16th December 2016
Last week I was fortunate enough to check out a new experience offered by Mehrangarh Fort; having a private tour of the fort and its palaces with the museum’s curator.
Arriving just as the fort was closing while all the tourists were being shepherded out, I was taken to the battlements high above the city where I was introduced to Karni Jasol, a stylish man of around 50 years old, in a smart navy blazer with silvering hair. At first I had assumed there would be others joining the tour. But the curator explained that private meant private and the tour was only offered on that basis. A moment later one of the palace guards appeared with two full glasses of chilled champagne. We clinked our glasses and began the tour.
To begin with Mr Jasol explained that he didn’t want to fill my brain with a load of facts and figures. As twilight descended on the city below, he felt now was a time to cherish the views, to unwind, to savour the moment. He did point out the old city walls, the various districts and important landmarks of the city, but essentially we just stood sipping our drinks staring down at the city below, with the enormous fort to our backs and the brown kites circling above.
From here we walked the impregnable ramparts into the palace area. Here we sat in one of the central courtyards, as the intricately carved sandstone turned a smouldering pink, while Mr Jasol explained the architecture of the differing periods: 16th, 17th, 18th century façades that climbed majestically above us. From here we walked through various rooms and galleries, while Mr Jasol told tales of sacrifice, of extraordinary events of adventure and extoled the virtues of a painting, a ceiling or a special piece of architectural design. So as to show me the effect of reflective mirrors, paint and crystal balls used on the ceiling and walls of the maharajas quarters, he had one of the guards arrive carrying a tray of candles and then turned out all of the lights. It was magical.
We finished the tour walking out into the zamana chamber, a stunning piazza used in ancient times by the various queens, which is an area not open to the public. From there I proceeded to have dinner on the terrace restaurant looking up at the turrets and ramparts of the famous old fort.
As a new experience I can’t recommend this highly enough. To be personally guided by the expert who put the museum together around one of the most spectacular buildings in India – if not the world – on your own with the sun setting and moon rising is an experience I shall remember for a long time.
The chilled champagne was rather nice too!