Palace Kawardha is a little known delight many miles off the tourist track. It is located between Raipur in Chattisgarrh and Kahna National Park, so it is a convenient stop over for travellers flying to Raipur and on by car to the tiger camp of Singinawa in Khana Park. It is a destination in its own right for those looking for unspoiled India.
The domed palace is set in acres of lawns and homely gardens where much of the produce for the dining room is produced. The building itself has a slightly shabby grandeur with a long shaded verandah facing the lawn. The extensive marble paving throughout includes superb striped marble floors in the bar. The splendid Darbar Hall is a drum shaped room with a first floor balcony running behind the pillars.
We stayed in one of the two Heritage Suites, actually not so much a suite as a very large bedroom with plenty of seating space and a charming covered private terrace looking over the garden. High ceilings, comfortable antique furniture and lots of space made for a characterful room. The enormous bathroom was clad in grey marble. Our request for a desk and light met with instant action and the room was re-arranged immediately. We had all our meals with the Maharajah and Maharani who were hospitable, charming and excellent company. The food was delicious and the dining room itself quite grand with family treasures in glass cases.
A most helpful young man called Manog looked after us during our stay. Nothing was too much trouble for him. He was courteous and efficient and helped make our stay such a memorable one.
Though there are no mega-major tourist attractions in the vicinity there are many things to see and enjoy. We visited the little known Bhoremdeo Temples (the pride of the state), beautifully situated at the start of a forested mountain range. The local tribal people, the reclusive Baiga are famously attuned to the spirit of the forest and live without damaging the environment or cultivating the ground. We encountered them during fascinating trips to village markets. We explored the local landscape of fields and forests and enjoyed watching the sunset over a local lake. The local people were friendly and courteous and we felt safe and comfortable walking around the towns and villages.
The highlight of our stay was a performance of an athletic harvest ritual dance by local farmers in the porte cochere of the Palace for the Princely family and us, the only guests. Having experienced many folk dances in many states of India this seemed to us to be the most authentic and memorable. The participation of the four-year old son of the Maharajah was enthusiastic, if as skilful as one might expect from a four-year old, and was welcomed by the dancers and musicians.
Our only reservation was that the palace was being used as a film location during our stay. This is by no means uncommon with palace hotels and it does impinge upon the peacefulness of your visit.
Palace Kawardha is a marvellously tranquil retreat. It wears its history lightly but it is an authentic palace where unobtrusive service, thoughtfulness and touches of splendour make for a memorable stay. Travelling in India can often be overwhelming and we sometimes feel the need to take a break from sightseeing, crowds and bustle and rest and recuperate. There are luxurious places where you can do this and Palace Kawardha doesn't do up-market luxury and bling. It has its own special character. It is welcoming and peaceful and offers the opportunity to experience rural India in comfort and security.