Rural Gujarat is emerald green in springtime and an absolute treat for the eyes. My cab whizzes past large tracts of pastoral land and the 4 hour journey from Ahmedabad to Poshina is a very pleasant one, on roads that are as smooth as silk.
As we near our destination, we turn off the highway and find ourselves within a large village where commendably the roads still maintain their quality. We drive through the hustle and bustle and abruptly come upon a large iron gateway that opens up between walls, that from afar seemed like yet another facet of the village environs. A closer look indicates that we have in fact arrived at the gates of the heritage hotel which is to be our home for the next 2 days.
Darbargadh Poshina is an ancient fort that is now a family run heritage stay which is owned and managed by the erstwhile royals who ruled these regions before Indian independence.
Located in the Khedbrahma taluka of Sabarkantha district of Gujarat in India, this place offers an actual ambience of bygone times along with experiences that are offbeat. This is certainly an endearing destination for those who seek the non touristy, uncommon route.
So enter the gates with me and let us peer into the Jaalis and peep out of the Jharokas of the home and explore what its formidable walls hold within.
About Poshina –
Poshina also known as Ratanpur, is poised in an interesting region at the confluence of North Gujarat and South Rajasthan and its proximity to the latter, gives its inhabitants and guests access to some of the advantages that the dry (alcohol prohibited) state of Gujarat cannot provide 😀
A large village that is set in the amidst the starkly scenic Aravalli range of mountains, it is inhabited mainly by tribal communities that include the Rabaris, Garasias, Bhils and other adivasis (indigenous people).
Apart from its rural charm it is also known for its tribal shrines and ancient temples, some of which are over a thousand years old and these are the attractions that draw Indian as well as international tourists to the place.
About the royal family of Poshina –
With origins that date back to the Vaghela dynasty in Patan that existed during the 13th century, the royal family held dominion over this land ever since they captured and ruled over Poshina Patta (region) in 1632 AD.
The history that is rather complex and fragmented to comprehend and document, manages however, to indicate that 8 generations of the family ruled here before independence. Poshina encompassed a vast area and had 84 villages under it, apart from extended territories that were distributed among younger siblings of the rulers.
History interestingly has also been made in the present age, being the first time that 4 generations of the erstwhile royal family currently exist under one roof. Kunwar (Kr) Harendrapal Sinh ji belongs to the 10th generation and lives on the property with his father Rao Saheb Gopal Singhji, son Mrigvendra and grandson.
Harendrapal ji is popularly known as Hanu ji (which also makes it easier for his foreign guests :-D) and he runs the place along with his wife and ably assisted by Mrigvendra and his wife too.
His great grandfather was the last ruler before India attained independence.
History of Darbargadh Poshina –
As mentioned, the ancestors of the family had conquered the region in the early 17th century, during which they occupied the fort that had already been on the site.
The story is again hazy due to a lack of records but it is gathered that the original construction underwent several modifications over time, as and when the need arose.
Major alterations took place in 1959 and the most recent revamping was undertaken in the early 1990s after which they decided to open the place up to visitors.
Initially beginning only with lunches that were hosted for foreign tourists en route other destinations, the family eventually thought of adding rooms so that guests could also stay over.
2 of the rooms were given on rent to a bank and a telephone office in order to entice them to have a presence in Poshina and enable its development. These later moved out in the late 1990s when they opened the place for tourists. Beginning with a mere 2 rooms, they revamped and redid the place to incorporate rooms with modern facilities and en suite bathrooms, over a gradual period of time.
Today Darbargadh Poshina is a well known as a family run heritage hotel and has become a popular halt for nearly 1500 guests each year, some of whom come back repeatedly.
Features of the resort –
Having evolved over the centuries, the place as it stands today is a tapestry of a myriad elements that have been added or modified over the years and which gives it a character of its own which is difficult to categorize and which is what makes it unique.
With its close proximity to the northern state of Rajasthan, the architecture is mainly Rajput in style, with its arches and jaalis and jharokas.
The buildings are mostly white in color and constructed out of a medley of materials that have been added over time, which include marble, stone, wood, iron, bricks, lime etc.
The main entrance adjoins what was the earlier prison and the iron bars of the windows are what you first see as you enter, its grimness alleviated by the reflection of the bright bougainvillea.
A preliminary courtyard functions as the vehicle garage and second gate way then leads into the property.
It is here that you are received by the rugged looking Dhana, whose serious and deeply lined face actually belies his soft nature and helpful disposition. Eagerly greeting you with dancing and drumming, he looks pleased when you shoot a video and does not stop until you signal him to 😀
Within the premises, there are a multitude of elements that make it hard to actually define or describe the place but largely speaking, the accommodation is distributed among 4 prominent sections namely the entrance section, the main building, the inner hall block and finally the innermost part which is deep inside and contains most of the rooms.
The entrance section has a reception and office with an eye catching beautiful green door, on one side of the inner gate, which in olden times served as the guard’s room.
Above this is the residence of Mrigvendra. On the other side is the portion where Hanu ji stays. According to him, he and his son are the guardians on either side of the gate 🙂
The main building is at right angles to the entrance block and used to be the mardana portion of the royal home, which is where the menfolk used to reside.
