Jambughoda Palace, tryst with nature

Jambughoda Palace, tryst with nature

Jambughoda Palace is a perfect getaway for a tryst with nature. One can explore the ruins abounding the city, the wildlife sanctuary or simply relax in the comfortable environs of the heritage Resort. In a nutshell, a stay at the Jambughoda Palace is a true tryst with nature!

Jambughoda palace features acres of open farmland that one can meander through at leisure


Getting to Jambughoda Palace from Pench by road


On a freezing 26 December morning we headed out from Pench towards Jambughoda, which is an erstwhile princely state close to Vadodara, Gujarat. We left at 0530Hrs, heading west on MP state highway SH 26 towards Khandwa. The MP roads were absolutely spectacular. Even at places where upgradation or repairs were being carried out, the diversions proved to be a breeze to navigate through.

In no time we passed Betul and were zipping on some 6 lane state highway! At least the car GPS and Google maps said it was a state highway, although looking at the state of the road I suspect it was a national highway. The only downside was the lack of good dhabas along the way. I realised that this is not a frequently travelled road, what with there being no major tourist attractions on this route. Hence dhabas were few and sparsely spread along the way. Thankfully at around 1000Hrs we did find a half decent place which served the ubiquitous POHA with tea, and that served the purpose.

Khandwa, an overview


By 1230Hrs we reached Khandwa. What with a fuel stop, couple of toilet breaks for the kids and an hour long stoppage for breakfast, we'd made pretty good time. Khandwa proved to be an epic disappointment. I am being extremely polite when I say the town is filthy. Beyond proportion. After driving through verdant forests for the entirety of the cold winter morning, it was depressing to get into this town.

The streets are uniformly filthy and lined with garbage. Traffic is unruly, with people driving on either side and any direction with impunity. Buildings and structures seem to have come up with no semblance of logic or aesthetics, as if 'town - planning' is a concept that doesn't exist in this part of the world!

We'd passed several smaller towns of MP on our way to and from Pench so far. I was genuinely shocked to see the eyesore that was Khandwa. Most of them seemed orderly, clean and civil in contrast with Khandwa! What's worse, this is a historic town frequented by Jain and Hindu devotees, some of them quite well - heeled!

The entire place has all of 2 half - decent hotels, and we checked in at one of those. Called the 'Castle Inn', the place is owned and run by a Sikh family. Surprisingly, we found the hotel operating barely at a 30% occupancy of its 50 odd rooms. The owners told us that they constructed the place to cater to the influx of engineers and other senior technical staff that used to frequent Khandwa for the construction and commissioning of the Shri Singaji Thermal Power plant.

For 4 to 5 years they've run at a nearly 100% occupancy. Then one fine day, the plant got commissioned. Now, for the last year or so business has dropped drastically! We however did find a few grain traders staying in the hotel, so I suppose business does go on. One upside was that the food was quite good. The all vegetarian menu served primarily Indian cuisine, and though slightly on the oily side, the preparations were more than palatable.

Onwards to Jambughoda


After our experience of the previous morning, we decided not to risk hunting for dhabas along the way. The Castle Inn chaps accommodated us by serving breakfast at 0700Hrs (their usual opening time is 0830Hrs), and by 0800Hrs we hit the road.

Continuing on AH 47, we soon crossed Khargone, which is around 90Kms from Khandwa. Bang on the highway that dissects the road, we passed at least 3 pretty decent hotels. Each of these were in clean, hygienic and non - depressive surroundings! If you ever cross this route, give a wide berth to Khandwa and stay at Khargone instead! By 1330Hrs we'd reached Chhota Udepur, from where in an hour we reached Jambughoda.

Jambughoda Palace - A Tryst with Nature


The Jambughoda Palace, which goes by the nomenclature 'A home for nature lovers - Jambughoda Palace' is a massive estate bang in the middle of Jambughoda town. The entrance is a nondescript turn - off from the main road, which we missed a couple of times before finally getting it. An easy landmark is that it is exactly opposite the local PHC Center.

