It was my daughter’s love for dogs and horses that took us to Danta. That’s where Mahipendra Singh and Chandra Kumari breed Marwari horses and dogs. Little did we know that there was a treat in store for us too. From Ahmedabad, it took us three hours to get to Danta. Once there, we steered uphill to Bhavani Villa, a palatial colonial-era house overlooking the Danta village and the hills beyond. The view more than explained why the family prefered the Villa to their impressive old palace in the town below.
A warm welcome by the couple was followed by a sumptuous lunch comprising of Rajasthani and Gujarati fare. Their drawing room is tastefully done with carved wooden furniture, antiques, old framed photographs, stuffed tigers and portraits. Prizes won by the family-owned dogs and horses occupy place of pride in the cabinets. As did the countless mementos presented to Mahipendra Singh and his son for judging dog shows and equestrian events. Towards the evening, the owners drove us to their farm for tea. The farm, spread over 100 acres, has stallions, mares, colts and fillies. We also saw a family of grey francolin, a covey of quails, bulbuls and babblers amongst a host of other birds at a water point. There were peacocks surrounded by peahens and even a group of nilgai.
The farm had once included a polo ground, spread over approximately 906 sq km, of the Danta princely state. Mahipendra Singh inherited this ground from his father and converted it into a riding tract. Tourists are known to have spotted leopards while riding in the farm. Shortly after, we retired to our room. The next morning, we headed to Ambaji. Located 20 km from Danta, it is one of the 51 Shaktipeeths dedicated to the mother goddesses. According to legend, a part of Sati’s heart fell atop Gabbar, a hill at Ambaji. We also visited Kumbhariyaji’s Jain temple complex built between 1062 and 1134 CE, each one an architectural delight. Not far away is the 12th century Ajitnatha temple at Taranga. The large and well-preserved temple has beautiful carvings running along its base and the main mandapa.
How to reach:
Danta is about 45 km from the Palanpur station which lies on the Delhi-Mumbai railway line. Ahmedabad, approximately 165 km away, is the nearest airport.
Where to Stay:
Bhavani Villa, Danta, Tel: +91-2749-278705; Mob: +91-89809-80003/91-94280-23657; bhavanivilladanta.com.