At the foot of a great mystical rock where sages have meditated, in the heart of a colorful Rajasthan village, sits Rawla Narlai, the 17th century villa used as a hunting lodge by the Maharaja of Jodhpur. It’s now a charming boutique hotel, with cozy rooms opening onto a courtyard surrounded by cascading bougainvillea.
The Rawla Narlai sits within the ancient Aravalli Hills mountain range, said to be the oldest mountains on the planet. The Rawla (which means villa) is a tranquil haven midway between the cities of Jodhpur and Udaipur.
Walk through a massive stone arch into a courtyard bordered with a restaurant and a small Hindu temple, and a view of that auspicious granite rock.
Groups of rattan chairs sit on the white gravel and provide a peaceful place to congregate with friends, and make new ones.
Through another stone arch is the inner courtyard, and the guest rooms.
Before I get to the guest rooms, I have to stop and tell you how divine it was to recline, and be served tea, on these day beds under the fuchsia bougainvillea…heaven.
Each distinct guest room is the perfect combination of historical and contemporary. Modern conveniences blend seamlessly with relics of the past.
Bedding and curtains are the lovely hand-blocked cottons of Brigitte Singh, an esteemed French designer who moved to India twenty years ago and runs a workshop in Jaipur.
Rooms open onto inner cloisters, and curtained verandas, furnished with antiques and family photographs that are a reminder of the Maharaja’s presence.
Through French doors, the airy restaurant serves delicious Indian and continental food on gray marble tables
In the early morning, monkeys made a surprise appearance, leaping across the rooftops, and snacking on leaves and flowers.
The serene swimming pool is enticing even at sunset.
It’s tempting to just sit and relax on daybeds in the calm oasis of Rawla Narlai’s courtyards…but there’s a colorful village to explore, and horses to ride.
One of the most memorable events of my stay here was an early morning hike up the 750 steps to the top of the sacred rock. Along the way are temples, both rustic and formal, and at the top a massive stone elephant stands watch over the village.
Looking out over the hills from the vantage point of that celebrated rock, I began to grasp its spiritual significance, and why the Maharaja chose to spend his leisure time in the enchanting villa below.
It is truly a magical place.