the richness of our varied yesterdays at famed heritage hotels,
Hugh & Colleen Gantzer stress on the need to preserve these
like The Environment and The Ecology, is one of those vague terms
which people bandy about without knowing exactly what it means.
And when it comes to heritage hotels the confusion becomes even
to the Ministry of Tourism, in order to be classified as a heritage
hotel, the building should date back to at least 1950, and theres
now talk of that date being pushed back to 1935. Moreover, the architecture
of the hotel, its facade and other features should represent the
period by virtue of which its owners would like it to be accorded
heritage status. Logically, therefore, even if the building was
put up in the 16th century but, subsequently, it was redesigned
in the authentic Indo-Saracenic style of Lutyens, it
could still claim to be a heritage property. But heritage is more
than architecture. According to the Oxford dictionary, one of the
meanings of the word heritage is: a nations historic buildings,
monuments, countryside etc especially when regarded as worthy of
preservation. In other words, theres an element of quality
in it. Not every old building is part of our heritage as, indeed,
not every old painting can be regarded as worthy of preservation.
Shiv Niwas Palace,Udaipur
follows, therefore, that for a building to be called a heritage
property, its architecture, furniture and fittings, and location
must capture the age that it claims to represent. If you build a
modern steel-and-glass hotel within the walls of an 18th century
fort, you cant call it a heritage hotel because the 18th century
did not have such steel-and-glass structures. Similarly, if you
dismantle that 18th century Rajasthani fort and translocate it,
stone by numbered stone, to Thiruvananthapuram, you cannot run it
as a heritage hotel because Rajasthani forts were not part of Keralas
18th century heritage. Ambience, defined as the surroundings or
atmosphere of a place, is thus an essential ingredient of a heritage
property. A heritage hotel must radiate the warmth that people associate
with the residence of a friend, even if it means sacrificing state-of-the-art
efficiency to achieve this.
Prakash Palace, Udaipur
feeling of staying as the house-guest of a friend cosseted us when
we spent some time in a charming old mansion in Himachal: Judges
Court. It was, in fact, built for Justice Sir Jai Lal by his father,
in the early 20th century. And since the family used it as their
residence till a few years ago, everything in it captures the feel
of an age when established values, loyalty and a strong sense of
social responsibility were part of the noblesse oblige of the leading
families of the community. Thus the furniture, the framed photographs,
the interesting certificates of honours and awards bestowed on the
family capture a certain squirearchical ambience which no mere designer
would be able to replicate.
indeed, this matter of location is very significant here. Judges
Court sits in a garden and an orchard with old camphor, cinnamon,
jackfruit, lichee and mango trees. Strawberries grown in the garden
feature as homemade strawberry jam on the breakfast table. A paved
path winds out from the mansion into the village of Pragpur. Pragpur
was the first village to be given heritage status and, therefore,
Judges Court and Pragpur have an integrated image, a heritage
hotel set in a heritage village: one flowing effortlessly into the
other. As for our remark that its often a plus-point to sacrifice
hi-tech facilities in order to preserve the ambience of a heritage
property, this has been done very effectively in Judges Court.
Commenting on the absence of phones and TVs in the rooms, Ajay and
Malvika Acharya said that they had been able to spend quality time
together as a family, rediscovering the joys of playing ludo and
snakes-and-ladders with their son.
Niwas Palace, Udaipur
Court is a heritage hotel virtually unchanged from the days when
the owners lived here and is still owned and run by the family.
Sensitive and dedicated restorers can, also, take over the shell
of a heritage building and recreate an ambience that resembles the
original so closely its impossible to fault. This is what
Francis Wacziarg and Aman Nath did in Neemrana Palace-Fort. Virtually
every bit of wood and metal had been removed from the fort when
they took it over and made it the flagship of their eight properties.
Their work has been so well appreciated that they receive calls,
almost every day, from people who can no longer afford to maintain
their ancestral homes.
and Aman also helped in the conversion of the first heritage hotel
that we experienced: Mandawa in Shekhawati, a hamlet famed for its
rurals. Here, even though the fort was in continuous occupation
by its princely family ever since it was built, it needed expertise
to convert it into a hotel while still retaining its original flavour.
For us, it conjured up visions of the dark, heraldic grandeur we
normally associated with Gothic fairly tales: it was quite magical.
Even though over 40 of the 70-plus heritage hotels are in Rajasthan,
because of the profusion of princes in that state, these lordly
families were generally unskilled in management. Jodhpurs
famed Umaid Bhawan was a cold and unwelcoming place when it was
run by its owners. Wisely, they handed it over to the Welcomgroup
and, today, it has regained much of its regal magnificence as have
other palaces that have been taken over by major chains. We still
believe, however, that what they gain in uniformity and efficiency
they lose in individuality and warmth. But then there are many people
who feel reassured if they get what theyve been used to.
there is the boutique heritage hotel: the tiny property, as burnished
and faceted as a jewelled pendant. Weve dined at Fort Cochins
Malabar House when it was the house of the manager of National &
Grindlays Bank. No manager ever exhibited either the flair or the
exquisite taste that the present owners have when doing the interiors
of this Raj-era bungalow. But if any of them had been so gifted,
this is exactly what he would have done with this place.
is an excellent example of how an heritage hotel can be even better
than the original property was in its heyday, while still preserving
its personalised warmth and individuality.
face it, the government is unlikely to find adequate funds to preserve
our heritage: there are too many grimy paws scrabbling in its tills.
So, if we dont watch out, well be as isolated as mules
with no past on which to build our future. India needs heritage
hotels to allow us to experience the richness of all our varied