"Travel is glamorous only in retrospect." ~ Paul Theroux


Mud Fort at Kuchesar

Shibani Kapoor, a graduate of Economics, who has completed her MBA in Marketing, writes about herself: "I have tried everything from Reiki to Yoga. I enjoy travelling and writing." Here she writes about a day trip from Delhi with her three friends when they took time off to chill out.

The highway to Kuchesar, 80 kms from Delhi, is via Ashram, Okhla and then on to NH24. Our day trip started well we left Delhi at 10:15 am. Four girls and a driver. Good music. Good car. Good road. The day had to be good. We tried out the Nestle Fruit and Dahi, more curd than fruit. With all our chatter, we were in Kuchesar even before we knew it. We turned off the highway on to a mud road. It was as kuchcha as it could get. They were laying layers of soft mud, presumably to lay a pucca road. It felt like a desert Safari, although in a Santro.

Just a few meters down the road we were in the heart of the agricultural area, in the midst of sugarcane fields. We stopped to appreciate the sugarcane and a farmer gave us sticks of cane. The driver advised us against paying for it as it might have offended the farmer.

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The huge gate and signboard, announcing the MUD FORT, led to a meandering drive through mango orchards that created a smell of fragrant freshness in the air. Another few minutes and we saw another gate. We were out of the palace already! Where was the palace? Did we miss it? We soon saw another signboard, and an even larger gate. The fort looked like a collosal mud hut with the upper stories painted white.

Just off the parking area, we saw charpais hanging from trees with two people, totally blissed out on those desi-style hammocks, presumably rocked to sleep by the sweet lullaby of the symphony created by the banyan trees, by the wind and the sonata of birds.

I felt like I was entering an ancient haveli into a different era. The Jat rulers of Kuchesar, hail from Haryana. The Mud Fort, built in the mid-18th century, represents the history of the family who were made Jagir of Kuchesar with the title of Rao by Najib-ud-daulah. In 1763, the fort was captured and razed. Within two decades it was recovered by the family and has remained with them since they were granted a perpetual lease in 1790 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam and then by the British in 1807.

The Mud Fort has seven turrets built in defence against British cannon attack. A wide moat was dug to create the ramparts. The main palace overlooks gardens on three sides and on the west are the ruins of a replica of Robert Clive's house in Kolkatta.

We had to announce our arrival at the reception since we had made reservations for lunch. The reception itself was on the first floor and quite a walk within the Fort across a private area.. Despite being Mid-March, it was very cool and airy. Since we had two hours before lunch, we wanted to have a look around the property. The rooms were clean, airy and simple. The toilets were Western but with an old world charm. We went up to the highest point of the palace and soaked in the ambience. Surrounding us were wide expanses, with dense orchards on one side and vast open mustard fields on the other.

The charpais were now empty and inviting. We took our picnic baskets there, opened our Fosters' beer and Bacardi Breezers with chips and other munchies. Heaven just an hour-and-a-half from Delhi. The lunch thereafter was good, even if the cheese cake was surely made of cottage cheese!

After lunch we walked thru the mango orchard and climbed trees that were surprisingly easy to climb! It was a different world for us city yuppies. We got a free ride on a bullock cart. It was far more bumpy than I had imagined. When we stopped to click a photograph, the bull suddenly decided that he had waited long enough and without any preamble started trotting off. One of my friends lost her balance and was almost fell off the cart.

We slumped on chairs by the pool taking turns on the single hammock here. It was considerably cooler then than the morning had been. We were admiring the peacocks around, when a large group of village women entered the palace. Drum beats from within the palace caught our fancy, but we were disappointed to find that the music was coming from the Private section of the palace. We sat shamelessly outside, hoping to peep in. A lady dressed in a drab salwar kameez, head covered with her dupatta, sans any make-up, came towards us. I hoped she would invite us in but instead she merely asked if we were being disturbed by the noise. She spoke in fluent English, informing us that the music was in celebration of her daughter's wedding. She turned out to be the current 'Rani' of Kuchesar.

Disappointed at not being invited in, we ordered tea in the courtyard. Soon a tall, smart gentleman with twirling moustaches arrived in an open jeep. With an air of authority he spoke to the labourers around. Small glimpses of erstwhile Royalty and their lifestyle fascinated us.

On the return drive we lay back listening to music, appropriate for the day spent:

"Dahe gay rajwade, dahe maharajwa
Rani kari dhool mein lutaniya!"
("The kingdom hath fallen, overthrown is the king,
The queen bites the dust.")

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.