Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Postcard from Pune: Ladh, Jhagadh, Aage Badh...

Wow, I haven't posted in over two months and I'm wondering if there has been anything interesting to blog about since that last post. Well, I had a lovely Diwali weekend (three days!) in Pune visiting a close friend who's in the family way. And a mad cousin accompanied me, so it was just fun-fun-fun.

Aside from lining up outside Kayani Bakery at 7.30 AM for mawa cakes/Shrewsbury biscuits (and some more goodies) and battling a Diwali crowd at Chitale Bandhu for their famed bakharwadi, I had the opportunity to visit Fort Jadhavgadh. An erstwhile Maratha fort now converted into a heritage hotel, this almost-impromptu trip turned out to be a super break from the urban landscape of Pune and of course, Mumbai.

The steps leading up to the fort's main entrance
The story in short
Shahu, the grandson of Chhatrapati Shivaji (the great Maratha warrior king) was imprisoned for 21 years by the Mughals and later released. One of his prominent army commanders, Pilaji Jadhavrao, was instrumental in reinstating Shahu to the Maratha throne. Pilaji built four strategic monuments around Pune during his time to bolster their capital; Jadhavgadh at Saaswad was one of them and the only one of the four to survive to this day. It has since been turned into a heritage fort hotel - the first and probably the only one of its kind in Maharashtra. Who owns and who runs the property? Some info here.

My take
The museum of everyday objects. No photography permitted inside.
From the outside, the fort has been nicely restored and beautifully maintained. The lawns are green and have a variety of flowering plants. The frangipani and hibiscus were my favourites. 

There is a museum that you can cover before entering the fort. It houses a small, but interesting, collection of everyday objects of a time gone by. Intricately designed tobacco/kumkum boxes, betel leaf containers (paandan), nutcrackers, children's rattles, kitchen utensils, cutlery, coconut graters, pots, women's saree blouses and even royal palanquins. We were told it's from Vithal Kamat's personal collection. Mr Kamat is the man behind Hotel Orchid and VITS in Mumbai, and it is his group that runs operations at Fort Jadhavgadh. Worth a look.

The traditionally dressed guard with the tutari.
You get welcomed by a tutari-tooting turbanned (oooh, alliteration!) guard at the entrance and the beats of a nagada, a large-ish drum. A lady staffer dressed in the traditional nine-yard Maharashtrian saree called the nauvari applies a tikka on your forehead. Royal welcome indeed!

Once you've climbed up - and mind you, these are actual stone steps of the fort - you will come across the small reception area and the staff will guide you. The rooms and banquet areas are close at hand. Further up, there are some more rooms. And they even have these 'royal tents' out near the lawns.

How lovely does that look?
Finally, the swimming pool. It's located right at the top and has these two trees in the middle of it. I loved the fact that they let those trees be. The pool looked clean and really pretty; and if you go early enough before the other guests arrive, it's actually a wonderfully peaceful zone with just the mountains all around and an occasional staffer showing up to clear any leaves that fall into the water. And I just read that "While restoring the gadhi, the original rainwater harvesting system was discovered. It has been converted to feed a swimming pool."

Another view of the pool
There is a spa service too. I did not check it out. But to know more about that and generally about the hotel, do click here. The rates for the accommodation are obviously pricey. In the current Diwali holiday season, the cheapest double room is approximately Rs. 8000 a night. I'm sure it still seems reasonable compared to other similar properties in places like Rajasthan. 

My friends and I took the 'day picnic' option as the staffers referred to it. Basically, you can go there and sign up for one or two or three buffet meals of the day and get to access the pool and the lawns and just chill. We did breakfast and lunch (the museum tour is free if you're either a hotel guest or a day visitor). If you're in Pune city, this makes for an ideal getaway without spending a bomb on the accommodation. It's just 30-60 minutes away. From Mumbai, it's anywhere between 3 to 4 hours by road, so planning to reach there early in the morning is the key. However, try and avoid going during the busy holiday season.

In all, I had a great time. The only negative was the food. It wasn't bad, but could have been better. The menu seemed confused, especially at breakfast, where you had butterscotch milkshake and methi parathas vying for attention with medu vadas and eggs to order. And except for the moong dal halwa (lunchtime dessert), nothing stood out for the foodie in me. I much preferred the crisp cream rolls and mawa cakes from Kayani's. Fresh, yummy and material for another blog post. :P

I know this has been a longgggg read! But thank you for reading. These photos are from my phone. I will try to upload some from my camera (which unfortunately is giving up slowly). My friend's husband has clicked some very nice ones on his fancy DSLR. I will try and post a few of those once he sends them to me.


*Denotes "yours" in Marathi. If a man was writing this, it would be "tumcha". :)

PS: "Ladh, Jhagadh, Aage Badh..." is the fort's tagline and means "Battle, Fight, Move Forward..."

2 Replies:

Lo said...

Well this place is on my list now. I just love that pool.

And mawa cakes! now I miss Kayanis :(

Dr. Sherline Pimenta K. said...

Awesome post J, waiting to ckk it out for myself :)

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