Royal comfort

badariPaintings of Sikh rulers and antique furniture in suites of Baradari Palace hotel showcase heritage of Punjab

The 132-year-old Rajindra Kothi in Patiala’s famous Baradari Gardens has been restored and converted into a heritage hotel, the first of its kind in Punjab, writes Varinder Singh

AS one passes through the brightly lit corridors of the once-dilapidated Rajindra Kothi in Patiala’s famous Baradari Gardens, one gets transported to the golden days, when Sikh rulers reigned over the vast plains of northern India and their extravagance and tastes were the stuff of legend.

This royal grandeur of Punjab has been resurrected with the restoration of the 132-year-old Rajindra Kothi that has been re-christened as the Baradari Palace by the Neemrana Hotels, a hotel chain known for its specialisation in preservation of heritage buildings across India as hotels.

The hotel chain has restored more than a dozen heritage forts and buildings — built between 14th and 20th century — and converted them into heritage hotels.

These include Kesroli in Alwar, the Neemrana Fort Palace, Rajasthan (14th century), Le Colonial, Cochin (16th century), The Banglow on the beach, Tranquebar (17th century), Hotel De ‘L Orient, Pondicherry (18th century), the Ramgarh Banglows, Kumaon Hills (19th century), the Wallwood Gardens, Coonoor (19th century), the Baradari Palace, Patiala (19th century) and the Pataudi Palace in Haryana.

The Rajindra Kothi was built by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh in memory of his father Maharaja Rajinder Singh in 1876. The purpose to construct it was to ensure a place where foreigner guests of the maharaja could stay amid luxury and comforts. That is why it used to be called angrezi mehmaankhana in those days. Maharaja Yadvindra Singh had displayed his collection of more than 3,200 medals in Rajindra Kothi till 1985 when these were subsequently shifted to the ‘Sheesh Mahal’.

The entire building is spread over 4.65 acres in the midst of Baradari Gardens.

According to group’s chairman Francis Wacziarg, the preservation of the building’s originality, its furniture and other objects was a priority. The restoration process took over two years. Nothing new was installed or added to the 17 rooms and suites of this erstwhile and yet magnificent angrezi mehmaankhana.

Wacziarg and a co-director of the group Aman Nath have collected over 150 oil paintings of the royal scions of Patiala including those of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja Yaadvinder Singh and Maharaja Rajinder Singh. There are also paintings of maharanis of the erstwhile Patiala state, great Sikh rulers like Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Maharaja Duleep Singh and many Sikh gurus.

Each of the 17 rooms, the vast dining hall and corridors of the Baradari Palace have been decorated with these beautiful paintings. Paintings of many Rajput heroes have also found a place in the hotel, depicting a close affinity between the rulers of Punjab and Rajasthan and their subjects during those days.

"We have collected artefacts and authentic furniture pieces, including beds, dining tables, carpets and lamp-shades from all parts of the country so as to give an authentic genuine look to the place.

"The woodwork has been done so painstakingly that nobody can, at the first glance, judge that the place has been restored. Originality has been the basis of the entire restoration process," said TPS Gill, an adviser to the group.

The room and suite tariff of the hotel is quite modest at Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000, respectively.

The group is planning to introduce a number of facilities like a restaurant, cafeteria, bar and a swimming pool in the second phase of development of the property. The lease of the property has been extended to the group by the Punjab Government for 30 years on a profit-sharing basis.

The Rajindra Kothi was taken over by the Punjab State Archives, which had preserved more than 35,000 rare documents and books, pertaining to princely states, in the building till about two years back. The kothi was then taken over by a group under the former Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, who envisaged the plan to convert the kothi into a heritage hotel. Interestingly, his archrival and the present Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had also encouraged the project. He inaugurated it in the last week of September to boost tourism in Punjab.

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