I have always had a passing relationship with Haridwar; it would fall on the way to our destinations but my family would ensure I partake in the customary dip at the ghats before resuming our journey. But this time, my destination was the divine city itself. Dusting off 6 hours of journey from the Capital to Haridwar, I found myself at the arched doorway of Pilibhit House, an IHCL SeleQtions property that sits quietly by the Ganges overlooking the Shivalik Himalayas.
A doorway to past and present is how I’d best describe the heritage residence. As we made our way to the spacious open-air lobby lounge that overlooks the tranquil waters, I couldn’t help but notice the sprawling courtyard, decked with plants, with a beautiful statue of Nandi awaiting to greet all visitors. Around us, sunlight filled the space that shone beautifully, an ode to ever evolving time. Pilibhit House, which was an aristocratic mansion, has been artfully restored, a moment reconstructed in time.
Our suite, with a view of the Ganga, left little to be desired. Traditional sweets beckoned us into the room, one of the 35 artfully restored nooks of the property, where minimalistic interiors mimic the innate peace of the holy city. Soon after, we found ourselves gorging on the most indulgent Pahadi thali in the Dining Room, served in an authentic silver platter, over raucous discussions about afterlife with Debmallya, the effervescent front desk manager, who promised us a day of delights at the property as soon as we had rested our weary shoulders. And he was right.
At Pilibhit, much like in Haridwar, time is a banal construct, and can be spent at one’s own leisure. We were treated to a relaxing spa at Jiva, followed by a day out exploring the narrow bylanes of the city that lead to the bustling ghats. Haridwar welcomes everyone with open arms, and at Pilibhit House, the same warmth trickles down to the smallest details. From the welcome aarti, every experience was customised to suit our schedule and preferences. An exciting day safari to Jhilmil Jheel Conservation Reserve, a private genealogy session where we traced our ancestry and a palm-reading sitdown with a priest - everything made our visit engaging and insightful.
Is a trip to Haridwar ever complete without an evening aarti? Evading the crowds at Har Ki Pauri, the residence’s private ghat, the largest in the area, doubled up as our gateway to divinity, where a beautiful evening of chants was followed by a decadent dinner under the 80-year-old mango tree on the premises, across the infinity pool. For those who seek an uninterrupted view of the Ganges, the River Deck and the terrace also act as great windows.
For a voracious reader like me, the best part of the property was the idyllic River room, adjacent to the private ghat, which turned into a great spot to curl up with my latest read, stealing a moment of peace while looking out through the glass panelled windows to the river. Like the ethos that permeates the city, Pilibhit House is simple, profound, unimposing and inspirational.