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Wake up to the sound of birds, a verdant expanse on one side and the gently rippling waters of a reservoir on the other. This is what each of the 16 tented rooms in RAAS Chhatrasagar offers, year-round. The luxury hotel is built on a dam in Rajasthan’s Pali district and occupies three acres of a sprawling 1,500-acre forest that was once the camping site of Rajput noble Thakur Chhatra Singh of Nimaj.
In the 1890s, Chhatra Singh decided to dam a seasonal stream flowing through his estate. This created a reservoir that would harvest the monsoon rains each year, transforming the landscape from dry scrub to fertile agricultural land, and, as the years passed, a lush green oasis. The property was used as a farm and bare-boned camping site for years, until RAAS acquired it in 2019 and set to work, creating a luxury getaway in the desert.
A Contemporary Resort That Leaves Nature Untouched
RAAS as a hospitality group is dedicated to sustainable tourism and all things eco-friendly. (They have done away with single-use plastics on their properties and are working with their vendors and suppliers to do the same.) When they acquired the property, it presented them with the opportunity to create an outdoor hotel with a small ecological footprint.
The family that originally owned the property ran a farm on it, but about 20 years ago, they suspended all farming and let the land grow wild – so most of the vegetation today is natural and overrun. And being in a dam, the terrain isn’t ideal for manicured landscaping.
When RAAS took over last year, they had a pretty clear brief for the architects: construction in the cleanest possible way with light structures, using natural materials. They had to work around the dam, ensuring that the existing ecosystem wasn’t disturbed.
The long restaurant, done in an Art Nouveau style, has been crafted out of a large metal frame with stone slabs for the roof. The walls have also been made with big stone slabs to provide insulation. Named Baradari for the 12-door Mughal style pavilion it’s inspired by, it seamlessly blends indoors and outdoors, wilderness and water. On one side of the spacious room is the swimming pool and on the other is the lake – perfect for your morning coffee or evening sundowner.
Bespoke Hand-Embroidered Tents
When Nikhilendra Singh, founder and MD of RAAS Hotels began refurbishing the site, the aim was to bring alive the Rajput campaign tented lifestyle of years past, but with a modern upgrade. Says Singh, “We did want to give the guests the feeling that they were staying in a tent but we didn’t want it to look like a typical African safari tent. We went for a more relaxed, contemporary feel.” The result is an airy, roomy and elegant tented accommodation with all the trappings of a luxe hotel room, including skylights, air conditioning and bathtubs in each structure.
The tents have also been created keeping in mind the ecological constraints of being situated in a dam. The designers, Delhi-based Studio Lotus, came up with a hybrid system with lightweight, pre-engineered pods built on a steel frame with zero concrete. Says Ambrish Arora, co-owner, Studio Lotus, “Since the tents are perennial, we had to minimise the AC load and keep energy consumption to a minimum. The tents consist of dry lightweight walls and an insulated dry roof over which there is a Tencel fabric canopy that provides insulation and protection from rain.”
The tents are airy and open, but secluded from each other: a walkway on the dam, at a height of 8 feet below the tents, connects the rooms and restaurant, ensuring each unit has privacy.
While conceptualising the interiors, Arora says that they had to ensure the rooms spoke to the ethos of the RAAS brand – all things handmade and artisanal. The Rajput and Rajasthani influences come alive in the block printing and embroidery that can be found all along the Tencel fabric the tents are fashioned out of. The prints and imagery are intricate but not over the top – here too, the aim was to keep it traditional yet minimal and elegant.
All the printing and embroidery has been done by hand by artist Dhvani Behl, (Flora for Fauna) who spent several days at the property, taking it all in, before starting the process. As a result, most of the artwork and embroidery have been inspired by flora and fauna in the area – the embroidery, in particular, is a reflection of the birds and wildlife on the estate (RAAS Chhatrasagar is home to over 200 species of birds, from the endangered Great Indian Bustard to shoveler ducks and kingfishers).
Behl used specially-crafted 8-foot blocks (roughly the size of surfboards) to create her designs and has used a combination of illustrations and graphic designs for her prints. No two tents are alike – each is customised with a different set of prints and patterns.
The intricate detailing on the tents are offset by the simplicity of the furniture, designed by Mangrove Collective in Delhi. The brief was to bring in a sense of the wild while creating furniture that was comfortable, durable and stylish. Each piece has been custom designed for the property using locally-sourced acacia wood from the estate. There is a rustic elegance to each piece, with elements of brass and canvas and a nod to Jaipur Deco. (No laminates have been used, everything you see is pure wood.) If bespoke spells luxury to you, then this property will certainly not disappoint!
RAAS Chhatrasagar is unique in that it offers all the majesty of Rajput-era campaign life with modern minimalism and comfort. The best way to reach the hotel is by road from nearest airports Jodhpur, Jaipur or New Delhi. It takes about 2-3 hours by car from Jodhpur. A road trip from Jaipur will is a little over 4 hours, while driving down from Delhi could take anywhere from 8-9 hours. So if you are looking to get away from the city and the four walls of your home, bookmark it for your next trip.
The property is now open and welcoming visitors, with all COVID-19 precautions and safety measures in place. RAAS Chhatrasagar is offering a 15% discount on bookings to all of our readers. Check here for all the terms and conditions. For enquiries, call 91-291-2636455 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
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