This now has a lobby cum hall on the ground floor and a dining room on the first floor.
Large well furnished verandahs border the building and are pleasant places to lounge in.
There is also a terrace on the top floor from where one can enjoy stunning views of the sunrise and sunset on either side.
Adjacent to the main building is an open space which used to be the earlier Dhurriekhana which was a sit down court of sorts where the rulers of those times would hold court and attend to the various issues that the villagers would come with.
Across the yard from this, is where the stables used to be and the arched doorways have remained unaltered, taking you back in time and with a little bit of imagination one can almost sense the presence of the horses snorting and whinnying and rearing to be let out.
From the main building, another ancient doorway leads further inside to the hall block on the right, which has the banquet hall below and a few rooms on the first floor.
And finally on the left is the zenana section which used to be the ladies quarters and hence shielded deep inside. This has a courtyard around which most of the guest rooms are located on the ground and first floors.
The star of this courtyard is a very old tree which they call the Trinity because this marvel of nature is the result of the entwining of a neem, a peepal and a banyan tree that have fused together over the years, forming one consolidated trunk. Of course I promptly named it Tree’nity 🙂
Of course the peepal seems to have won the hugging game because it is the only one that is thriving now, while the other 2 seem to have fossilized into the wood.
There is also a soapnut tree and a small temple with the family deity, in the yard.
Like the diverse show pieces, curios and objets d’art that are seen throughout the interiors of the place, the open areas of the property are likewise dotted with motley items of decor that give it a natural unmanicured appearance, which is what the hosts intend. As Hanu ji says, he does not want the place to look artificially spick and span but wants to retain the natural look even if slightly unkempt.
Antique iron spiral staircases interwoven with flowering creepers add to the aesthetics and you feel like constantly climbing up and posing on them 😀
Picturesque windows, moss covered walls and delightfully decrepit doors, bestow a medieval appearance that is brightened intermittently with cascades upon cascades of startlingly bright bougainvillea that lend a dramatic vibrancy and cheer to the place.
There are a remarkable number of instagrammable spots around the property, which its original builders must have had great foresight to incorporate 😀
My biggest problem while travelling solo, is to find someone who can click my pictures and I end up giving a crash course to one of the staff who is eager to learn how to wield a camera. Bachu bhai who works at Darbargadh Poshina, was my enthusiastic student this time and within moments he figured out what had to be done and thence followed a photography session where various picturesque spots were shot with me in them 😀 Ask for him if ever you visit. He has now become an expert.
The hotel has provision for 32 rooms of which 27 are in a functional state at present. Categorized in a simple manner into Standard and Deluxe that are differentiated mainly by the size and decor. All the other amenities are the same. All rooms have large comfortable beds, luggage racks, desks, wardrobes, 24 hours hot water, bottled water, basic toiletries and air conditioning. Some of the items like tea/coffee maker, hairdryer, iron etc are available on demand. The hotel is in the middle of a village so any special requests should be made in advance at the time of booking.
Dining Options and cuisine –
Hearty home style food is served here and the family serves their traditional cuisine which is mainly influenced by Rajasthan. There is a smattering of western fare too but overall the foreigners are happy to partake of local meals, at times toned down in spice and bland to the Indian palate. Of course, an appeal to spice things up will do the trick 😀 One can also make prior requests in case of any special dietary requirement.
Every meal is cooked freshly with vegetables that are sourced right at their doorstep in the village. Only meats are kept in the deep freeze since they have to be procured from the city. Masalas are freshly prepared and there is no usage of commercial and ready made gravies etc.
Breakfast however, is a totally western affair and a functional meal which is presented informally on individual tables, with breads, muesli, eggs to order, juice, fruit etc. Indian guests can request for a local dish like poha, paratha and so on which are definitely more interesting 😀
Lunch is traditional home cooked food which is mostly vegetarian with 3 vegetables, dal, rice, roti, sweet and dinner has an additional soup and non veg item. Dessert consists of local sweets or ice cream. Home made pickles and papads take the meal to a different level.
The menu is prefixed and changes at every meal. Each table is served with all the items and guests can help themselves to whatever they want, thus minimizing the possible wastage of a buffet system.
There are several venues where guests can choose to dine in, right from the tables in the front yard, verandahs, in the inner courtyard surrounded by the rooms under the Trinity tree and 2 dining halls on the first floor.
The guest can choose whatever location pleases them and in winters some of them opt to have their day time meals in the yard bathed in warm sunlight and their dinners in the warmth of the bonfires that are provided near the outdoor tables. Of course one can also dine within the elaborate environs of the dining halls.
With prior intimation, guests can also witness cooking classes and demonstrations that range from the simple to the elaborate.
Banquet halls –
The banquet hall is a large Durbar hall of sorts with walls bearing large portraits of the family and ancestors, adding a regal touch to the proceedings.
This is suitable for corporate conferences and meetings as well as private parties and events and can accommodate around 60 people. The courtyards are also available spaces for events.
Team building exercises make use of the natural rocks and surroundings of the fort and village and like everything else here, that is also an informal activity.
