The Rajbari Bawali, Heritage Inspired
The Rajbari Bawali
Flashback I (5 July, 2008): I took a crowded trekker from the Amtala crossing on the DH Road for Bawali. I had no idea about what I was heading for. Getting down at the Bawali crossing I was guided by the locals past the the Bawali High School to the ruined but magnificent Gopinath Temple.
On my left was a pond and across it was the crumbling Mondal Mansion of Bawali. I spend the next couple of hours exploring Bawali from the Jal Tungi to the crumbling temples. Locals informed me that a non – Bengali gentleman was planning to convert the Bawali Mansion into a heritage hotel. (For details see: Bawali, Temples and Mansion)
Flashback II (30 Dec 2012): During these four years of time the hotel has been conceived, and christened the The Rajbar Bawali. It was a brain child of a Punjabi gentleman named Ajay Rawla.
This time I was accompanied by my two friends Manjit and Goutam, and Goutam drove us straight to the Bawali Rajbari. Four rooms were ready and so was the dinning room. Rawala took us for a tour of the hotel.
The rooms, with their partially peeled walls, looked excellent but the framed posters of the yesteryear Hollywood stars looked totally out of place. Rawla explained that his property will extend beyond the the Mondal Mansion and will consists of swimming pool, spa and pavilion. (For details see: Bawali Rajbari)
18 Aug 2016, it was time to visit Bawli for the third time and this time it was the initiative of Purba and Sudarshana of Kolkata Colloquy. Manjit was also there along with fellow bloggers Indrajit, Anirban and Soumya.
We were given a royal welcome complete with the beating of drums (dhak) at the entrance of The Rjabari Bawali.
Green coconut water (daber jal) was the welcome drink. We sat on the wrought iron benches in the courtyard and sipped on the green coconut water.
Ajay Rawla arrived soon after and escorted us to the back of the Rajbari. This was the proposed area for spa, swimming pool and the pavilion, at that time it consisted of two ponds surrounded by overgrown vegetation.
The two ponds, are the only thing that have remained intact, apart from that every thing has changed. The dense vegetation has been removed and replaced with a beautiful landscaped garden complete with titled walk ways. A hand pulled rickshaw placed at the centre creates an unique ambiance.
We followed the walk way to the Lotus Pavilion the huge elongated tiled pavilion is located on the edge of one of the ponds.
The pond side of the pavilion houses a dining area while the other side serves as a lounge.
We were welcomed in the Lotus Pavilion with freshly roasted maze followed by puchka.
After that we moved on to Mantra, the spa. The spa, with two rooms, was located on the other side on the pond. A folk musical performance welcomed us into the spa.
We were informed that the spa is temporary and the original spa is coming up at the edge of the second pond. Once the new spa comes in these will be converted into two guest rooms with a private space in front and will be known as Choto Bari.
In order to accommodate more guests the The Rajbari Bawali is coming up with several annex complex, which are build accordance with the original Mondal Mansion.
The Dak Bungalow complex, housing two rooms. located next to the Lotus Pavilion is one such complex
After the spa visit we retraced our steps past the Lotus Pavilion and then to the swimming pool.
It was getting dark and the lights were already on, the swimming pool with its stunning blue water looked majestic. The swimming pool is flanked on both side by Poolside Bar and Gazebos by the Pool.
We sat at the gazebo, a small open pavilion, and munched on freshly fried telebhaja paired with piping hot masala cha. On the other side is the open air bar design with the frontage of a Punjab truck.
Next it was time to explore The Rajbari Bawali, the erstwhile residence of the Mondal. The rajbari, built in neo – classical style, looked majestic with its lit up courtyard and corridors.
The entire Mondal Mansion, which was falling apart, was painstakingly and thoughtfully restored to its original glory. A true example of Inspired Heritage.
We were informed that presently 25 rooms (including those in annex) and 5 suites are in operation.
The air conditioned rooms with pealed of lime plaster exposing rustic red brick walls are an interesting mix of antiquity and modernity.
The framed retro posters of Hollywood have been removed and replaced by framed sketches and black & white photos of the temples of Bawali.
The chunky antique furniture creates an interesting mix with modern bathroom fittings. Interestingly TVs have been given a miss as the hotel management consider it as a misfit to the heritage environment.
After the room visits we settled down at the Verandah, for a cocktail session accompanied with live folk song session.
The Verandah offers great views on the courtyard with the thakurdalan at the far end and is one of the most sought after common areas in the Rajbari.
The rajbari’s common area are as diverse as the rooms and are complete with leather sofas and decorative chandeliers.
Finally it was time for dinner and we moved to the rustic but beautiful dinning area behind the thakurdalan. The dinning area is flanked on both sides by two small but elegant drawing rooms.
The royal spread was a 100% Bengali affair served on terracotta plates. Starting from rice, dal and begun bhaja the spread moved on to dhokar dalna and kachu sag chingri. It reached the climax with dab chingri, paturi and mutton kasha and finally terminating with a platter of sweets and mishti doi.
The amazing spread marked the end of the royal experience at The Rajbari Bawali. Finally it was time to bid farewell to Ajay Rawla and his team. We returned with a memory to last a a lifetime and a dream to come back again.