A Contemporary Confluence of History, Heritage and Interiors
Insite|November 2016

India has a wealth of underutilised heritage buildings that provide unique and exciting opportunities to develop and revitalise. In the ensemble, industry virtuosos champion their vision of transforming and celebrating this restoration, conservation and adaptive re-use of historic forts to dilapidated structures.

Aman Nath

The history of buildings that the human race has created over the years is one of constant change, structures have been built, used, added on to, preserved, left to ruin, willfully torn down with a vengeance or to rebuild.

‘Neemranification’, as we call the restoration and revitalisation of historic sites done our way, is only about the challenges. The last of our projects – the 19th century Tijara Fort-Palace complex is an unfinished marvel of three structures, built in the Rajput-Afghan style with early colonial influences. At Tijara there existed – a Mardana Mahal for the Maharaja and his entourage, a Rani Mahal for the Maharani and her ladies of the Durbar, and a leisure palace on the edge of a plateau, overlooking a water body called the Hawa Mahal, Palace of winds, perched at the brink of a cliff.

The unintentional convertibility and fascinating progression of Tijara shows an interesting evolution over time. Set in the epoch of historic India, in 1835 CE Balwant Singh, born from a ‘common’ mistress, became through his mother’s sati’, from an illegitimate to a flamboyant and charismatic prince. He started the construction of a Fort-Palace after the name of his mother Moosi Maharani, as well as a grand Hawa Mahal. He was a lover of elephants and horses, it is believed, that in the absence of a road, the large double pillars of the Rani Mahal and the Mardana Mahal could only have been carried uphill by elephants. Famous architects and masons from Kabul and Delhi were engaged in its construction. Because of his premature death in 1845 CE – probably from murder, the construction remained incomplete and the complex was abandoned until now, when it was leased to Neemrana Hotels to restore, complete and run it as a heritage hotel.

As the case with all Indian princely territories, Alwar, found by Rao Raja Pratap Singh at Machedi in the year 1775 CE had witnessed unprecedented changes in terms of the different periods beginning with the Rajput, the Lodi Dynasty, the Mughal Dynasty and finally the British Raj. Its landscape has therefore been significantly influenced by diverse cultural groups, which have in turn uniquely shaped the culture, its physical historical monuments and sites, architecture, and traditions.

In January 2016, Tijara opened for guests to enjoy its hanging gardens, which lead to its arcades with views of the palm oasis below. The suites and rooms of the Rani and Mardana Mahals are named after India’s leading artists, designers and aesthetes who have honoured the spaces with their work or aesthetic.

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