Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lost in Time: Ahilya Fort

View of the Narmada River

Situated high above the sacred Narmada River, Ahilya Fort is simply breathtaking. As the ancestral palace of Prince Richard Holkar, the fort has been preserved in perfect harmony with its surroundings and history for many years. Prince Richard has recently opened its private doors to welcome travelers to the fort’s splendid past, offering guests a rare glimpse of what royal 18th century life must have been like. Accommodations consist of eight uniquely magical rooms and two impressive royal tents.

Ahilya Fort

Richard & Yeshwant Rao Holkar
at the main gate to Ahilya Fort

Today the Ahilya Fort experience is infused with Richard’s exquisite taste, no doubt inherited from his father, the late Maharajah Yeshwant Rao Holkar II, whose indelible mark on the world of modern art is seen through his patronage of Man Ray and Brancusi, among others.

With a casual air of royalty, the strikingly handsome Richard treats visitors as he would his personal friends, some of whom may be in residence during your stay. A gourmet at heart (co-author of Cooking of the Maharajahs), Richard serves a delicious blend of Western and Indian cuisine. Meals can be taken privately or as his guest in one of the many palace gardens.

Ahilya room detail

The Late Maharajah Yeshwant Rao Holkar

One of the many places to find
a moment of peace

The ancient city of Mandu

A rich cultural history surrounds the fort. Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar, India’s most beloved queen, who built the fort in 1766, wove exquisite temples into its architecture. These marvels can be experienced in near solitude. One can also visit Rehwa Society, a handloom- weaving cooperative founded by the Holkar family to preserve the centuries old traditions of one of India’s most celebrated hand weaving culture. At Rehwa, local women weave beautiful fabrics that are made into sarees, curtain fabrics and linens and that are available for purchase. On a hot day, you can swim in the river or take a dip in the swimming pool, which is nestled away in a lovely organic garden where fresh produce, herbs and spices are grown. The fort can also arrange a leisurely boat ride during the day at sunset or under the moon at night, as well as excursions to the well- preserved ancient city of Mandu, which is only 35 miles away.

Ahilya Fort is unique in its ability to capture the soul of India. To get there, you need to fly into Indore, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, which is 45 - minutes from Bombay and two - hours from New Delhi by plane. When you land, a driver from Ahilya Fort will receive you. The best season is October through March, with noon temperatures in the low 90s, and evenings cool; a sweater or shawl is needed only in December, January and February.

Visit for more information. Rates range from 135 to 210 Euros per person per night. You may also reserve the entire palace compound for your private use.

— Scott Burkhardt

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