A design journey into the local arts of Rajasthan, The Leela Palace Jaipur inspires from ancient traditions to create a resplendent palace that shines silver from the outside and glimmers with gold inside.
By: Soumya Jain Agarwal
Posted on: September 20, 2022
LF Says: ★★★★★
The Leela Palace Jaipur has 70 water bodies to keep you calm and cool in the heat of Jaipur.
‘A Royal Experience’ – this is quite a generous phrase that can include a lot. Subjective and undefined, what is the limit of a royal experience? I learnt a long time ago that at Leela properties there is no limit to a royal experience. It extends from a tiny corner of your room to the expansive pool at the center of their hotels. From the ornate spoon in their restaurants to the artwork on the walls.
The Leela Palace Jaipur, however, is the perfected royal concept from the hotel group I feel. Because even after all my experiences with them, they still managed to surprise me, charm me with their hospitality, magnanimity, and true love for guest comfort. Nowhere else in the world, at any other property, have I ever experienced such genuine need to truly satisfy a guest.
A fine welcome
One fine day in March, we drove a smooth three hours from Delhi to land at The Leela Palace Jaipur. The majestic white gateway, adorned with silver foil work, set the tone for the trip. Even then, the view inside is completely breathtaking. Entering the gates opened up our vision to the Palace – also in white – standing proud in front of the majestic Aravalli Hills. The hills afford an elevated view while, like all Leela properties, this Palace too covers a large area. Even then, the high walls ensconce you in an atmosphere that is intimate and private.
Leela has a gentleness in its atmosphere, which is something they create through the gushing of water bodies, melodious santoor music, large proportion artworks and chandeliers, right blend of neutrals and typically Indian bright shades, just enough calming greenery and ever-courteous staff.
As we drove up to the main courtyard, liveried caretakers holding colourful umbrellas to shield us from the famous Rajasthani heat, strode up to handle our luggage. As we were escorted inside, live musicians soothed us with melodious tabla and santoor tunes.
A quick temperature check and sanitizer application later we were inside the royal lobby of the hotel. Leela has a gentleness in its atmosphere, which is something they, consciously or subconsciously, create through the gushing of water bodies, melodious santoor music, large proportion artworks and chandeliers, right blend of neutrals and typically Indian bright shades, just enough calming greenery and ever-courteous staff.
A swift check-in later, we found ourselves hopping into a Rolls-Royce style buggy (yes, Rolls-Royce styled, not kidding!), traversing through the by lanes of the property, which features 200 rooms and suites.
...ultimately, it feels like home. A very inviting home.
On the way to your abode, you will come across their three restaurants (Sukh Mahal, Mohan Mahal and Preet Mahal), the bar Jharokha, the Spa, the gymnasium, and a pool that has a royal touch with the Baradari (covered seating area with doorways to help create tunnels of cool air) and a blazing fire feature. See the fire against the pool at night to feel the magic. Smaller hot pools under domes complete this common area which forms the center of the hotel.
You could choose to book the regular rooms (although nothing is regular at Leela), but if you want a truly unique, regal experience, pick from one of their villas. They have villas with terrace, villas with plunge pools and villas with courtyard. We stayed at the Royal Villa with Plunge Pool, and it turned out to be a lavish experience.
Opening the main door of the walled villa, you step into the courtyard which has a brilliant plunge pool flanked by traditional Rajasthani paintings and a tiny fountain. A small seating arrangement leads to an outdoor cabana tent which hosts almost a king size bed, side tables, revolving fans, and a blissfully private mood. Next to the cabana, another door takes you inside your room – which is not a usually neutral shade, but a lovely, vintage pink, highlighted by thikri artwork (more on that later), has a marble bathroom with separate areas and a small wardrobe area. The room looks out to the plunge pool, giving a soothing sight to your vacationing eyes. But ultimately, it feels like home. A very inviting home.
Paint, Foil, Carve
To put it simply, the entire Palace is meant to look like one, immersed in a design philosophy that is influenced by both Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. After all, there are many similarities between the two. There are jaals, hand painted wall frescos depicting traditional Rajasthanis at leisure or dance, and 70 water bodies that keep you calm with their trickling sound. The plenty use of water bodies also helps the hotel to stay naturally cool in the blistering heat of Jaipur.
Arayash, a lesser-known, painstaking, detailed technique of painting minute, swirling florals and fauna on the wall using limestone and natural dyes, is done extensively along the property. You will see it in City Palace and other landmarks of Jaipur, and you’ll see it walls, pillars, corners, and even at Leela’s main lobby (called Tulsi Mahal).
