A long weekend in the Garden of Streams – Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

11 Apr

In the last few months my travel plans seem to have a mind of their own and I have travelled to majority of the places that I had not originally envisaged. Changes have been galore and several airlines have made a lot of money on my cancellations. Thankfully though via another unexpected change in plans I found myself in Jhira Bagh Palace in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh for a long 4 day weekend trip. And I am so glad that my earlier plans did not work out.

Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

I landed in Indore with one of my best friends’ and after a 75 minutes’ drive, we found ourselves standing in front of a beautiful heritage building with a characteristic old world charm, surrounded by fields as far as we could see. We were met by our awesome hosts for the stay – team Jhira Bagh who introduced us to the history of the Palace and its holistic ecosystem.

Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

Jhira Bagh was originally built as an English Guest House of the State of Dhar by Maharaja Anand Rao Puar III in 1865 in colonial architectural style. Over the next several decades it played host to several important British officials, Viceroys, Governor Generals of India for their official or recreational visits. In 1943 the last ruler of Dhar, Maharaja Anand Rao Puar IV decided to renovate the Jhira Bagh Palace in Art deco and Brahaus styles and converted it into his official residence. The famous architectural, firm Gregson Batley and King from Mumbai were commissioned for the same. However by the time the renovations of the Palace were complete, times had changed and the abolition of privy purses for the Indian royalty in post-independence India led to the closure of the Palace. For the next 50 years the Palace lay abandoned, pretty much in ruins, and surrounded by weeds, stones and dirt. In 1993 the current owners acquired the Palace and the surrounding 200 acres of land from Maharani sahiba, wife of the late Maharaja, and lovingly restored the Palace to its former glory and converted the surrounding land into agricultural fields.

Lobby of Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

Jhira Bagh gets its interesting name from the multiple springs i.e. “jhira” or “jharna” around the garden i.e. “bagh”. The land around the Palace is naturally un-leveled in such a manner that as evening arrives water starts to pour back into the five wells on the property from all sides.

Fields around Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

The first thing that struck us on entering the Palace was the natural silence all around and the vast sense of spaciousness. All rooms in the Palace have high ceilings with wide rooms, broad passages, a central courtyard with a fountain and old twisting wooden banisters. There is also a profound silence in the Palace so much so that we actually ended up with whispered conversations so as not to disturb the overall tranquility of the place. The walls of the Palace are 21 inches thick and ensure there is no cellular network within the entire building and that is somehow a welcome change. All around the Palace walls old black and white photographs recounted stories of the many famous dignitaries visits’ and of the days gone by. The most iconic that we could recognize was one of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru with the King of Mandu near the lobby of the Palace. All rooms were furnished with innumerable beautiful antique furniture, art and artifacts too, and I am sure each piece had a unique story to narrate.

Dining area, Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

Out of the 15 rooms in the Palace, we got the Gujarat suite near the lobby. Our room had a huge seating room, a separate bedroom and décor done according to the Gujarat theme and customized Bagh prints. My favorites though were an antique four-poster bed and a reclining chair. We even had two nice seating areas – one in the central courtyard and one near the lobby with our very own “jhula” or swing.

Museums in Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

Luckily for us we were the only occupants in the Palace on those dates and spent our time like royalty living in our own Palace. Every day we woke up to the sounds of a cock crowing somewhere in the surrounding fields, numerous calls of birds and close to 50 peacocks roaming in the perimeter of the Palace. We also used Jhira Bagh as a base to explore the surrounding areas of Mandu, Bagh and Maheshwar via day trips, but more on that in a separate post. The Palace has two museums that we saw –the Rajendra Museum and a vintage car museum. The Rajendra Museum was Maharaj saheb’s personal collection of well curated antiques, pictures, unique maps, utensils, coins, tribal art and craft, cutlery, lamps, table paraphernalia among other things. Each piece was unique, but unfortunately photography was not allowed in this section. The Rajendra Museum collection is now owned by the current owners. The vintage car museum was quite small but with some unique cars – a Willys MB 1942, a beetle-green 1928 Austin 7, a Ford Prefect 1952, a Red Bus and a Land Rover seized in 1971 at the Bangladesh border, with more than 30 attachments useful in a war such radars, weapons. There was also a beautiful Cinderella carriage here. They  have a Palace library containing a wide selection of books ranging across interests and genres and also an ancient restored temple. In mornings and evenings we spent our time walking around the estate looking for local birds and butterflies all around the estate.

