Travelers across the world are probably on the same page right now, slowly stepping out of the four walls and embracing the roads with more love than ever.
The pandemic has surely taught us to be grateful and not take our journeys for granted.
As we have also started exploring - one step at a time - road trips seem to be the most preferred. Recently, we spend a beautiful day at Rajbari Bawali, about 40 KM from Kolkata, West Bengal, soaking in the zamindari vibes!
It is rightly said that we always have a tendency to set out for the things that are far from us, and often forget those right around the corner. Well, when we came to know about ‘Rajbari Bawali’, we felt the same. About an hour’s drive from Kolkata, in the quaint village of Bawali, is this grand 350-year-old boutique heritage hotel that’s now been aesthetically restored, helping it retain the old-world charm and edifice. As the festive season was about to end, we planned to enjoy a day away from the chaos of the city where we can relax and binge on good food, while maintaining proper social distancing.
Aptly tagged as ‘Inspired Heritage’, Rajbari Bawali portrays the taste of the zamindars of Bengal.
The property is sprawling over 4.5 acres and comes with the default setting of social distancing and the staff members are duly masked, sanitizers placed at vantage points and there’s consistent sanitization of the premises to ensure that one feels extremely safe while walking around the property.
The Rajbari belonged to the Mondol Family of Bengal and the stunning structure fell into disrepair after India’s independence as the zamindars lost much of their wealth, and was left uninhabited for more than 40 years. It was just in the last decade, when the current owner of the property, Mr. Ajay Rawla, rediscovered this place which was in a state of ruins, who lovingly restored it inch by inch to make Rajbari Bawali the luxurious space it is today.
On arrival, we were warmly welcomed by the staff in a traditional zamindari style and offered refreshing drinks to quench our thirst. Stepping onto the front lawn, we fell in love with the place at the first glance. We were offered a tour of the entire property that helped us sneak into the nooks and corners. With its discerningly picked-up bric-a-brac, spacious rooms and suites boasting traditional four-poster beds, charming chaise lounges, and regal artifacts, every corner of Rajbari Bawali have a story to tell.
Boasting a wide range of rooms — from ‘Classic Heritage’ to ‘Royal Suite’ to ‘Zamindari’ — The Rajbari Bawali has a wide range of options to choose from, each an experience in itself. The annexe spaces of ‘Notun Bari’, ‘Chhoto Bari’, ‘Ashram’, and ‘Dak Bungalow’ ensure that even when it’s booked to capacity, the property allows the guests to enjoy their own space.
The property also houses a swimming pool and a spa, which, understandably, is not being made available at the time, keeping safety in mind.
There are about 30 rooms and suites in this property, which offers an elegant staycation for those who wish to spend some more time here (which definitely would add to the experience). That’s what we discovered as we spent the day exploring the property (a day simply isn’t enough, I must admit), losing ourselves in a bespoke experience that combines the region’s traditional customs, art forms, and cuisine.
To talk about the cuisine, the rajbari currently offers zamindari thalis (veg and non-veg) for lunch and it’s beyond sumptuous! We were literally spoilt for choices as the food was being served at the dining hall on earthen clay plates, adding a dash of royalty to the entire experience.
The meal comprised of exotic Bengali delicacies like ‘aloo posto’ (potatoes cooked with poppy seeds). ‘kochupata chingri’ (a green leafy veggie cooked with mustard and prawns), ‘bhetki bhapa’ (steamed Bhetki fish), and ‘mutton kosha’ with ‘loochi’.
It was indeed an elaborate lunch that left our tastebuds drooling with happiness!
Post lunch, we had some time to sit and relax at the library, before we resumed our explorations and walked up the stairway to find this beautiful rooftop cafe, that overlooks the lush green thickets surrounding a pond. There seemed to be no end when it came to admiring the property’s vintage furniture and artifacts. We totally fell in love with the grand piano, the framed photographs that glorified the past of this place, and the decor of the royal dining hall. To add to our surprise, the staff showed us a series of bottles, dating back to 1858 and were originally gifted to the zamindar by the East India Company, which are preserved with utmost care.
If you choose to stay at Rajbari Bawali, you can opt for a guided walk through the village, a visit to the local temples as well as the horticulture belt of Muchisa, or go for a boatride on the waters of the Hooghly, but since we had just booked for a day trip, time flew by the wink of an eye and as dusk was setting in, it was time for High Tea! As we savored the flavors of masala chai with fish fry, the rajbari was donned with lights, making it look magical.
Even before we knew, it was time for us to embark on our journey back home. After months of being holed up indoors, we guess everyone has been looking for places to explore – and we’d definitely suggest you to start with the hidden gems around your city, just as we discovered a piece of historical grandeur & heritage tucked amidst the villages around Kolkata.
If not anything else, the fact that the latest Netflix blockbuster ‘Bulbbul’, with the cast and crew, including its producer Anushka Sharma, firmly parking themselves at the property for a few weeks, was almost wholly shot at The Rajbari Bawali, should definitely make you plan a trip!
How to reach: The best way is to drive down from Kolkata, via Southern Bypass.
Cost: The day package (including lunch and evening tea) is for 1770 INR per person. It is essential to make prior reservations at this property, over a call or mail. (Check out the official website for more details, link given above)
Photo Courtesy: A moment from the Netflix Original ‘Bulbbul’, shot at The Rajbari Bawali.