Deogarh is a small town in Rajasthan, famous
for the Deogarh Mahal.
Deogarh lies in the Rajsamund district, in Southern Rajasthan - 150
kilometres from Ajmer, off National Highway No 8, running from Delhi,
through Jaipur and Udaipur.
THE PALACE AND LAKES
The regal welcome certainly works - I almost felt like a war hero. The
Deogarh Mahal is a 17th century palace built by Rawat Dwarka Das, a Rajput
Jagirdar. He received Deogarh and its neighbouring areas in a land grant
from the Maharana of the mighty Rajput kingdom of Mewar. Today the Deogarh
Mahal is a Heritage Hotel run by the direct descendants of its builder.
The palace stands at a height of 2100 feet amidst lakes and the enchanting
Aravalli mountains. The bulbous domes and pretty arches make the mahal
look like something out of a storybook.
Apart from the medieval courtyards, hallways and rooms, the palace has a
few curious places, for instance the enclosure where elephants were once
tethered, is now home to a different sort of beast - it's now a garage!
222 CHUGS ON
You hardly realise how high this part of Rajasthan is, one way of finding
out, is to take a little known train ride to a dusty, quaint station
called Phulad. You could catch the train from Deogarh, but if you
want that charming, in-the-middle-of-nowhere kind of feeling, try Khamli
Ghat a few kilometres away.
The metre gauge line runs from Udaipur to Marwar junction, a distance of a
little under 200 kilometres. The train doesn't have a name. It just has a
number - 222. It's a little passenger train and takes you through some
pretty rugged terrain, some stunning and indeed very cinematic landscape.
The section between Khamli Ghat and Phulad is the prettiest and takes a
couple of hours, at a leisurely pace. This is also the highest track on
Western Railways. The train trip came as one big, beautiful surprise!
A strange fragrance awaited me as I returned to the Deogarh Mahal.
I soon discovered what it was - some crystallised plant resin is put over
hot coals producing smoke that gets rid of flying insects and it smells
good too. The Googal, as this local recipe is known, is taken through the
mahal each day. It makes for quite an interesting sight and smell for that
There are 27 rooms at the Mahal, ranging from 1500 - 3500 rupees a night.
Interestingly, no two rooms are alike and each has been named after its
original occupant and kept in much the same fashion as originally
intended, centuries ago.
I was told, evening is a good time to go out driving. Shatrunjay, who runs
the Deogarh Mahal, got behind the wheel and we were off. Our mean machine
was a customised ex-army one ton. I thought it was a funny old thing to be
seen driving in until I discovered what kind of drive it was. The
mechanical monstrosity went up and down the rugged, rocky terrain with the
greatest of ease.
Shatrunjay has an eloquent title for this safari of sorts - the
"Rural Ramble". Its bizarre, bouncy, bone jarring fun, with a
moment of peace thrown in, at no extra cost.
Once back at the Mahal, we settled down to some tribal dance and music.
The tribal Bhils have had ancient ties with Rajput clans, serving mostly
as warriors. Even today one finds much of the feudal past alive. Their
performances, as I witnessed that evening, are full of energy and skill.
The dances are usually an enactment of incidents in a legend, a devotional
ritual or battle. There are a few cliches too, like the flame-throwers,
quite literally spitting fire and the occassional gun-shot from an ominous
looking double-barrel. The colorful costumes, strong beat and fast pace
make the performance a wonderful experience, a great way to end an eventful