Bani Park, where the hotel is located, is largely residential and therefore quiet. While most shops and sights are within a 20-minute drive, the neighbourhood itself has little to offer except clean streets and a relaxed vibe.
From the street, Shahpura House looks like any other large home in the neighbourhood. Trees mask the façade, giving it a cosiness that belies its 64 rooms. Inside, a rabbit warren of interconnecting rooms shimmer with wall murals that are typical of the Shekawati region where the family hails from. Every public space is ornate with painted images of Hindu gods, flowers, birds and creepers. Eye-popping mirrorwork makes the ceilings shimmer like gold. Carved marble inlays punctuate the floor. Known as “alankara” in Indian aesthetics, this notion of decorating every spot is typical of Rajasthan and indeed India.
The spa does a variety of ayurvedic treatments. Guests with clogged sinuses should try the nasyam, which focuses on the head and neck – through massages and steam inhalation are available. The swimming pool, surrounded by quirky and tiny statues, is the meeting point for groups. The in-house shop has block-print clothes with cow and parrot motifs, designed by the lady of the manor and tailored by women in an NGO that she runs.
Where the property shines is during Indian festivals such as Holi (for colours) and Diwali (for lights). Guests are invited to participate in these festivals alongside the family. They are gifted saris and sweets and join the prayers, dancing, singing and, of course, feasting. The family also takes guests to their sprawling haveli mansion 90 minutes outside Jaipur to “play Holi” as it is called in India. Guests are given white kurta-pjyamas and safe herbal colours which they can throw on each others as is typical of the festival.
Part of the pleasure of this hotel is to get to know the family owners.
Like most of the hotel, the rooms are decorated with well-chosen antiques or antique-looking dark wood furniture. Stained glass windows and doors block the harsh desert sun but make the rooms a tad dark. Walls have swords, shields and other weaponry presumably alluding to Rajasthan’s warrior past. Interspersed with this are photos of the family. Paintings of Rajasthani life—such as a woman having henna work done—is a nice touch. Beds are comfortable. The minibar, as with much of the hotel, is special, with Ferrer Rocher chocolates and Qua water (instead of the Bisleri brand, ubiquitous in India).
Saphire restaurant, with a mix of white marble and aquamarine upholstry, is open all day. Breakfast is continental—eggs, croissants and excellent capuccinos made from a European machine lie alongside Indian flatbreads, fruits and nuts. The rooftop fine-dining Indian restaurant, Rasa, does Rajasthani dishes in a thali or round plate which contains multiple dishes. Folk dancers balacing pots on their head swirl around to live music. The bar downstairs with a billiards table has high-quality liquor.
Shoba Narayan is an author, journalist and columnist. Besides writing, she is interested in nature, wine, gadgets and Sanskrit. Her lifelong mission is to get fit without exercising and lose weight without dieting.