the compound at night and guests can be entertained during dinner.
That night we witnessed these artistes performing for nearly an hour.
Village visits –
Guests of the hotel are also taken on a guided 2 hour tour of the Poshina village that surrounds the palace. At times Hanu ji does the honors but most other times, he deputes one of his staff members to be the guide. This is a walking tour and can be performed at an easy pace.
I was accompanied by Dhana, who has multiple roles right from welcoming new guests with drums and dance at the hotel gate, to assisting Hanu ji on the tribal tours, to being a guide on village walks, complete with rifle and all 😀
He and I made an interesting pair as we walked through the streets of Poshina village 😀 I am usually able to communicate wherever I go in India but Dhana spoke no Hindi and I spoke no Dhana’ese 😀 and so we were quite a sight with our gesticulations and sign language. The villagers are friendly but also hardly speak Hindi, so it was quite a sign fest all the way.
Dhana has done the drill several times, so the route was generally chalked out and we visited the homes of potters where I saw them creating the famous terracotta horses, had someone click our picture on the street along with some local children, had some children and passers by asking for their pictures to be taken, gaped at ‘taxis’ that were jeeps and even tractors filled with 10 times their capacity, watched silversmiths crafting jewelry, went into the homes of blacksmiths who forge arrow heads and daggers, met artisans who make sheaths for the daggers and so on.
A big fan of cenotaphs, I was in for a surprise when we suddenly came upon a row of them, with Dhana pointing out the Chhatris while also photo bombing the picture 😀 These are said to have been built by the Rajput clans in medieval times, along with an ancient 14th century Nilkantheshwara Shiva temple located across the street.
We returned to the hotel in time for sunset which I captured from the terrace.
Other tours and activities –
Apart from the above, the hosts at Poshina are also happy to curate trips and accompany guests to various other places within a 100 km radius of the place.
Day tours to Rabari settlements –
This is a full day trip to 2 of the Rabari villages, whose inhabitants are shepherds by profession. After an early breakfast, guests are taken on the 30 km drive to the village in time to watch the men lead out their cows, goats, camels etc for grazing. The womenfolk stay at home and prepare the meal for the day and the guests can watch the process. These meals are also included on the tour, rustic and traditional, with simple items like Makki ki roti (corn bread), kadi, alu sabji, chutneys etc. The guests interact with the tribals and even get themselves photographed in the tribal attire. After this they go across the Rajasthan border and visit a winery where they can taste or buy the fruit wines which include date and pomegranate wine. After this they head back to Poshina and usually reach by evening.
Polo forest –
Around 75 km to the south east is the 400 sq km Polo forest that ensconces the ruins of a few 15th century temples. It is also home to several species of mammals and its water bodies attract migratory birds. Once can also camp in the forest and indulge in adventure activities like trekking. The hosts at Darbargadh Poshina will organize tours to this place on request and also accompany the guests if needed.
Pottery classes can be organized in the adjoining village and they are customized according to the interest of the guest. Charges are nominal and depend on various factors.
The tranquil atmosphere of Darbargadh Poshina is conducive to performing yoga and several private groups have had sessions at various spots ranging from the terrace to the gardens to the courtyards.
Cooking classes –
Cooking classes are given on request, where Hanu ji’s wife demonstrations recipes of choice. Guests who wish to have the complete experience, are also taken to the market and accompany the hostess right from buying the ingredients to preparing the dishes to enjoying the meal.
Festival specific celebrations –
Guests who plan their stay in accordance with some of the major festivals, also get to participate in and view some of the ceremonial rituals and celebrations which are specific to the region. 2 main festivals in the year are Holi which the festival of colors and celebrated in spring and Diwali, the festival of lights which takes place in October or November.
For those who love traditions or want to be a part of the festival, this is a very vibrant time to be here. On the day before holi the royal family performs a puja in the village, with Hanu ji dressed in his regal trappings.
On the day of Holi, the entire tribal population from the surrounding villages congregates in Poshina and plays with colors. Guests of the hotel are also free to join in and experience this exciting event.
On the next day of Holi, hundreds of tribals come into the fort in a steady stream for hours on end, to pay their respects to the royal family and there is singing, dancing and drumming, which is a sight to behold. They are given gifts of jaggery and coconut by the family members who receive them continuously for several hours, dressed in their royal, traditional finery, complete with dangling sword et al.
The Chitra Vichitra annual fair takes place 15 days after Holi at a place called Gunbhakri around 10 km from Darbargadh Poshina. Thousands of tribals arrive with drums at Triveni Sangam, the river bed of the confluence of the Aakul, Vyaakul and Sabarmati rivers and perform a ceremony to mourn their dead.
Alongside on the banks, there is a fair with all the entertainment, where youngsters come to find their life partners and elope. 2 completely contrasting activities that signify the diametrically opposite stages of life.
Likewise the festival of Diwali that falls in October/November is also a good time to be here and experience the celebrations. The highlight of this festival of Lights is that on the next day, hordes of tribals come to offer terracotta horses at the designated shrines and this is said to be a sight to behold.
Guests who would like to be a part of these celebrations, can plan their holiday accordingly.
Please Note – This itinerary was specially curated hence some of the features might have been personalized accordingly. Before booking, please check the facilities offered in your package.
Feb 29th – Mar 2nd, 2020