Srinagar, March 27 Little would the erstwhile Dogra Maharaja, Hari Singh or his queen, Maharani Tara Devi, have ever imagined that their royal residence, Karan Mahal, would one day become a luxury hotel!
The property is now open to guests as an intimate 7-key hotel. Situated at the extreme upper turn of the high security Gupkar Road, Karan Mahal is located at the meeting point of two mountain ranges of Shankaracharya hilllock and the Zabarwan Mountains.
Karan Mahal estate is spread over 70 Kanals of orchard and forest land most of which is part of the wildlife sanctuary as part of the Shankaracharya hillock. Seeing jackals, bears, an occasional sighting of the leopards, partridges and other species of birds is not uncommon in and around the Karan Mahal estate.
The grandeur of the royal lodgings lies in the fact that it has perfectly blended with its environment where man and animal have learnt over decades to live in complete harmony.
Karan Mahal was originally built by the Maharaja for his wife, Maharani Tara Devi and after 1947, the palace became the residence of Maharaja Hari Singh's only son, Karan Singh who, as regent, also became the 'Sadr-e-Riyasat' (Head of state) of J&K after independence.
The artefacts at Karan Mahal stand testimony to the royal legacy of the building. Crystalware from Europe, porcelain figurines presented by Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev to Karan Singh when Khrushchev visited Kashmir in mid 1950s along with Nikolai Bulganin to a historic welcome by the people of Kashmir.
The family, especially, Karan Singh's wife, Chtrangada Raje, have spent years restoring the place to its original glory by renovating and restoring its original wooden ceilings, staircases, walls, flooring etc.
Carpets, curtains, bed covers etc used in Karan Mahal are all hand woven and ensuring that these remain in their original colour and crease has been no small effort.
Beds, tables, sofa sets and wardrobes are all imported, most of them from England as these are made from fully seasoned and knotless Oak wood. So are all bedside lighting shades, chandeliers etc imported from England.
The food served at the 7-key hotel bears the grandeur and aroma of the royal cuisine. Be it the lamb mutton cooked in yogurt, or the exquisite Pallao made of choice rice variety and handpicked wild mushrooms, trout fish or over two dozen other dishes, the food choices are simply mind boggling.
There is also a touch of the Dogri food specialties that leaves the guest a very hard choice what not to eat during his stay at the property. Lawns of Karan Mahal are these days a riot of colour presented by daffodils, Pansies, tulips and other spring flower varieties.
The property has an indelible imprint of character while it overlooks the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar city.
( With inputs from IANS )
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