Shahpura Barg in India...by Jane Reed

 

If I am pushed to pick a highlight on the Jewels of Northern India  trip, then it has to be the wonderful two days spent at Shahpura Barg. I say, “pushed” as the entire trip was one amazing highlight after the other, but our time at Shahpura Barg really stands out as an experience that was truly out of the ordinary. After leaving Jaipur, where we had spent a couple of fabulous days, we headed into the country to the small village of Shahpura. Perhaps because Shahpura doesn’t feature in tourist guides, this village has been left largely untouched by commercial tourism. It is a very special place.

We had the pleasure of being warmly welcomed and the privilege of spending time with the family. Shahpura Barg is a heritage lodge that used to be the summer residence of the Rulers of Shahpura. Legend has it that in the early 1900’s Rajadhiraj Nahar Singh of Shahpura mortgaged the family’s private property and jewels to bring water to his people – in what was a very dry desert area. When we first sighted the magnificent and tranquil lakes that completely changed the ecosystem and economy of this agrarian community, it is hard to imagine what the region was like previously. It is the most idyllic setting and a verdant wetland refuge, in what has also been described as a birdwatcher’s paradise.

When the Indian Constitution was amended in 1971 in favour of a more egalitarian society, all Royal titles and privileges were abolished. With or without their titles, the Royal Family of Shahpura has not forgotten their obligations to the village. The summer residence has been lovingly restored and refurbished as an eco-tourism destination, employing local craftsmen and villagers in operating this beautiful lodge. The family tradition of philanthropy is well and alive leading the local communities in working on sustainable education and irrigation projects.

 

After settling into our superbly designed and decorated suite, we embarked on a nature walk of the surrounding grounds of this tranquil oasis in search of the birdlife (apparently there are over 180 species). I was happy and delighted with sighting of lots of blue Kingfishers. On the way to the wetlands we by passed the gorgeous and very inviting pool, which we thought would be perfect for a pre-dinner gin & tonic later that day. Little did we know what was in store for us.

 

Late in the afternoon we set off on a jeep safari to the abandoned Fort to watch the sunset. The drive was about 20 kms from the residence and gave us a sneak preview of the local village and surrounding region. We arrived at the imposing Fort around half an hour before sunset, which was just enough time to walk through it and up to the highest vantage point so we could look out over the very lush landscape. And like magic ‘out of nowhere’ and to our surprise our jeep driver appeared with a choice beautifully chilled white wine or an ice-cold beer to enjoy while watching the sun go down. It was an experience that I will never forget.

 

Back at the house we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink by the pool, before indulging in some scrumptious Indian cuisine, and retiring to our beautiful room - pinching ourselves in disbelief for the  experiences of the day.

The following morning we were up bright and early to walk around the lake and check out the birdlife before returning for a sumptuous breakfast in the gardens. Our time at Shahpura was excellently designed to allow relaxation and pool time, including a visit the local market and village as well as picking up culinary tips from our private cooking lesson.

 

Some places are so rare and exceptional, the beauty can be difficult to convey...Shahpura Barg is one of those places.   

 


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