Acharming and quiet palace retreat within easy reach. This indeed is the USP of the Pataudi Palace, a part of the Neemrana Group of ‘Non-Hotels’. So close to Delhi that you don’t have to draw up elaborate travel plans. And yet far away from the madness of the city. Add to that the sprawling lawns and the flavour of a Nawabi culture, and you have a worthwhile weekend getaway.
Peacocks strut among the fountains and the greens. Parrots live on treetops, scores of them. Other birds, long-tailed or maybe a black beauty, tease you with a glimpse of their exotic selves. There is no end to the bagsful of sunshine you can soak in … by the poolside, on the breakfast terrace, in the sit-outs. The corridors are strewn with comfortable reclining chairs and sofas and diwans. Lounge just about anywhere!
Exploring the grounds of the palace, we could not resist peering through the hedge at the white colonial bungalow next door, which is used by the Pataudi family when they are in town. The palace, designed by an Austrian architect, was built in 1935 by the cricketer Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan, father of the more famous, and recently deceased, Pataudi Mansur Ali Khan, also known as Tiger in cricket circles. Being the home of Pataudi, his actress wife Sharmila Tagore and their children, Saba and Bollywood stars Saif Ali Khan and Soha, the palace is high on glamour quotient.
Once inside, you’re drawn to the old family photographs in sepia — of the two Nawabs, the Indian cricket teams in the 1930s and 40s, Tiger and Sharmila’s wedding, Saif junior, and other family members. Paintings from the family collection grace the walls of the corridors and the mahals which now serve as rooms for guests. The exquisite Murano glass chandeliers in the Durbar Hall and the smaller dining hall complete the picture for this heritage resort.
Things to See and Do
You come to Pataudi Palace to chill out, not ‘do’ things. As we did. We lounged on the chairs in our sit-out, tried to imagine how the Pataudis must have spent their days here, followed the peacocks in the garden, counted the noisy parrots, tried and failed to identify unusual birds, chatted up other guests, tried our hands at billiards, played table tennis and ended the evening with some hot pakoras and tea. With the night still young, we watched, fittingly, a cricket match in the TV Room.
For those who wish to venture out, there is Sultanpur Lake and Bird Sanctuary 25 km away and Hari Mandir Ashram, of Julia Roberts fame, who shot here for Eat, Love, Pray. And, yes, she stayed at Pataudi Palace.
Road Take NH8 (Jaipur Road) from Delhi for Bilaspur Chowk via Gurgaon and Manesar. Turn right at Bilaspur Chowk, which is 500m before the Toll Gate. Do not cross the Toll Gate. Pataudi Palace is 9 km from Bilaspur Chowk, to the left. Look out for the tiny signboard.
Story by Manju Rastogi