Gorgeous Gujarat had been tantalizing me every since my first visit in Feb 2019 to this beautiful state in Western India. I had travelled there to experience the famous White Rann Festival and I fell in love with the allure of Kaleidoscopic Kutch (as I named it) … Kutch, the largest district of India, located in the west of the state. En route I also had the opportunity to explore the fascinating cities of Bhuj and Ahmedabad and also the Little Rann of Kutch.
Well this large state with 33 districts that are simply bursting with culture, heritage and diverse topography, certainly has far more to offer and within 7 months of my visit, it was the lure of her eastern regions that now beckoned me to an experience that was quite distinct from my first, where she revealed to me a whole new face and a regal one at that.
So come with me and I will fly you to another adventure somewhere in the midst of Incredible India.
To erstwhile princely states and palaces that stand proud. To listen to the tales of their past, to be a part of their present and to write their stories for the future.
My route took me across 3 heritage properties/palaces and 7 districts namely Vadodara, Narmada, Panchmahal, Chhota Udepur, Mahisagar, Kedia and Ahmedabad.
Gujarat boasts of around 222 erstwhile princely states that make up almost half of India’s 565 (+) royal families. The royal life is still very evident in their social circles, despite a diminished lifestyle that is less flamboyant than their past.
Some of them have taken to opening their mansions and palaces to guests as homestays and hotels, where several vestiges of their regal lifestyle still remain in the form of artefacts, decor, furniture, cuisine and of course the innumerable stories of a life of pomp and glory that they recount to their captivated audiences.
And I gently stepped back into the days of yore, delving into history, accompanied by Maharanas and Maharanis and Nawabs and Begums, albeit titular but nevertheless with their regal grace, charm, elegance, demeanor and class, intact and highly endearing.
So set foot daintily with me, into the Madhav Bagh Royal Heritage Stay, the Jambughoda Palace Resort and the Garden Palace Balasinor and bask in the mellowness of a time gone by on this 11 part series covering my 8 day trip.
My Royal Route –
My route led me from Bangalore to Vadodara (aka Baroda) where I spent 3 days at the Madhav Bagh – Royal Heritage Stay, which is a gem of a mansion set within refreshingly green environs. A place that has retained its past charm despite being in the heart of the city. My hosts were charming and friendly and made me feel at home right from the moment I stepped in.
Vadodara as a city was another surprise, for I discovered that it was a treasure trove of history just waiting to be unearthed. The owners of Madhav Bagh are well connected to the best of guides and historians who will beat Google hollow 😀 They arranged for my city tour, which turned out to be a highly enlightening experience and one that no lover of heritage should miss.
After my stint at Vadodara, I travelled 75 km east to the Jambughoda Palace Resort, labelled by its owners as A Home for Nature Lovers. The palace is the residence of the current royal family, who deeply touched my heart with their gentle grace and hospitality. My stay of 2 days here, made me richer by a few friends and of course many tales of the past.
Jambughoda in the district of Panchmahal, is also a land of indigenous tribes like the Rathwas, who much like the royals, have also retained their culture, customs and traditions. It is also a protected sanctuary, thanks to the efforts of the present Maharana and hence delights in dense tree cover and several water bodies.
It is also a mere 25 km from Gujarat’s first UNESCO World Heritage site Champaner-Pavagadh.
My last destination which certainly was not the least, was Balasinor in the district of Mahisagar. Situated to the North West of Jambughoda, this is an easy 100 km away.
The Garden Palace Resort which is the residence of the family of the Balasinor Nawabs of the erstwhile Babi dynasty, was my home for the next 2 days. Apart from the warm and gracious hospitality (which by now I had been quite spoiled with :-D), this place blew me away with its Shahi (royal) cuisine, the signature Balasinori fare.
The Dinosaur Fossil Park at Raiyoli, Balasinor, is another significant site where thousands of petrified dinosaur eggs and other related fossils have been unearthed. Considered to be the third largest such location globally after France and Mongolia, this place is a dream come true for dino lovers and paleontologists. Streamlined and safeguarded by the relentless efforts of Princess Aaliya of the Garden Palace Balasinore, this is now a top tourist location and educational spot that has brought this remote region into the limelight.
Apart from this, there are ancient temples, mysterious hot springs, the Mahi river and dam and other trekking trails to keep the Balasinor tourist excited.
After my stay at Balasinor, I made my way to Ahmedabad, 80 km to the west, to finally end my Royal Route and get back to Bangalore and the reality of being a Commoner again 😀
So have I piqued your interest sufficiently? Do you want to hop on to my Royal bandwagon and partake of the hospitality? Then raise your finger and click … and the palace shall open unto you!!!
An 11 part series covering my 8 day trip –
Thank you –
With a thousand thanks to the following people for their hospitality and for making me feel like a part of their families –
Shivrajsinh Gaekwad and Indrayanidevi Gaekwad of Madhav Bagh,
HH Maharana Vikramsinhji, Her H Maharani Gyaneshwari Devi, Yuvraj Karmaveersinhji and Yuvrani Bhavna Devi of Jambughoda Palace,
Begum Farhat Sultana, Nawab Salauddin Khan Babi, Begum Zeba and Princess Aaliya of the Garden Palace Balasinor.
A special thanks to Shivrajsinh Gaekwad for helping me chart my route so optimally. He matched my interests so accurately even before meeting me. Thanks to him also for taking a complete stranger into his home 😀
Please Note – This trip was made in collaboration with the above mentioned stays. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
Sep 18th – 25th, 2019