While I was in Gurgaon, my younger son Sid and his wife Soy decided to go to a Fort resort during a week-end. The decision was taken rather impulsively and a short week-end holiday was booked at Dadhikar Fort, Alwar in Rajasthan. The whole of Rajasthan is dotted with such forts, turned into resorts to soothe the frayed nerves of the guests.
We started at 8.30 a.m as it was rather a long drive.. The car passed through the beautiful localities of Gurgaon and soon we were on the swank highway of Haryana, being flanked by high-rises on both sides, which gave us a U.S-like feel. Having had excellent ‘idli’ breakfast at the new ‘Haldiram’ in an upcoming mall, situated ideally on the border of Haryana and Rajasthan, we proceeded towards Rajasthan.
Beautiful clean ‘toll’ roads passed through the state of Rajasthan and we were overwhelmed by the rugged stony rocks of the Arrival ranges on both sides of the road. Clear blue sky , green stretches of wheat fields, thorny desert trees , barns, drying cow dung and a few rustic women in ‘ghagras’, carrying dry sticks on their heads added to the picture perfect.
GPS of ‘Map My India’ was our tourist guide in our venture from one state to another. The dull and monotonous nasal voice of a lady guiding the way by saying ‘100 km-turn right/left/take a u turn’ was a great comfort at the back of our minds though , nevertheless, Sid did take a few wrong turns, now and then, which had to be corroborated with the directions of the locals. It took me four decades back to the U.K when Sid’s dad would take out a huge folded map from the dashboard to find out the directions while driving to the continents and other faraway places. “GPS” was distant reality at that time.
After a few hours, we entered Alwar in Rajasthan and decided to see the town before finally retiring to the resort. Alwar is like any other common town in India but the beauty of the place lies in being surrounded by the hills of the Aravalli ranges. Though this trip was meant simply as a relaxing holiday, I ended up finding that Alwar is, in itself, a place rich in history. It was here that Swami Vivekananda became the guest of the Western minded Maharaja Mangal Singh in 1891.
We decided to make a short trip to the ‘city palace’/ Vinay Vilas Mahal’ , which is an architectural marvel as it blends both Moghul and Rajput styles. Though this palace, at present, houses the office of the Collectorate, it also has a museum inside which displays a wonderful collection of the exhibits of the personal wealth of the Maharajas of Alwar, the richness and rarity of which left me dumbfounded.
A two hundred yard scroll of ‘Mahabharat’ written in Sanskrit, a Persian translation of the same epic inscribed in gold, manuscripts of Persian literature which included the writings of Firdousi, Khusroo, Hafiz etc. formed a part of the legacy. There were also a copy of ‘Waqayat Babari”, the autobiography of Emperor Babar and a spectacular copy of the gold inscribed “Quran Sharif”, which formed a part of the treasures of the museum.
Armours of different Rajput and Moghul kings, including those of Akbar, also aroused a lot of interest and curiosity among the visitors.
I was very surprised to find a white marble bust, brought from Seville in Spain and a black marble bust of Queen Victoria in the museum. But later I felt that they were probably a part of the collections of the Western minded King Mangal Singh
The museum is, however, in utmost neglect and there are not even proper labels. This can happen only in India! The silver lining, though, is that it is being renovated now.
As we came out on the roof of the museum, we noticed a fort on the topmost hill and a ‘Great China Wall’ like path winding up to it.
We stopped at a hotel lounge for lunch, ordering mostly north Indian food as we wanted to save out appetite for the anticipated sumptuous Rajasthani dinner at the resort.
The drive started again. By this time we were very tired. Heat of the surrounding rocky mountains added to our woes. After a while, we reached the threshold of the mountain from where we could see the ‘Dadhikar Fort Resort’ on the top of the hill. The real arduous journey began after that as the road was uphill as well as ‘kaccha’ making it very difficult to drive up.
