A chance invite to visit Bawali Rajbari left our author, Somashis Gupta, enthralled. He visited it and yearn to return soon. Read his first hand experience of this fascinating stay
It was a hot and humid afternoon, followed by a stormy windy evening in the city of Calcutta. A pleasant surprise indeed, but what followed was even more fascinating. It was an invitation to visit Bawali Rajbari. Interesting name, I thought. Researching further, I gathered that the name comes from the tribe named Buali who were the original inhabitants of this place. Yet another popular folklore tails the name from ‘bone aligali’ which translates to coming and going from the forest.
Whatever the legend may say, it is a fact that Bawali was enriched because of its Rajbari which was built sometime in the year 1710. I also learnt that the history of this gigantic Rajbari goes back to the days of the Mughal emperor Akbar. The lineage can be traced to Basudeb Roy, who was a part of the royal army of Hijli Kingdom. Pleased with his bravery and able leadership the Maharaja bestowed him the title of Mondol and gifted him 50 villages, which included the Bawali and thus the dynasty started.
However in later years the family shifted to Chetla. Since then, the crumbling Bawali Mansion had been lying unattended. It was the 23rd of January 2008 when magic happened. A gentleman named Ajay Rawla accidently stumbled upon this property. He clambered around the dilapidated temples in the area to find a long solid wall. Then he walked pass the narrow lane and found a small archway. He entered and what he witnessed left him overawed.
What lay in front was a magnificent structure beyond the grandeur of a courtyard. Rawla is an environmentalist himself, with an eye for architecture and aesthetics, a keen mind and a self-driven hunger to learn more, to evoke the lost and untold histories of our past. He felt the need to restore this derelict structure to preserve Bengal’s cultural and architectural heritage. What followed was a seven-year long process of dedicated work and The Rajbari was reborn.
When I got the invitation from a friend, I was exhilarated. After all it had been a while that I had gone on a leisure trip. But what I experienced in The Rajbari was far beyond my expectations and left me spellbound. This place is a perfect blend of our traditions with modern lifestyle. One experienced true hospitality from the team of dedicated and efficient staff of the hotel.
The first interaction which I had with the hotel was a day prior to my visit. I called up the hotel to know the direction. When Debopriyo (whom I met later) answered the call he greeted me by my last name instead of just a ‘hello’. This personalized approach is truly professional and an example of fine hospitality.
The next day when I arrived I was given a traditional welcome by the ladies who were dressed in red and white sarees. What followed was one of the best lebur shorbot(lime juice) which took me back to my childhood when aerated drinks were less popular. The check-in was smooth with Debopriyo- whose smile makes you feel at home instantly.
After the check-in I headed to ‘The Verandah’, to relax with some chilled beer. The décor of the restaurant creates an old world charm that gives you a feel of the ancient times, with all the modern amenities. But what impressed me the most was the service of Arpan Karak who was not only courteous but knew exactly what I needed. He served me with crackers even before I had asked. The flames to light my cigarette appeared magically the moment I took out one and I turned to find Arpan standing right next to me with a lighter.
By the time I finished my beer it was time for lunch. I headed to The Piano Room where a colossal Zamindari Thali awaited. Here again I was enthralled by the exceptional service of Manish Das. Manish has been working with the Rajbari for the last five years. He treats the hotel as his ‘second home’, and he treats the hotel guests as though they are his personal guests. I loved his resplendent service which was accompanied by equally delectable food. Each of the dishes was nothing short of ambrosia.
It was time for my siesta. I went to my room, and what a room it was. It made me feel like a king. The furniture and upholstery depicted royalty with each touch. The bathroom too was as grandiose as the bedroom. I was especially impressed with the collection of books in the room. The blackout curtains and comfortable king size bed soon took me to the world of dreams.
I woke up, by then it was already dark. I could hear the sound of Kashor Ghonta from a distance. I walked out of the room to find the Rajbari looks even more beguiling with the lights on. I sat there sipping the finest tea, and spent rest of the evening listening to some of the exquisite music performed by a young artist at the courtyard. Soon it was the end of a magnificent day.
The next day it was time for me to leave, but only with a promise to return soon. The comfortable room, the tastiest food and the stellar service will remain memorable for a long time. In my experience I would say this is one of the finest and skillfully managed hotels I have visited so far.
“Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.”
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
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A devoted foodie with keen interest in wild life, music, cinema and travel Somashis has evolved over time . Being an enthusiastic reader he has recently started making occasional contribution to write-ups.