Tucked away in the heart of the busy Ahmedabad, an ancient heritage mansion holds its own among the modernity that has sprung around it. Hidden amongst the high rise buildings that tower over it, this charming oasis has the advantage of being very close to the main road and yet sheltered from the hustle and bustle by a short lane that keeps it at a protective distance away.
Ahmedabad is the largest city in the state of Gujarat in India and is a bustling hub, with the ancient and the modern intermingling seamlessly. It is the first city to be accorded the UNESCO World Heritage status in the country.
The heritage hotel WelcomHeritage Mani Mansion, is a piece of the past that has held on steadfastly despite the rapid developments in Ahmedabad.
Notwithstanding its progress, the city still continues to be a treasure trove of densely packed historical monuments that stand witness to its bygone days and the family run WH Mani Mansion also does it bit to safeguard the city’s heritage.
With its old world charm subtly infused with modern comforts, its vibrant revamped decor and the warmth and hospitality of the resident hosts, this is a hotel that offers its guests an exceptional combination of a luxurious experience and a homely stay with a personal touch.
Step inside its carved, wooden door and wander with me through its gardens and corridors and halls, as we delight in its aura and listen to the stories that it tells.
And however hard I tried, I could not eliminate the background monstrosity from any angle whatsoever 😀
History of the family –
Mani Mansion is a work of love and dedication that the family has put together to provide a heritage stay to those who visit Ahmedabad. The owners come from a family who were the pioneers of the Ahmedabad business community.
The current owners Ravi Dalal and his father Tushar Bhai Dalal are always happy to share tales of the past, which serve to enhance the experience of the guests who visit from across India and the world over.
The stories behind a place add character to it and as I chatted with Ravi by the poolside, I listened in fascination to the tales of his family history and the evolution of their family Haveli (mansion), into what is now one of Ahmedabad’s well loved heritage hotels.
The mansion was built by Ravi’s great grandfather Mani Bhai Dalal and was the family’s residence. Mani Bhai was an affluent businessman and stockbroker of his times. A highly respected and reputed personality of the early 20th century, he lived a stylish and very British lifestyle, complete with a 3 piece suit and other Western attire.
It was also around that time that Gandhiji lived right across the street in the Kochrab Ashram and the story goes that once when he visited Mani Bhai at this residence, he made a request to him saying that if he had enough for his needs, he should use his wealth and power to do social service and help in the liberation of India.
Such was the aura of Gandhiji, that this statement changed Mani Bhai’s life forever. The catalytic interaction resulted in the 42 year old’s overnight transformation as he gave up his Western way of life and took to Khadi attire. He became a great philanthropist and from then on he went about the city in his horse carriage on a daily basis right from 3 am, making generous donations and giving gifts of blankets, medicines, clothing, food, toys etc to the poorest of the poor. He was like a Santa Claus who brought joy into the lives of several people and this he continued for the next 42 years of his life.
During this time he also interacted with many freedom fighters and eminent personalities like Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Morarjee Desai, Gulzailal Nanda and also artists, writers, poets and other such people, who would visit the house and stay on for weeks and have prolonged discourses and even create their art or their literary works and so on. The home was hustling and bustling and creating stories which form its history today.
Mani Bhai’s son Bharath Bhai also continued the business of stocks and also a trader who dealt in dyes and chemicals which he supplied to the mills of Ahmedabad which was known for being a city of textiles.
His son Tushar Bhai owned a chemical plant for nearly 40 years until he started the heritage hotel. His son Ravi did his MBA in Marketing and also did his second masters in USA in Supply chain management. After working for a few years in the textile industry as well as a multinational stem cell company, he joined his father in running the WH Mani Mansion, which is where he continues till date.
The history of Mani Mansion –
The mansion was built in 1923 and is 97 years old today. With 3 more years left to complete a century, this place despite having gone through many changes, still stands as a tribute to its glorious past and continues to hold on to its charm and flavor, through the efforts of the family that nurtures its character.
For a period of time in the late 1990s, the family shifted out to a farm and stayed there for around 20 years, during which the mansion lay unoccupied.
