Blast From the Past


Big chunks of Indias heritage – its forts and palaces – are turning out to be money-spinners as luxury hotels.
It’s a 1894 masterpiece that blows you away. Majestic staircases, gurgling fountains, expansive spaces, custom-crafted Venetian chandeliers, rare antiques, priceless statues. Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad, screams Nizami splendour. You even arrive like a royal – on a horse-drawn 1890s carriage painted in gold and ascend the pristine white marble staircase showered with rose petals. And it feels good to know that the palace has hosted eminences such as Prince Charles, Microsoft boss Satya Nadella and Bollywood badshahs Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan.
Nearly 120 km from New Delhi, at Neemrana Fort-Palace, there is sunlight on what were once broken columns. A sprightly Aman Nath critically surveys the renovation work at his flagship palace-hotel, a fort built in 1464 that became the third capital of the descendants of Prithviraj Chauhan III. The hotel is being redone in parts. It’s a weekend and occupancy is full. Nath, a historian, author of 17 books and adman who doubles up as architect and an interior designer too, has breathed life into a part of India’s crumbling heritage by converting these properties into hotels. “When you walk into a Neemrana hotel, you walk into history,” says Nath, who manages the 24 Neemrana ‘non-hotel hotels; the Neemrana chain was founded in the early 90s by him and another history enthusiast, Francis Wacziarg.