Why a holiday in Amanbagh is out of this world
Deriving its name from Aman, meaning ‘peace’ in Sanskrit and bagh, meaning garden in Hindi, Amanbagh lies within a walled compound once used by the Maharajah of Alwar to site his mobile hunting camps in search of the elusive tigers known to roam the nearby hills. Long since abandoned, the trees and vegetation continue to thrive due to a suitable water supply drawn from an adjacent lake. The resort is every bit a modern ‘palace’, conceived in the present, but humbly paying homage to the architecture and design of India’s golden age.
The Courtyard Haveli Suites are located over two, two-storey structures on either side of the swimming pool. Each suite is fitted with king sized beds, dressing rooms, a sound system, personal bar and private balconies overlooking the gardens. There are also 16 Pool Pavilions located on the perimeter of the resort, each with its own private swimming pool and spacious garden.
The restaurant is positioned on the lower floor of the main building and provides an intimate atmosphere beneath its double height ceiling. Seating is either banquette style or at tables which flow onto the outside terrace. The food is simple home style Indian cuisine with a choice of western dishes. An alternative dining venue is located next to the swimming pool and provides a more informal environment. Here the dining is alfresco beneath a covered colonnade and lunchtime fare includes sandwiches, salads and simple traditional Indian snacks. The Library Terrace and Roof Terrace are elevated above a canopy of trees and provide sweeping views over the surrounding landscape, making for a wonderful dining experience beneath a starlit sky.
Whether you choose to while away the hours reading in The Library, or browse through the region’s finest selection of silverware, jewellery, textiles and fashion at The Boutique, treat yourself to a facial, massage, scrub or even henna art in The Spa, book into a yoga and meditation course, or just lounge by the swimming pool doing absolutely nothing, you’ll find little call to leave the surroundings of this lavish resort…
Once a princely state, Alwar now forms part of the larger present day state of Rajasthan. Today it is rarely travelled, hidden between the more popular destinations of Agra and Jaipur. Alwar and the surrounding Shekhawati region provide the opportunity to witness and experience firsthand a traditional Indian lifestyle. The countryside is interspersed with small rural hamlets, narrow streets, simple dwellings, active markets and subsistence agriculture. At almost every turn lies a ruin or relic from a lost empire. Activities include visits to rural villages and the spectacular deserted city of Bhangarh. All excursions are within a 30-kilometre radius of Amanbagh and provide an opportunity to travel through breathtaking scenery year round. A plethora of outdoor activities are within the immediate vicinity of Amanbagh, including cycling, trekking, horseback and camelback rides to the nearby Ajabgarh Fort for a panoramic 360-degree view of the surrounding area. Rowing on Ajabgarh Lake during the months of August through November is also available.
What to see
Amanbagh is situated where the infamous Maharajah Jai Singh of Alwar camped in the 19th century during his hunting expeditions in the dense jungles of Sariska. The date palms around the camp serve as a memoir of Emperor Akbar’s Army who stopped here to relax and rejuvenate during long marches. The stone wall surrounding Amanbagh remains as a silent witness to the past golden era of Maharajahs and Emperors. Opposite Amanbagh, there is a Hindu temple, Barakhambi, from which sounds of worship, bells and chanting can sometimes be heard. The temple now enjoys increased patronage from all over Rajasthan due to the accurate prediction many years ago by the resident sadhu (holy man) that the site for Amanbagh would become a hospital or a hotel.
Ajabgarh Village, Fort & Temple
Ajabgarh’s finest present day attractions are the fort and the old temple, dedicated to Shri Raghunathji, built in 1635 AD, with its 24-pillared open courtyard and marble facade. This temple once housed an idol of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita bejewelled with precious stones. It was removed by thieves some time ago. The temple and Ajabgarh fort are connected by an underground passage originally designed for use by the royal ladies so they could enter the temple in complete privacy.
Baba Kapoor Shah Mosque
This mosque was erected in the 17th century in memory of the great Sufi mystic Baba Kapoor Shah. The celebrated mystic devoted his life to meditation, devotion to Allah and the welfare of society. His disciples still visit his favourite meditation spot, a small chhatri at the top of the hill, to practice the peaceful art of inner reflection.
The Sunset Cow Dust Tour
Godhuli is a Hindi word that describes the late afternoon when the cows are walked home along the village roads and the special light that refracts through the dust that their trail leaves. A great way to experience rural Rajasthan is to head out at sunset anytime of the year in one of Amanbagh’s open jeeps for a tour of the surrounding villages during this peak hour. Pass local neighbours as they herd their goats, cows and buffalos toward home. Watch the children playing village cricket and observe the village elders gather around their hookahs for an afternoon communal smoke and gossip. You may even be invited for chai in a local village home, a form of interaction that for many can be a profound and moving experience.
Bhangarh is a medieval site of great archeological importance, 15km from Amanbagh. According to local villagers, the splendid ruins are haunted and it is famously named the ‘Bhangarh of Ghosts’. The township was built in the 1600’s by Diwan Madho Singh of the Jaipur royal family. He was the younger brother of Maharajah Man Singh, the General of Moghul Emperor Akbar.
Narayani Mata Temple
With its history dating back to 1058AD, Narayani Mata is as sacred to the Rajasthani as Pushkar or Ramdeora. For a trek to Narayani Mata in the same tradition as the local villagers, depart from Amanbagh by jeep to the start of the well-tread trail up over the hill and down onto Narayani Mata. Here guests can view the temple and the adjacent spring and enjoy a chai stop with the locals before being picked up for the return to Amanbagh.
Sariska National Park
Sariska was once the personal hunting ground of His Highness, the Maharajah of Alwar and is accessible all year round. Previously famous for its tigers, it is also home to such wildlife as leopards, panthers, wildcats, caracals, neelgai antelope, chital, sambar and blue deer, wild boar, jackals and langur and macaque monkeys. Early morning or afternoon excursions from Amanbagh via open jeep are ideal to see the varied wildlife in the forest.