At this time it would have been easy for them to dismantle the place or to sell it off to create a multi storey building with great commercial value. However, they realized that by doing so, they would also be eliminating its history, heritage and the culture of the place.
Hence in 2008, they decided to return to the city and refurbish the place. Initially called Corporate Suites with a humble 4 suites where the present dining section stands, the place later transformed in 2012 into a 22 room hotel and a restaurant.
The entire building as it stands today, bears the actual shell but several aspects of the interiors have of course been modified to suit the purpose of a hotel.
The building in in 2 parts, one of which is the restaurant and banquet hall and the other is the main residential quarters. The restaurant has also gone through its share of metamorphosis, having originated as the kitchen of the initial residence, to a car garage to an office, to the initial suites and now exists in its current avatar.
The exterior walls of the hotel are the original, now embellished with a stone cladding to add an old fashioned feel. At 18 inches thick, these walls have certainly helped to keep the construction intact.
The house had 30 bedrooms across 3 floors, which were converted to 22 suites and rooms with alterations that included expanding the size and incorporating en suite bathrooms and all modern essentials.
In 2015 they associated with ITC’s prestigious WelcomHeritage brand and is now one of the heritage hotels in that portfolio.
Today the family is proud and happy that they have been able to maintain this as a boutique heritage property and give their guests a taste of Ahmedabad’s rich past.
There are many incidents where they narrate how their guests from the world over, have turned into good friends and how well their personal touch has been perceived by those who have been impressed by their hospitality.
Features of the property –
A narrow lane turns off the main road, leading to the gates of WH Mani Mansion that lies sheltered from the busy locality outside.
An ancient neem tree stands sentinel in the small front yard, along with an automated multi level parking that helpfully accommodates more cars in that limited space.
Fresh Roast, the restaurant, is the first building to meet the eye, above which banquet hall is situated.
To the right of the yard is the walled main building that is accessed via a heavy carved, wooden door.
The short path to the reception area is flanked by greenery that also acts like a fence between the pizzeria and coffee shop on either side.
To the right of the building is the garden area and behind it is a swimming pool, a small functional gym and a massage room.
The main lobby is a melange of the colonial and traditional and has sofas as well as Gujarati style furniture.
The walls are lined with framed pictures of the family and a comprehensive coffee table book proudly displays their ethos with a hand written message from Tushar Bhai Dalal, welcoming his guests into his home.
The hotel occupies 3 floors with rooms on the ground, first and second and there is a cleverly hidden lift (that I discovered much later :-D) that one can use if needed, instead of the old fashioned, charming curved stairway that rises up from the lobby.
A corridor leads from the lobby to a wooden stand bearing the picture of the late Mani Bhai. Photographs of celebrities who have stayed at the hotel sit stop a wooden chest in the passage near the lift. One can see the family members posing with Asha Parekh, Mary Kom, Luke Kenny, Murli Manohar Joshi, Rahul Bose and many others.
Tushar Bhai and his wife occupy a private wing on the second floor and their presence on the property makes the experience a homely and personalized one for every guest, as they are seen constantly interacting and making everyone feel at home, including their in-house guests as well as the locals who come to dine at the restaurant.
The Stay –
WH Mani Mansion has 22 well furnished rooms that are equipped with comfortable beds, couches, luggage racks, desks, tea/coffee maker, bath toiletries etc. Items like hairdryers, irons etc are available on request.
Being a home turned hotel, the rooms are not uniform as in any commercial establishment but each one comes with its own personalized decor and character.
Some of the rooms have small sit outs, some are garden facing and some overlook the pool.
One room on the ground floor is designed to be conducive to the differently abled and is thoughtfully equipped with wheel chair, bathrooms with railings and rods for support, customized meals and even a doctor on call.
The categories are classified into 6 Premium suites, 8 Deluxe suites and 8 executive rooms.
Premium suites –
These are larger than the rest of the categories and each of these has their own ambience and decor. Interesting art beautifies the walls and some of the suites have been family bedrooms, complete with heavy wooden swings, elaborate couches and other such furnishings.
Deluxe suites –
Like the premium suites, these too have similar amenities but are smaller in size.