Jambughoda is more of an overgrown village than a small town. There isn't much to see or do in the town itself. However, once you enter the driveway leading to the Jambughoda Palace this all changes. You are straightaway transported to a bygone era. Tall trees line the mud road on either side. Right from the word go the Jambughoda Palace holds true to it's promise of providing a tryst with nature. About a kilometre or so from the entrance you get to the palace gates. The palace is a little over a century old. It features sprawling grounds, spread over 100 odd acres.

Aditya got onto the roof our rooms to retrieve his ball
Monkeying around on the roof of the rooms


The Accommodation


We'd taken 3 deluxe rooms, which are in an annexure to the main palace building. Each room is spacious, with lovely four - poster beds, well - appointed bathrooms and a sprawling verandah at the entrance. The rooms have windows opening up to an orchard at the back, and is very pleasing to the eye. Being a heritage property, the furniture, window frames etc. are all in teak, with simple straight lines. Very functional and not unaesthetic either. Thankfully, the bathrooms have a touch of modernity. A perfect blend of reliving life from another era without compromising on any creature comforts!

All rooms are surrounded by beautiful gardens
En route from our rooms to the dining area / gazebo


Although we didn't stay in one of those, I thought the 2 bedroom cottages were the best. Each unit is a set of a couple of bedrooms, a well appointed living room and a small lawn out front. The tall hedges surrounding the rooms not just give a semblance of privacy, but also help fulfil the promise of Jambughoda palace to provide a tryst with nature.

The best part is that these are all from the same vintage as the main building. Effectively, the sense of heritage is retained with no compromise on creature comforts! Perhaps the next time we're here, we will stay in one of these.

The Maharana and Maharani Saheb live in the Jambughoda Palace itself, where the family maintains their residence. The property is managed by their daughter in law and son, Yuvrani Saheb Bhavna Devi and Yuvraj Saheb Karamveer Sinh. The dynamic couple live in Vadodara with their son and frequent the palace as required.

The Maharana Saheb invited us over for a chat the day we arrived. Both, the Maharani and Maharana Saheb were effusively warm and spent a fair amount of time talking about their legacy. An interesting facet that emerged was that over the last decade or so they've almost completely shifted to farming cash crops on their land.

A tractor on the Jambughoda palace grounds
She didn't get to drive it. Posing only!


Apparently, this makes a lot more fiscal sense than farming for grains. I'm no expert on agriculture, but the gist of what I understood was that unless a farmer had massive land holdings, it wasn't feasible to grow grain. This throws open the debate on the ceiling on land - holdings prevalent across the country, and whether that is beneficial or otherwise for our agro - growth!

Jambughoda Palace has totally shifted to cash crops from growing grains
Our DDLJ moment amongst the cash crops. how much cheesier can you get!?


We spent a delightful 3 days at the Jambughoda palace enjoying our tryst with nature and exploring the grounds abounding the main palace. All meals are served at a gazebo of sorts. The vegetables are fresh from the farm and served with a meat / chicken dish.

The owners have 6 dogs that have the run of the grounds. The canines are either very friendly, or stay out of the way, depending on their disposition. A miniature daschund named Bruno adopted Ritika the same evening that we arrived. From thereon, other than for meals, he would spend every waking moment tailing her wherever she went.

Even at night he'd sleep in our room curled up on the couch! One other dog that would sometimes frequent our neck of the woods was a Rottweiler! The resort staff assured us that the dog was completely harmless and we had nothing to worry about - totally contrarian to conventional wisdom about this breed of canines. Evidently the promise of Jambughoda palace to provide a tryst with nature goes beyond flora and extends to the fauna!

Bruno the miniature daschund who'd adopted us, reclining in one of the wicker chairs in our room
Bruno's all curled up in the sitting area outside our room


Anyway, one afternoon we were soaking in the sun on the verandah post lunch, with Bruno curled up on a stool. The Rottweiler ambled across to Ritika, his tail wagging, and she reached out a hand to pet him on the head. In a flash, jealous little Bruno leapt at the Rottweiler from his perch and chased him all the way back to the kennels, barking shrilly throughout that time! You can well imagine the incongruity of the situation, with a puny and funny looking Daschund chasing a massive Rottweiler as it ran for it's very life!

