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Heavenly Refuge
Text by Nisha Jhangiani
Published: Volume 18, Issue 11, November, 2010

Fed to obesity, massaged to immobility and pampered silly – Nisha Jhangiani basks in the indulgence of Udaivilas and attains a nirvana of ecstasy

A vast expanse of ochre-washed domes seems to welcome me into its embrace as my shikara boat glides towards its epicentre. I walk past a manicured garden, paved with granite and marble ebony and ivory stone, walled in by filigree Rajasthani architecture. I admire the muted grandeur of the gold-leaf ceiling reception, replete with softly gushing marble fountain as refreshments and scented cold towels are passed to me. Then, it’s a leisurely walk past sundials, water bodies, lush foliage and a series of cottages to reach my own oasis with a semi-private attached pool. Though constructed as a 30-acre stretch of single storey structures, the Udaivilas presents a panoramic view of sights on different levels from my private patio, thanks to an undulating hillside that it has been built upon.

I sink into my freestanding egg-shaped tub, which faces a wide window that views the craggy peaks of the Aravalli range. Rejuvenated, I sample the complementary platter of savouries placed by my sitting area along with silver bowls of rose petal water and flavoured iced teas. As I sit on the cushioned window ledge and stare at the aquamarine hue of my pool, I can feel the magic of this unparallelled resort enveloping me.

My eyes reluctantly open to the sound of peacocks calling. I stroll to the ‘Bada Mahal’, a structure built by the erstwhile Maharana as a hunting lodge for rest and animal sightings. The stone steps lead to an open courtyard from where I can watch deer and the emerald feathered birds being fed. Roop Singhji, caretaker of this property since the past three decades, explains the intricacies behind the fresco paintings of the Mahal. Outside, a private dining experience of a fresh, traditional meal is being organised for a party of ten.

The spa beckons. I enjoy a dip in its private pool (a second, bigger pool can be accessed from a section of rooms on the highest level of the hill) and then gaze dreamily from a mini-domed pavilion as Mezze samplers and a Bloody Mary while away the evening with me.

And finally, it is time to enter the two-storey orb of heady aromas, burning incenses and an aura of majestic opulence with its crystal chandelier, vast atrium and outdoor courtyard which is ideal for frittering away yet more minutes as a health menu is plated for you.

The gentle, rhythmic and fragrant bergamot and lavender massage lulls me into another nap; I only waken to a milk and rose bath supplemented with chilled flutes of champagne.

‘Sheesh Mahal’, also known as the Candle Room, flickers with a golden light that scatters a halo of twinkling stars on the walls that have been enhanced with local ‘thekri’, a form of mirror work. I pass this exquisite refuge to get to Udai Mahal, the evening restaurant whose signature dome replicates a magnificent night sky (The adjoining ‘Surya Mahal’ operates as a day dining room with a sunny sky dome). Gatta shaak, finger-licking laal maas, tawa tikkis, ker sangri, pudina parathas and a generous carafe of red wine make for my choice of meal. It’s a miracle I manage to make it back to my haven before collapsing on my specially organised contour pillows.

The next morning calls for freshly squeezed juice, buttery croissants, crisp dosas and masala akuri by the sun loungers facing my pool. I attempt a tour of the City Palace followed by a screening of the royal crystal and glass collections, but am quickly drawn back to my sanctuary of sumptuous comfort. The day goes by reading, dozing, nibbling and face-spritzing by the spa pool and before I know it, the appointed hour for my 90-minute facial arrives. The late afternoon extends to dusk and then nightfall as I veer from steam to manicure, pedicure and even a perfect haircut; I glance at the state-of-the-art gym but the Udaivilas is not an experience to be wasted on unnecessary activity.

I dine outdoors. After the gluttony of the past 36 hours, I now opt for a lighter, simpler spread of aglio olio spaghetti, pesto cream penne, crusty pizza, crunchy salads and a risotto and ravioli here and there. My nerves feel stretched to utter relaxation, my mind is refreshingly uncluttered and my soul feels one with nature and universe. It’s no wonder I fall into deep, unencumbered slumber once more.

I could weep as the hour of leaving draws closer. A reassurance from the gods above pacifies my sorrow heart; I chance upon Tijori, a treasure trove of cashmeres, jewels and Rajasthani knick-knacks settled amidst one more tinkling span of gently cascading waterfalls. A diamond bracelet from Jaipur’s acclaimed Gem Palace calls out to me. I impulsively approve this extravagant purchase as an eternal memento of a weekend that has taken me to the height of divine pleasure. Udaivilas, I will return to your golden abode to seek my peace once more...

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