Executive rooms –
These are smaller spaces yet sufficiently large and comfortable and are of plainer decor than the other 2 categories.
Dining Options –
The food served here is pure vegetarian with an exception made for eggs that are served at breakfast.
The Fresh Roast restaurant is also a stand alone restaurant that caters to walk ins as well as hotel guests.
Spread across various locations, this space belies the number of people that it can seat. What look like tiny nooks and corners can actually seat a total of 200 people across the main restaurant, the pizzeria, the coffee shop, the garden area and the pool area.
The spaces are also given out for events, private parties and other programs and seems to be a very popular choice, going by the number of functions that they host. In fact there was one large kitty party even on the day that I was there, with several ladies of a local ‘Saheli group’ having their lunch and games in the afternoon in the cool and refreshing environs of their garden.
The cuisine is mixed and traditional Gujarati runs parallel with Pan Indian and global fare. The ‘Maharaj’ or head chef has been with their family for over 40 years and he dishes up authentic Gujarati snacks and meals.
The same menu bears a host of other dishes ranging from north and south Indian and localized versions of Mexican, Mediterranean, Asian, Continental etc which seem to be very popular in Ahmedabad, where entire families make a bee line for restaurants, especially those that serve a range of cuisines to satisfy everyone right from children to the elderly. Going by how the restaurant is packed every evening, Fresh Roast is certainly one of the favorites among the locals.
What excited me the most however, was that most of the vegetables are sourced from their own farm and are harvested freshly everyday. Tushar Bhai is passionate about farming and he experiments with growing a whole range of grains and local as well as exotic vegetables. The entire staff is fed from the wheat and rice that grows in their fields and there is a full fledged salad bar that showcases creations put together by Tushar Bhai himself, from the various lettuces, kale, carrots, broccoli, greens etc that thrive under his green thumb.
The 7 acre farm is a mere 20 km away and his daily routine begins with an early morning trip from which he returns with the car laden with the harvest of the day.
More about the farm in the next post on Mani Mansion – Farm Experience.
The meals –
The meal plans for the in-house guests, are as per booking but mostly include breakfast.
An a la carte menu is available through the day for those who do not want to avail of the buffets or thalis.
Breakfast is served buffet style and has quite a vast spread that includes multi grain breads and breakfast pastries that are supplied by a family member’s bakery. Museli, fruit, yogurt, juice, eggs to order, south Indian snacks like idli, dosa, vada etc, local snacks like poha, cutlet, alu bonda, thepla etc, sprouts, tea, coffee, pancakes, chaats etc are all a part of the array.
Lunch is served from 12 pm to 2.30 pm and dinner timings are 7.30 pm to 11 pm and there is a Gujarati thali available at both times, apart from the a la carte offerings. This is an attractive platter with items from their family recipes and visitors should definitely try this.
One can also order from the Indian or multi cuisine choices.
Gujarat is a dry state (alcoholic prohibition) so the alternative is to serve refreshing mocktails and other colorful beverages 😀
In the evenings, the place magically transforms into a fairyland, with soft music, gushing multi hued fountains and gentle lights, and all the nooks and corners of the garden are filled with guests who come to enjoy the cool al fresco ambience and homely atmosphere. The same menu options continue at dinner.
A salad bar combo also offers a set meal every night, with the salads put together from their farm vegetables, along with a soup, pizza, ice cream and beverage.
Guests of the hotel can also avail of the convenience of In Room Dining.
The hotel also caters for outdoor events.
My dining experience –
Personally I preferred the Gujarati food the best, since local is always my fare of choice when I travel. However this time I was rather unwell with a bad throat, hence I also chose to have some hot soups, breads, pizzas, mezze platter etc, which were quite the life saver. The very local twist in the flavors, sometimes helps better than authentic global food 😀
Banquet halls and events –
The banquet hall is perched on top of the main restaurant area. It has the usual basic facilities and can accommodate 55 pax in a cluster arrangement and theater style around 75 people.