The Arayash paint work is accompanied with silver foil paint at a lot of places, giving the hotel a glistening look. Even the domes are painted silver! The wabi sabi, or imperfect, nature of the artworks are testament to the fact that these are all handiwork of artists, employed over a long duration to be able to achieve such a magnum sized project.
The pride of the place, however, goes to Thikri. It’s another local technique which involves inlaying tiny mirror pieces to form traditional Rajasthani motifs and subjects. Almost seeming like a seamless mirror, Thikri art involves detailed handwork. And you’ll see lots of it at The Leela Palace Jaipur. Beautiful Thikri artworks sparkle in the right light, and in the case of Mohan Mohal, Leela Jaipur’s specialty restaurant, it casts a fiery glow which will absolutely enchant!
Tulsi Mahal features thikri art and a marble fountain inspired by one in Red Fort, Delhi.
Tulsi Mahal begins your art journey at Leela Jaipur. A grand masterpiece of Thikri shines from behind the staff desks. A massive, royal chandelier hangs from the ceiling which is resplendent with jaali work and Arayash paintings. Pop coloured sofas add vibrancy to an elegant lobby. The pride of the place also goes to the marble fountain in the center, which is an exact replica of one found in The Red Fort, New Delhi.
Outside, you’ll find yourself walking among pathways that are lined with palm trees and lush greenery, some wild and some pruned meticulously. Delicate smells of jasmine (said to be the favourite flower of Leela Nair, Capt. C. P. Krishnan Nair’s wife) waft around, especially at night. It is combined with melodious tunes that play all around, even outside, always, at just the right volume. Carved marble benches and walls painted with vibrant peacocks take you on a mesmerizing journey. The majestic backdrop of Aravalli Hills ensconces you in a dream world. You wish you could just walk forever… Exquisite!
Peacocks are frequent visitors to this property, thus inviting the many references to this regal bird. The Peacock Courtyard, where a fountain is graced by two beautifully carved peacocks, leads to Sukh Mahal. Traditional arches are combined with marble, modern flooring, contemporary furniture, and a cluster of vibrant lights in the center to form Sukh Mahal, the all-day, multi-cuisine dining restaurant at Leela Jaipur.
The Peacock Courtyard
Preet Mahal, their specialty Italian restaurant, is possibly the most contemporarily designed restaurant, and quite defies the entire aesthetic philosophy of The Leela Palace Jaipur, but not in an unwelcome way. Rattan and upholstered wooden furniture are accented with floral cushions. Round lighting scones on the wall add an artistic, en vogue touch. Marble flooring completes the look.
Jharokha Bar elevates the entire meaning of a ‘bar’ with its completely unique take on the décor here. Not dark, dingy or wooden, there is this characteristic Leela touch to this place. The designers at Leela know how to amalgamate rich fabrics with bold shades and neutral balances. Chesterfield sofas, floral chairs, lively cushions, mirror jharokhas, hanging hookahs, wooden screens, a bar that is smart yet unobtrusive, and stunning mood lighting make up Jharokha Bar.
While Mohan Mahal deserves a separate article, Hawa Mahal – located on the terrace of the hotel – is a collection of private domed spaces accented with beautiful lighting. The view is enviable as you stand amidst the majestic presence of Aravalli. So you can book the space and host a private event or an intimate dinner at Hawa Mahal.
Hawa Mahal – located on the terrace of the hotel – is a collection of private domed spaces accented with beautiful lighting. The view is enviable as you stand amidst the majestic presence of Aravalli.
Talking about hosting spaces, The Leela Palace Jaipur has an entire wing (almost) full of banquet spaces (one of which is pillarless), a vast garden with a beautiful backdrop made of thikri, and a special lobby (Kamal Mahal) which is only for the purpose of guests who come to attend events. Where Tulsi Mahal had a soothing ambiance, Kamal Mahal has a sprightly design accented by mirrors and an armoury wall with swords and shields, harking back to a royal warrior era. Two hand carved, life-size elephants stand proud at the entrance of the event garden.
To end where I began, The Leela Palace Jaipur’s definition of luxury spans every brushstroke that has been made to make the hotel look like the palace that it is. It’s architecture and design are just a precursor to the experiences that lie ahead.
LF Says: ★★★★★
Coordinates: Jaipur-Delhi Highway, NH 11, Kukas, Rajasthan 302028, India