I zip past, through and towards rural Rajasthan—brown and bare and stretching ahead indefinitely. We have left all civilisation far behind and are stirring up a dust storm in the bleak countryside. The driver—who has clearly noticed my uncertainty—smiles encouragingly when we reach the 1,200-year-old village, which looks its age. When Auwa (in the Pali district of Rajasthan) witnessed the 1857 mutiny, its leaders mounted a stiff resistance to the Raj. From the barren Thar rises their base, a historic fort that stands firm on the twin Rajput traditions of valour and hospitality — and which has recently been converted into a heritage property.
A victory pillar commemorating the mutiny stands sentinel at the entrance. The estate is green and leafy, a welcome respite from the dry landscape outside. It has two ancient temples, several buildings, a charming garden restaurant — and a resident ghost, or so I am told. There is a bizarre, standalone wall that is credited as the handiwork of the ghost, and I give it a wide berth.
Fort Auwa is still home to the original Thakur family and the building they occupy is not open to guests. Instead, this mid-budget hotel houses visitors in rooms across three separate buildings — one heritage, one clearly contemporary and one faux heritage. Ask to stay in the heritage rooms because theirs is an inimitable charm. Perhaps it’s built into the rounded corners of the windows and door frames, the smooth, well-worn floor and the intricately filigreed wooden railings of their delightful balconies. I stayed in the contemporary room though, and frankly, can’t complain — it’s entirely minimalistic yet extremely cheerful with comfortable lighting, white walls and bright blue curtains.
All rooms are equipped with the standard mod cons, though I did rue the lack of TV and wi-fi. Not much else to do after dusk, you see, if you forgot to bring a book. The village seems to become a ghost town after sundown and there is little by way of entertainment. I try hard to not think of the ghost. The hotel grounds are not large enough to take moonlit walks, though they are big enough for the lack of intercom to pose an inconvenience. Lack of these technologies is worrisome in the 21st century in one of the country’s most touristed states, but the staff is quick to inform me that all my concerns are soon to be addressed (the property was inaugurated just a few months back).
I am willing to make concessions because the wonderful Thakur family makes my stay worthwhile. They mingle easily with guests and play the part of gracious hosts, interested in how your day went and enquiring about your comfort. They are proud of their heritage and happy to swap stories. Thakur Durga Pratap Singh takes guests on a jeep safari of his millennia-old village where he points out historic landmarks.
The comfortable rooms and hospitable ambience make this remote village an easy choice for an overnight halt when travelling between Udaipur and Jodhpur. Indeed, the real USP of Fort Auwa is its ‘poor’ location — ideal for the weary traveller who needs a respite in the middle of nowhere.
Location Village Auwa, 11km from Marwar railway juntction, Pali district, Rajasthan. The closest airport is at Jodhpur (120km).
Accommodation 18 rooms
Tariff From Rs 2,100 per person, taxes extra
Contact +91-8130777222, vresorts.in