Activities and Experiences –
The hotel has an invitingly blue pool in the premises, which is certainly a very welcome feature in a place like Ahmedabad. This is quite the attraction here since it can get searingly hot in summers and this is a welcome activity for guests to literally plunge into. Uniformly 4 ft in depth, the pool is quite a generous sized rectangle.
There is also a small gym which is equipped with a basic treadmill and cycle and spa has just one massage cubicle.
Ahmedabad and its surroundings are a tourist’s delight and has something for everyone right from amusement parks and entertainment for children, to food and shopping, to monuments, temples, mosques etc for lovers of history and heritage. Nature and birding enthusiasts also have various lakes, sanctuaries and parks in and around the city.
The hosts at WH Mani Mansion help the guest to curate an itinerary based on their interests and their coffee table book too gives a list of popular tourist spots.
Ravi was kind enough to offer me a tour of the popular sightseeing places but since I had already visited most of them during my previous visit, I opted only for the Hatheesingh Jain Derasar which is an exquisite jain temple built in 1848. More on this on my Ahmedabad post.
Their farm is currently not a part of their guest circuit but with my craze for all things agricultural, I requested them (nay begged them :-D) to take me to the farm and it turned out to be a wonderful experience. I did request them to have it on the itinerary for their guests and if they do, then you know whom to thank 😀 More about this in the post on Mani Mansion – Farm Experience.
Phone and internet connectivity –
WH Mani Mansion is in the heart of a modern city and internet is not an issue at all. The hotel also provides free WiFi within the premises.
Visitor profile –
WH Mani Mansion is in the midst of Ahmedabad which is a city with several tourist attractions as well as businesses. Hence the hotel is suitable for all categories of guests, right from families to businessmen to solo travellers to seekers of history and heritage. The city is also a gateway to various surrounding attractions of Gujarat and therefore the hotel is also convenient for travellers who are passing through.
The space is also let out for film shoots, functions like weddings and private parties, product shoots, corporate events etc and I was witness to a documentary being shot by the poolside with Rajendra Gupta, a well known TV, theater and Bollywood actor and director.
What you should carry –
Carry your swimwear because the pool is cool and inviting. Most of the basic needs are taken care of at the hotel and being in the vicinity of several shops, most items can be purchased if needed.
A pair of sturdy walking shoes will help in case you are planning some sightseeing or a visit to the farm.
Getting around in Ahmedabad –
App based cabs and autorickshaws are a convenient means of transport and the people are honest so chances of being taken for a ride (while taking you for a ride) are minimal.
Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) is said to be an efficient service but I did not have the opportunity to experience it.
The hotel can also arrange for local transport if needed.
Best time to visit –
The hotel is open throughout the year.
Ahmedabad is cold in the winter months of November to February. December and January are the high season and are considered the ideal time to visit, though temperatures go as low as 5 deg.
The rest of the year is hot and dry and peak summer temperatures of over 40 deg c, are not for the faint hearted. However, for those travelling on work, it’s business as usual, any time of the year.
Getting there –
Ahmedabad is an important city and hence very well connected.
The Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport is said to be the 8th busiest airport in India. It connects the city to several major Indian cities and also to international destinations in the middle east and far east.
The airport is a convenient 12 km from WH Mani Mansion and there are several app based cabs for transport. It takes less than 30 min on an average to get to the hotel.
Ahmedabad also has its main railway station Ahmedabad Junction, at Kalupur. Ahmedabad Junction connects to many other locations in Gujarat and also to other important Indian cities. Trains are an economical and suitable mode of transport to this city.
Likewise, buses are also very convenient and many private and state run buses ply within Gujarat as well as interstate.
My journey –
Many well known airlines operate several flights between Bangalore and Ahmedabad, through the day.
I travelled from Bangalore on the 10.05 am Indigo and landed at the convenient time of 12.20 pm.
Likewise, my return to Bangalore was also by flight.
Booking and contact –
Behind Mehdi Nawaz Jung Hall, Beside Bank of India,
Shantikunj Society, Paldi Cross Roads, Ahmedabad-380006, Gujarat, India
Email id – firstname.lastname@example.org
Please Note – This trip was made in collaboration with Mani Mansion. 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 26th – 28th, 2020