Museum and retail store –
There is a retail store in the premises that stocks collectibles and traditional items.
Amenities and facilities –
Being a destination where the rural excursions are the prime activity, the hosts have deliberately avoided any man made form of entertainment in the premises. There are no TVs or games or facilities like swimming pool, gym etc. This seems to work well with their guest profile and there have been no regrets or demands.
As mentioned, Poshina is a large village which is further surrounded by other small tribal villages. The hosts at Darbargadh Poshina, have curated what they call Jeep excursions that are a part of the hotel package and guests have prefixed itinerary, escorted by Hanu ji to the various surrounding attractions that include village tours, temple visits, treks, forest excursions and other such trips. More on this in the following post on excursions from Darbargadh Poshina.
Phone and internet connectivity –
Despite being located in what could be considered a very rural region, phone signals and internet seem to work quite satisfactorily and did not pose too much of a problem.
Visitor profile –
To a large extent, this heritage stay attracts domestic and international guests who visit this place for authentic rural Indian experiences. This is a place that is of interest for people who are interested in tribes, heritage, history, nature, tradition, adventure, trekking, ancient temples etc.
It is also a leisure destination for those who want to get away from urban life and spend time in historical or rustic environs.
Though it is open to people of all ages right from families with children to the elderly, it is not really a run of the mill holiday destination with modern means of entertainment.
As mentioned, it does not provide a pool or games or other common activities.
The place is also given out for corporate events and other private functions. An event that is worth highlighting is an American wedding that was planned here where the couple came all the way to exchange their vows here and it was a very delightful event.
Social and environmental commitment –
Hanu ji was one of the earliest people in that locality to become conscious of the need to safeguard the environment from plastics. Wanting to do his bit, he fabricated bio degradable bags and started handing out bags to everyone who carried plastic. Over the years, he has had many sponsors who funded thousands of bags and since 13 years he has been handing out these bags to all and sundry in the hope of reducing plastic usage and educating the public. While several international and Indian guests have come forward to help, he is also on the look out for large corporates who can pitch in.
The plastic water bottles that perforce are used in the property due to health concerns by the international guests, are then distributed to tribal school children who have no other means of carrying water. The bottles are also used in his farms to plant saplings.
Tree plantation drives are conducted with the involvement of guests.
Apart from this, the family supports widows and the elderly need by providing grain and food from the farms that they own.
Several of their guests also help by sending money which is used for educating some of the tribal children, providing essentials and clothes to needy girls, note books for students, renovating broken houses of villagers, temple repairs, handing out blankets and shawls in winters and many other such philanthropic works.
A conscious effort to give direct and indirect employment to the local villagers and tribals has resulted in the absence of any outsiders working on the property. Hanu ji says that though it has been a tough job to train them and get them to work satisfactorily, he has persisted and managed to retain them. Not taking the easier way out by employing trained staff, he has empowered the locals and he is proud that they have been engaged within the village. It is quite amazing to see the adivasis and the Westerners managing to communicate despite not knowing each other’s language 😀 Of course the family members are always around to assist but the system does work well and most of the guests appreciate that this adds to the authenticity of the stay.
What you should carry –
Some of the essentials are provided in the rooms. There are small shops in the surroundings where basic things like medicines, toiletries etc are available. It is however a good idea to carry important items of personal need.
A cap, sunglasses, good walking shoes, camera etc are the other things that will be useful.
Best time to visit –
The quintessential flexibility of Darbargadh Poshina also percolates into its seasons.
Comfortably closed for at least 4 – 5 months of the year during its harsh summers, the hotel stays open from August to March. The heat begins waning from August to October but it is still quite humid. The winter months of November to February are cold but most preferred by tourists and hence this is the peak season.
March is springtime and quite pleasant but the heat starts building up towards the end and usually after the Holi, the place starts winding down for the summer. Holi is the festival of colors and is usually celebrated after the appearance of the full moon in March.
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.
More on this in the following post on excursions from Darbargadh Poshina.
Getting there –
Poshina is not very difficult to access despite being deep within rural Gujarat.
Ahmedabad is the one of the most convenient gateways with its international airport, major railway station and bus and road connectivity to several Indian towns and cities. Around 180 km from Darbargadh Poshina, the journey by cab can be achieved in less than 4 hours on very comfortable roads. There is also a good bus facility towards tourist locations like Ambaji and Mount Abu via Hadad which is around 14 km from Poshina. The resort will arrange for a pick up from here.
Udaipur which is 135 km and 2.5 hours away, also has an airport, railway station and buses. However, its airport is not as well connected as Ahmedabad to the rest of the country and world.
Abu road at Mount Abu is 65 km and 1.5 hours away and is the nearest major railway station.
Cabs and buses are available from these 3 locations to the hotel and the hotel will also make arrangements on request. Charges are in the vicinity of Rs 3000/- per cab but dependent on various factors like type of vehicle etc.
Booking and contact –
Poshina, via Khedbrahma, Sabarkantha,
Phone – +91 9427609927, +91 9924389149, +91 7043284355
Email id – firstname.lastname@example.org
Please Note – This trip was made in collaboration with Darbargadh Poshina. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
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