The Samode Attractions
Samode Palace in Jaipur RajasthanSamode nestles quietly among the rugged hills of the Northern Aravallis. As you weave your way through these low hills, the Samode Fortpalace, perched high on a ridge, looms into view. But the high point of a trip to this place is the imposing Samode Palace, now converted into a hotel. The village is full of character; local artisans churn up beautiful printed cloth and glass bangles. and that's not all, there's a small artist's colony which produces wonderful miniature paintings on old paper. A walk through the old painted havelis (mansions) of Samode can be real fun, like walking into the past.
Samode Ruled By Nathawat Clan
Samode was ruled by the Nathawat clan, one of the lesser clans in Rajput ridden Rajasthan. But these chieftains did in no way misprize their status; they adopted the title of 'Rawal' for themselves. The region was under the larger Jaipur kingdom, and one of the wealthiest in it. The Rawals of Samode were absolute lords of their small fiefdoms, but some of them were also ministers in the Jaipur court. At times they went beyond their means to prove their loyalty, like what one Rawal Ram Singh did. At just 16 he fought fiercely and successfully defending the fort of Ranthambhore against the powerful Marathas, and according to legend, even after his head had been severed from his body!
This ochre and white hereditary home of the Nathawats which rises like a solid block out of the earth, is about 400 years old. For the first half of its existence, however, it was little more than a fortified Rajput stronghold. It was only in the early 19th century, during the times of Rawal Bairi Sal Singh and his son Rawal Sheo Singh, who was also a minister in the Jaipur court, that the feudal castle begin to wear the sumptuous look that it is now famed for. The most fabulous part of the palace is undoubtedly the extravagantly ornate Durbar Hall, built by Sheo Singh. The place glows with meenakari, an enamelling technique introduced by Man Singh I (ruled 1589-1614) when he brought master minakars from Lahore.
The Magnificent Interiors of the Palace
The hand-painted walls and gilded pillars in the hall are also breathtaking. This grand Durbar Hall with its huge chandelier was the place for holding all state functions in Samode. Overlooking the hall is the magnificent Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace). It was from here, through the jali (latticed) screens, that the royal ladies could have a glance of what was happening in the hall below. Because in those days, women would not be allowed in men's gatherings, or even go out of their quarters. The Sultan Mahal has miniature style paintings on religious subjects. In fact, all rooms in the Samode Palace have painted panels of murals, often interspersed with decorations set with mirrorwork.
The democratic post independent era saw a decline of the 'maharaja way of life', and Samode Palace like so many others was thrown out of resources. So the eager entrepreneurs, Thakur Yaduvender Singh and his brother Raghuvender, began to turn the palace into an exotic site for luncheons and special tourist group visits in the 80's. The place became an international hit as the location for the television series based on the book The Far Pavilions. It got a bigger boost when it was featured in a magazine, with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis celebrating its beauty. and the exotic Samode Palace was on its way to glory. Today it is one of the best Palace Hotels in the country, combining the splendour of bygone days with modern amenities.
Samode Fort stands like a sentinel on a hill above the Samode Palace. This used to be the raja's former residence, before Samode Palace was built. Having being neglected for so long, it's in a pretty bad shape now. But the climb is worth just for the views alone. Ask the caretaker to open the gate if you want a peek inside the dilapidated ramparts. The fort also has a secret underground passage to it, which was used during times of emergency. Walking among the ruins and the surroundings makes one feel as if one is in another era. In fact, wherever you go in Samode, you'll find a glimpse of the past, yet untouched by time.
The Samode Bagh is a sylvan retreat modelled on the geometric style of the Mughal garden. It was built by Rawal Sheo Singh, a scion of the Nathawat clan of Rajputs. Members of the royal family would come and spend moments of privacy and pleasure in the airy pavilions surrounded by fountains and water channels.