Bruno enjoys all the attention showered on him
Small dog, Big heart!


Champaner Pavagadh Archeological Park


One of the mornings we ventured out to visit Champaner (No. Nothing to do with 'Lagaan') and see the Champaner - Pavagadh archeological park. Located at a drive of around 30 minutes from the Jambughoda palace, the archeological park is a definite must see. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that this is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site!

What's intriguing is that Vanraj Chavda, a king of the Chavda dynasty constructed the city name after his...BEST FRIEND! The king actually sponsored construction of a city named after General Champa or Champaraj, and not himself. A few buildings and fortifications still stand even today. The ASI are excavating most of the other buildings at their own sweet pace. Nevertheless, once can spend a leisurely morning wandering around the ruins. They are quite beautiful, and certainly better laid out than several modern cities!

Taking a welcome break outside the Jama masjid
Welcome break after walking the fort


The Pavagadh fort and surrounding city changed hands from the Vaniyas to the Rajputs. From the Rajputs it passed to Alauddin Khilji. From them back to Rajputs. Ultimately the Gurjars took over only to lose it to the Sultan of Begada. This game of musical chairs was finally put to rest by Humayun. He defeated the Sultan, and drove everyone from the capital for good. In the time honoured tradition practised by Muslim invaders, when the Sultan defeated the Gurjars, he asked the Gurjar ruler, Raval Jaisingh, to convert to Islam or face death. He chose death. His son didn't. The Sultan gave him the moniker 'Nizam ul Mulk' and appointed appointed him Sultan of Champaner. Bottomline is that you can see mosques, Hindu temples & Jain mandirs all co - existing in various states of disrepair all over the archeological site. Or whatever part has been excavated so far.

Interestingly, the Jama Masjid looks like a perfect example of a Hindu temple. This was apparently built in the mid 16th century. The mosque is laid out exactly like a temple would be, with 172 pillars and domes. Obviously, the Sultan Mehmood Begada converted the temple to a mosque. Our historians, most of who are 'certified' geniuses, have credited him with its construction.

Ruins of a temple at PAVAGADH
Part of the ruins at the Champaner Heritage Site


News Years Eve


While the days at Jambughoda were comfortable, the nights would get freezing cold. Or at least for us Mumbaikars they were freezing cold. On New Years eve, Yuvrani Saheb had had organised a little do on their lawns.

Heading to the News Years eve party on the lawns of Jambughoda palace
All set for New years dinner at the lawns


There was some amazing food, a live singer on an acoustic guitar and an 'angeethi' with live coals at every table. These all came together beautifully and we spent a happy couple of hours enjoying our last evening in Jambughoda palace.

Mother and son bond at the New Years eve party
Tables all spaced out so everyone has privacy & your own personal angeethi!


Jambughoda Palace to Mumbai by Road


Early next morning, the Batras took a taxi to Vadodara from where they flew into Mumbai. As for us, we started driving back around 0800Hrs towards Mumbai. The NH 48 was by now an old familiar friend, and in no time we'd crossed Vadodara, zipping on towards Mumbai. We snacked in the car itself, eschewing a stop for breakfast, and by 1300Hrs were close to Talasari, and the Hotel Ahura.

The Hotel Ahura is bang on NH 48, and serves authentic Parsi cuisine. Our by now ravenous group gorged on everything from Akuri to Salli boti, paatrani machhi to farcha and dhansak! We rounded off the sumptuous meal with dollops of Lagan nu custard. For good measure, we also raided their bakery (yes, they have one) on the way out, carrying parcels of cookies and other goodies back home.

The drive from here to home is barely a 100Kms and by 1600Hrs or so we were back home. Although the drive was a little tiring, yet the sojourn was refreshing enough to take on a few more months of routine before our next road trip!

After our sojourn at The Pench National Park, the Jambugha Palace was a perfect end to our ongoing tryst with nature!

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