My young teenager was restless a few days into her summer break from school. Time hung heavy with hardly anything to do. Her school friends had gone to hill stations with their parents and our child found herself lonely with both her parents unable to take a break from work. Her face lit up when during lunch one Saturday afternoon I told her to pack her tooth brush for a weekend outing. We were going to Alwar. Wife was sceptic. How could we go just like that! How will we find hotel accommodation? Weekends find all hotels overflowing with no chance of walk-in guests finding a bed. Daughter will hear none of this. ‘We will take a chance, Mom’, she said. ‘We will find something, I am sure.’ She was packed and ready in record time and we drove off.
Alwar is a historical city in Rajasthan about 150 kms from Delhi. It was the seat of Rajput rulers of the princely state of Alwar which joined the Union of India after independence in 1947. A hundred year ago in 1848 Maharaja Vinay Singh, the then ruler had built a palace for his Queen Sila overlooking a lake 20 kms from Alwar. Named after the queen, the lake is called Siliserh Lake and the palace Siliserh Palace.
We reached Alwar just after dusk and spent some time to try and find a room somewhere. No luck. All decent hotels were chockful with weekend visitors from Delhi. Wife was smiling with folded arms and a smug ‘I told you so’ expression. I was desperate. Not my daughter, though. She seemed to be having the time of her life. Happily, she egged me on to drive to the lake where, someone told us, we might get a room. If we were lucky, that is. Brooding in silence, I drove. A short drive later, with a sullen wife and a chirpy daughter, through a dark eerie forest and we were upon the silhouette of a building. It was our destination, the palace, now converted to a hotel. We entered to find the place infested with weekend revellers. Fearing worst, I approached the reception. My fears were well founded. The hotel was booked full. Just as I turned to face my wife the receptionist, probably seeing the guilt on my face, beckoned to me and asked me to find a vacant table, if I could, and wait. One room, though booked, was still not occupied. If the party did not show up till 10 pm, we would be given the room, he promised. I did manage to find a small table. Parking ourselves, I had a drink or two and of course we had a good dinner. Which we all enjoyed. All the time I kept my fingers crossed and prayed. Well, my prayers were answered. A grinning receptionist approached us and handed over a key.
It was a large room which was created by merging two original ones. There was a huge marble platform in the middle with thick foam mattresses covered with colourful Rajasthani printed sheets. All very ethnic. The three of us had a very comfortable sleep to rise early in the morning. We enjoyed a panoramic view of the lake from our balcony where had our morning cup of tea. After a sumptuous Rajasthani breakfast, we went out for a stroll which soon turned into a trek and a bit of rock climbing through big boulders. A couple of hours in the hot summer sun sent us scurrying us back to the hotel.
The most notable among the many historical monuments in Alwar is the City Palace built in the 17th century. There is a museum in the palace which showcases, apart from the luxurious life style of the rulers, various items of the royals’ personal use and the dresses they wore. And much more. The section that interested me most was displaying weapons used down the ages. As everywhere in Rajasthan, the inevitable chhatris (cenotapha) can be seen here too.