Vintage Car Museum, Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

Cindrella Carriage at Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

However the favorite part of our stay here were the amazing and always smiling people, awesome home-style food and the entire self-sustaining nature of the place. The team here were the best hosts we could have ever hoped for in a place. They were always around to help no matter what our requests and went out of their way to accommodate us. They helped us make the best of our trip with suggestions on things to see and do and also connected us directly with many local artisans for picking up unique gifts for everyone back home. We had loads of interesting conversations with them on diverse topics ranging from simple living to unique shopping. All of them truly helped make this break a memorable one.

Cows of Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

The meals served in Jhira Bagh are simple, home-style, elaborate and delicious. They grow pretty much everything on their farms and the dairy products are made from the fresh milk from their own dairy farms. Everything (from fruits, grains to vegetables) is organic, fresh and cut just before cooking or serving. Whatever doesn’t grow on their own farms is sourced from other local organic growers around them. This place is definitely a food lovers delight.

Temple at Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

During one evening of our stay, the team kindly took us around the estate to explain how the place is self-sustainable yet socially responsible. The belief of people running Jhira Bagh is that we need to give back more to nature than we take from it and you see that principle followed in pretty much every possible way. They have their own bio-gas plant and their kitchen runs entirely on this gas. They harvest rain water, recycle waste water, have solar water heaters, drip irrigation systems, sprinkler systems for lawns, Timers and LED bulbs in public spaces, and much more. They showed us how they have planted thousands of trees and spread soya plant stalks around to stop soil erosion, how they use cow dung from their dairy farm as crop manure, they introduced us to different types of organic farming techniques and how each part of the plant can be utilized in the most simple of ways. We also visited the dairy farm and understood how they have decided to keep only the local variety of cows (and not the considerably higher milk yielding bovine variety) as the nutrition content in the milk of local variety of cows is much higher. They also explained to us the importance of nutrition of the animals on the farm, how they also consume everything organic and get only homeopathic treatment. It was quite an eye opener and as a city dweller (for all my life) it was so good to understand the benefits of this kind of living.

Sunset at Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

Overall, we loved our stay at the Jhira Bagh Palace and totally recommend it to everyone who likes responsible and rural tourism holidays.

 Tips for the Trip –

  1. Jhira Bagh Palace is 5km from Dhar and you can use google maps to reach it. The closest airport is Indore and closest  train stations are Indore and Ratlam.
  2. You can check additional information on Jhira Bagh Palace at www.jhirapalace.com
  3. Jhira Bagh does not allow kids below 14 years of age and are very strict about this rule.
  4. There are no TVs in the rooms, no cellular network inside the Palace and wifi connectivity is limited to specific areas inside the Palace.
  5. You can visit here in any season as each season has its own unique beauty and attractions.

Have you visited any such unique places committed to unique and responsible tourism? Is yes, please share in comments below or on any of the social media platforms.

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6 Responses to “A long weekend in the Garden of Streams – Jhira Bagh Palace, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh”

  1. Kalpanaa April 13, 2018 at 08:02 #

    Looks like a good place to visit. I enjoyed your photos.

    Like

  2. Michael Perry April 15, 2018 at 22:06 #

    Hi. Some years ago I rode the evening sleep over train from Chennai to Mysore for a long weekend. I was in Mysore for about 4 days so wandered around and took day trips. The hotel I stayed at was the Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel. It was more expensive than the usual places I would stay I remembered one night having a drink the bar which only opened evenings in the hotel. The bartender and I were discussing that the hotel was originally built for western guests that wanted a slightly different lifestyle. I don’t know about socially maintainable but the hotel property had been lovingly kept and pictures adorned the walls and my room was absolutely gorgeous. I would sit out on the second floor veranda as the sun went down and enjoy the evenings with a book while there. A most beautiful and relaxing place with a historic charm, wonderful artwork, and kind of a quiet chic nature if that’s possible. I happened to think of that trip back in 2009 and actually reviewed the hotel on tripadvisor years later.

    Like

    • getsetandgo June 5, 2018 at 21:49 #

      Such experiences just end up making the holiday all the more memorable 🙂

      Like

  3. prabhu May 8, 2018 at 12:47 #

    seems interesting place to stay with family, we are thinking to go out side of rajasthan for summer trip. Thanks for sharing good idea to visit madya pradesh.

    Like

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