A day spent in the exalted past

The world is a book and people who don’t travel, read only a page – Anonymous.
The trip to Hill Fort Kesrouli, Alwar was just supposed to be a weekend getaway, little I knew that it would prove to be such a rejuvenating experience. So what was it that made this trip so memorable? Fascination? Intrigue? Brush with the history? The rajasthaani khidmat? Or simply a heady cocktail of it all? I’ll drink to that!
As we headed in the kacha-raasta from the Gurgaon highway, we saw the fort ahead of us towering on a little hilltop. And I couldn’t help but wonder, how many battles had been fought from this very fort? How much of bloodshed had the walls seen? How many hands had this very architecture passed from to be standing here, still in all its grandeur? We were greeted with hand folded smiling faces wearing flash of coloured kurtas – Blue, pink and Yellow. Later on we found out that the color segregation was to differentiate the room-service, catering and supervisory levels. We walked up the fort with high walls on both the sides and narrow rocky path which had a flight of 5-6 steps after every 10 meters. It was for the convenience of animals which used to carry the essential requirements in the yesteryears. The path opened to a large lawn which was more of a courtyard with rooms around it. The architecture had been untouched as much as possible and so there were arched hallways and pillars and high ceilings. We did the formalities and learnt a little about the fort’s history.
This seven-turreted hillfort was 14th century masterpiece and now a heritage hotel under the Neemrana Resorts flagship. It was constructed six centuries ago by yaduvanshi rajputs, has been conquered by Mughals and jats and finally came back into the hands of rajputs in 1775. The fort knew a golden period under Ranawat Thakur Bhawani Singh (1882–1934). After being fascinated by the historic details, we retired to our rooms to get fresh. The rooms were simple and very conveniently furnished. The rickety chairs were a delight and so was much of the furniture which was repaired, restored and varnished but still had the earthy old world charm to it! My room even had a small munshi-table and I was instantly reminded of the 60s Bollywood movie, where the evil zamindaars had a sly munshi with shifty eyes and a golden topi! The ceiling had two very strong fat iron rings which I reckoned was for the shaahi fans for the queens being rocked by the slave girls or for the begum saheebaas fanned by the kaneez. There was one attached small room in the round part of the fort, almost a small circular room which had strategically placed jharokaas for the breeze. But the size of jharokaas made me smile, it wud be 8″ by 6″ and very closely placed for the cross ventilation, and for the Raanis and the Beghums to catch on the activity around the fort and to get a breathtaking view of the princely city of Alwar.
After catching some swim time and devouring the locan cuisine of laal maans and gate ki sabzi, we retired to the recliners by the poolside and enjoyed the small cultural programme over a couple of beers. The graceful man dancer danced on aao mahre desh and then the couple danced on pallo latke! It was so relaxing, lying there by the poolside, watching the silhouette of the fort against the midnight blue sky and white, oh so white moon. The breeze was soft and caressing and the performers were doing their mundane job with so much wonder and joy that it was difficult not to get caught in their frenzy of excitement! Many performances and many beers later, we got inside and enjoyed a game of carom board (Gosh I didn’t even remember the last time I played it) and dinner and desserts later, we went to the roof of the fort and lied there for a good 40-45 minutes. Just the never ending limitless sky, the chaand and the chandni bathed scenery around!
Next day as I was on the drive back, I looked one last time to the glorious past and smiled…”Kesariya baalam, aao hamare desh….”

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