Finally, we reached the resort. The guard of the fort held the huge gate ajar for the car to go in. The steep path to the fort was designed with white ‘rangoli’ on both sides to make the guests feel special.
The cool breeze and the beautiful ambience of the hill top made the Dadhikar Fort look like an oasis to us. The staff of the resort welcomed us warmly with lemon juice
Exquisitely cultivated gardens made the whole place stunningly beautiful.
The history of the Dadhikar fort goes back to the 9th or 10th century when King Chand made his ‘dera’ or residence here. With the passage of time, the residence was shifted to ‘Bal Qila’ in Alwar and, thereafter, the fort was used as a military camp. Though a few structures of the original fort have been retained, it is built anew to make it look like a real fort.
We were taken to the suite that we had booked. The interior was decorated in a way to give it the look of fort room. Stony walls, high beds, holes in the walls to keep lamps (‘kulungi’), a two feet high barrier between the washroom and main rooms, dim light etc took us back to a by-gone era.
We went to the roof of the fort, after getting changed, for tea and snacks. Sid and Soy went down to explore the fort while I decided to lie down on a deck–chair and simply relax. As I lay there, the surrounding hills seemed to close in on me and I felt being nestled in the lap of the hills. Clear blue sky, fragrance of flowers and screeching of the peacocks on the gateway made me feel great.
In the evening, there was arrangement for the performance of Rajasthani folk dance. A group of gaudily dressed up artists danced beautifully and performed various feats with fire. Not only that, in order to make the guests feel like Maharajas and Maharanis, they showered rose petals on them.
After 8 p.m, there was nothing to do. Most of the boarder liked to keep to themselves. A kind of eerie silence fell on the fort, being far away from the maddening crowd.
Sid and Soy played table tennis while I went to the Fort souvenir shop to have a look. The lonely salesman was more than happy to talk to me and showed me the old stamp papers of the Rajput Kings, insisting at the same time that there was no need to buy them if I did not want to.
After watching ‘Flimfare’ awards on t.v in the lounge, we were called to have dinner. The dinner was served in an open-air garden, beautifully lit with candles and lighted by hurricanes. Separate tables were laid for each family
Our ‘great expectations’ of the fort dinner was, however, soon foiled when the waiters brought in food. It was a vegetarian ‘hotch potch’ of continental and Indian food consisting of cabbage and cucumber soup, a small bowl full of pasta in white sauce, daal, stuffed potatoes,paneer curry and ‘gatte ki sabji’ (which was very tasteless) along with a small portion of rice and two very small ‘chapatis’. ‘Gajar ka halwa’, at the end, was the only saving grace. The cook certainly needed to be sent for a refreshers’ course.
We retired to our suite after dinner. The dim light and the stony walls produced a kind of uncanny sensation. The whole night , I lay in a semi-awake state as I clung to the side-pillow fearing a fall from the very high ‘3 ft wide’ fort bed or tripping over the 2ft high barrier in-between the bed room and the washroom, in case I used it at night without putting on my glasses. I know these are only the problems of the aged but the world is not meant for them.
The morning was bright and cheerful. We preferred to have our breakfast downstairs as the sun was quite hot on the roof. The management tried their best by serving us with ‘chilla’ , ‘bada pao’, ‘poha’, saltless ‘upma’ and fruits. By this time, I was convinced that the chef must have been a descendant of some Rajput prisoner who wanted to take revenge by cooking tasteless food.
After breakfast, it was time for us to depart though we did not feel like leaving the beautiful fort resort. We took several pictures of the fort and then started on our way.
The way back seemed much shorter. The car drove through the winding hilly roads. At some places, trees formed bowers over the road. Flocks of sheep, grazing on the way, did not dampen our holiday spirit .
After having lunch at Haldiram, we reached Gurgaon ,in time, for Sid and Soy’s weekly shopping.
It was a great experience spending the weekend at the Fort resort, especially for a person like me , who is closeted mostly at home.
Good bye !