It’s the month of Margashirsha (early November) and I am thinking of Keshavdas’ 16th-century Baramasa poems, or “the song of 12 months”. The poet writes eloquently of natural elements worth celebrating each month, while urging his beloved not to leave just yet. Keshavdas must have stayed at Bal Samand Palace and Garden Retreat when he wrote the lines about November: “Rivers and ponds are full of flowers and joyous notes of hamsas fill the air, this is the month of happiness and salvation of the soul.”
Built as a monsoon pleasure palace for Maharaja Jaswant Singh in the 17th century, Bal Samand is an idyllic oasis. It is only eight kilometres away from the centre of Jodhpur, Mehrangarh Fort, Umaid Bhavan Palace, and the bustle of the maze of galis around Clock Tower.
Bal Samand’s 60-acre estate is a sensory delight: aromatic orchards of lemon and pomegranate trees, gently rustling leaves, and twittering birds. An uphill walk through the grounds takes you past water channels to the palace’s ramparts and its delicately carved jharokhas (balconies). The restaurants overlook the Bal Samand lake, and serve Rajasthani food, including ker sangri shaak made from dried local berries.
For me, the highlight was the never-ending gardens: Each time I ventured out, I was greeted by an evanescent fragrance. At dawn, it was the honeyed perfume of sun-warmed parijat flowers; in the heat of the afternoon, the medicinal and calming smell of eucalyptus. Less botanically minded guests can go riding on one of 20 Marwari horses on the polo grounds. Hundreds of migratory birds, including flamingos and Siberian cranes, also descend on Bal Samand Lake between November and February.
I leave the hotel with a single thought: I want to come back here every month so I can truly appreciate Keshavdas’s Baramasa. Bal Samand Palace and Garden Retreat is the perfect place for that.
This story first appeared in the February 2015 issue as “Walk In The Park”.
Accommodation I stayed at one of the 26 simple but elegant Garden Rooms, formerly used as stables. A walled garden outside my room has a canopy of neem trees, my favourite. Each room has an open sit-out. Mine overlooked a blooming neem chameli tree, an atmospheric location for my morning coffee (Mandore Road, Jodhpur; 0291-2572321/2571991; balsamandgardenretreat.jodhanaheritage.com; doubles from ₹8,500).
Getting There The hotel is about 20 minutes from Jodhpur airport. The closest railway station is Rai Ka Bagh, 15 minutes from the property.