Surajgarh Fort is the newest of the many heritage properties in Rajasthan’s Shekhawati region — and the closest to Delhi at 175km. The dilapidated 18th-century fort was acquired by ‘Tikaraj’ Aishwarya Katoch, son of the Maharaja of Kangra, and his wife ‘Tikarani’ Shailaja of the Sailana royal family. The main palace and keep of Surajgarh Fort have 11 unique suites, an astonishingly painted dining hall, and several lounges including the upstairs open-air terrace courtyard (aangan). Minimal changes have been made to the architecture, apart from the necessary buttressings, glazings and girdings to make it habitable. Thus, the ground floor rooms were originally a labyrinth of storerooms, and dungeon dark. Today the thick walls have been opened up, retaining the arches and lintels, to make up study, sitting, sleeping, dressing and toilette areas in each suite.
The aangan, onto which the contiguous dining hall, and several of the luxurious top-floor rooms open, has quickly become a fast favourite for meals and chatter, with its colonnaded verandah, painted panels and view of the starry desert sky at night. The dining hall serves Continental cuisine as well as homely Indian and Rajasthani food, plus some Sailana heritage recipes from the Tikarani’s family.
Due to the insistence on retaining most of the original spaces, each suite is unique in shape and size, which is complemented with distinctive paintwork and décor — here a mustard yellow set off by old stripped pillars, there a royal crimson, and in the smallest room with its round bed, a midnight blue and sun-bleached white. Just one warning — taller guests might need to watch their head in some sections! Tikaraj Aishwarya’s collection of antique clocks graces some rooms, while others are hung with indigenous weaves and needlecraft. Pity the furnishings aren’t ethnic cottons to match! But the mod-cons are all in place, down to the flatscreen TVs. Tariff: Rs 4,500 for a 3D/2N stay. Contact: Tel: +91-1596-238370, +91-9351221226, e-mail: email@example.com, www.surajgarh.com