Nestled amidst a lush green backdrop of rolling hills and sparkling waterfalls of the rich and diverse Eastern-Indian countryside is The Belgadia Palace. It is an 18th-century Victorian brick-built, double-storey structure, in the classical Western style of Doric-Corinthian column, a mixture of Greek and Victorian architecture. Home to the erstwhile royal family of Mayurbhanj, this boutique homestay invites guests to take a trip down memory lane. It introduces the idea of purposeful travel by engaging with the local tribal community through curated tours to truly explore the state of Odisha, the soul of incredible India. This unique blend of old and new is encapsulated at this offbeat location which is an adventure-lovers paradise, a few hours from the Simlipal, an Elephant and Tiger UNESCO Biosphere that is Asia’s second-largest biosphere.
Let’s take a tour of the history of this beautiful Palace. The Belgadia Palace’s construction began on the orders of Maharani Sumitra Devi BhanjDeo in 1804, who ruled the state from 1796 to 1810. In phased development, the Palace gets its aura of majesty with intricate designs being added during the rule of her descendants who used it as a royal guest house for state visitors. The present interiors are designed on the orders of the Bhanjja dynasty’s most famous ruler Sri Ram Chandra BhanjDeo, popularly known as ‘The Philosopher King’ for his second wife Maharani Sucharu Devi, daughter of Keshab Chandra Sen, founder of the BrahmoSamaj movement and one of the key personalities of the Bengal Renaissance.
This Palace upholds an alluring history and heritage. A careful restoration of its interiors was done in stages keeping in mind the unique pieces of furniture and furnishings handcrafted for the family. Additionally, the rooms have antiques and collections of artwork belonging to the royal family from their travels around the world. The modern and lux design of its interior contrasts the ancient and ornate architecture of its exterior, making the property and its surroundings a walk through the annals of history.
The present-day occupants of the Palace, apart from the Maharajah, include the present Queen mother and the Queen of Mayurbhanj who belongs to the royal families of Nepal and Jaisalmer respectively. Each of them brings their aesthetic to the unique interiors which include ten rooms, each designed to highlight the numerous personalities who have either visited the Palace or have connections to the erstwhile royal family of Mayurbhanj.
It takes 3.5 hours from Kolkata and Bhubaneswar to reach this temple of beauty. Once one reaches here, a detailed tour of the property will be given by a family member. One also gets to meet a Dokra artisan on the property to help them understand the handicraft which is displayed in the Palace Library. Dokra is an ancient metal casting technique which is prominent to the Mayurbhanj district. Cycles, binoculars and bird handbooks are provided to the guests to help them roam around the town or inside the 15-acre property and bird watching amidst the Mango Orchards.
Guests can also indulge in some rejuvenating activities like painting/drawing; to maintain the social distancing and hygiene protocols, individual canvases and sets are provided by the management. Besides this, one can also watch a movie on a projector and book a room if they want to. Badminton court (only in winters) and board games are available too. One can also book a steam and spa room on prior bookings where basic salon services are offered with health and hygiene protocols.
Protocols as per the WHO guidelines and the Govt of India (MoT standards) are practised here. Mask and sanitizers are provided in all luxurious rooms and reception desk. The staff, too, is informed and made aware of the importance of maintaining hygiene protocols. Prior to guest arrival, the rooms are sanitized and fumigated with a disinfectant spray 24 hr after the checkout; the room is left vacant and aired. In case one is looking forward to leisure time in the outside garden while maintaining social distancing, performances can be arranged on request. With 15-acre farmland, this Palace allows guests to walk around with ease and enjoy the heritage experience.