The 16th century Deo Bagh Palace is an enchanting heritage property that prides in retaining old -world charm and ambience. Laid out in Mughal style, it has been constantly built upon by successive owners of the Jadhav family.
I have always been mesmerised by this enchanting blend of history, architecture and environment, so exploring India’s hidden jewels comes naturally to me. Hence, when the question of reviewing Deo Bagh came up, my answer could be nothing but a big yes!
The road leading to the property may make you wonder if you made the right choice, once you go past the gates it’s a different world altogether. Deo Bagh is a tranquil haven in the midst of the buzzing city of Gwalior. Deo Bagh bears the essence of history and architecture of Gwalior for over four centuries.
Deo Bagh is an archaeological gem that houses a unique tapestry of two 17th-18th century Maratha temples, splendid cenotaphs and one pavilion with 36 arched gateways called chattisdari which makes Deo Bagh stand out from other heritage hotels.
Calling Deo Bagh a hotel would be a gross understatement. It is an enchanting experience to be relished and cherished. It is a charming souvenir from your travel memories that you will savour for years. Whether it is residing in its simplistic, yet tasteful rooms or exploring its fruit orchards and the cacophony of birds or wandering around its immaculately manicured lawns or losing yourself in its exquisite in-house temples or simply relinquishing the delectable cuisines or laze under its gigantic trees or better still, enjoy an open barbeque lunch, Deo Bagh will mesmerise you at every step with its serenity, luxury and lifetime experiences on offer.
A premium heritage ‘non-hotel’ hotel on the outskirts of Gwalior, Deo Bagh bears a distinct character and charm. It is a garden palace replete with old- world charm, modern amenities and courteous staff.
History has it that in the late 1500 AD famous Mughal generals camped in this ‘Char Bagh’ with a stunning chhattis-dari (36-pillared pavilion) at its heart. Its underground chamber, surrounded by water during the summer provided a cool resting place for the women. Later, as the conquering Maratha army marched towards Delhi, the Jadhavs took possession of this natural water catchment area. Sardar Deorao Bhausaheb Jadhav and his son Sardar Krishnarao Deorao Jadhav used this ‘bagh’ as a summer house with the ladies’ section in Deo Bagh and the mens’ section (now called Jadhav Kothi), the family’s current home. Important Gwalior State meetings, especially against the British – when the valiant Rani of Jhansi fought from the fort rampart close by, were held here during that time.
After India’s independence, this has been the home of Sardar Deorao Krishnarao Jadhav (that’s where the name Deo Bagh comes from), his son Sardar Dhananjayrao Deorao Jadhav and his wife the Ranisaheba. This property is continuously with the Jadhav’s – one of the five biggest jagirdars of the former princely state of Gwalior for 5 generations. Sardar Deorao Bhausaheb Jadhav and his son Sardar Sir Krishnarao Bapusaheb Jadhav used the bageecha for their elephants, stables and for picnics. His son Dhananjay and grandson Dhruv are looking after the property, so all the five generations of the family have used this jewel in different ways to suit their needs as per the changing times. New rooms have been added to accommodate guests with modern amenities built in the similar architectural style of the original house with Mughal and Maratha flair and aesthetics.
BEAUTIFUL REGAL-ERA ROOMS AND PORTICOES
The three suites and 12 spacious rooms are tastefully furnished with charming yet minimal décor, each with its own verandah with the traditional chhatri décor opening into the lush, sprawling lawn. And if you think that you are being cut off from the civilization, think again! Deo Bagh offers best of both worlds – silence and solitude like the royalty once enjoyed, while being just a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of historic Gwalior.
All the suites and rooms are named after the historical connections of the Jadhav family of Gwalior. Being a sucker for history, I stayed in a room in the old section called ‘Sakhya Raja Mahal’. It’s one of the largest rooms and has a washroom that is reminiscent of the bygone eras. The room was well lit, it opened into a portico which leads to the mammoth, manicured lawn which is the centrepoint of the Deo Bagh.
Even though my room, especially the bathroom were fit to house a royal, being an outdoorsy person, I spent ample time in its manicured lawns and chhatris. It’s quite an experience to either climb up the terrace or simply loiter around its gardens.
TEMPLES AND CENOTAPHS
There’s much more to Deo Bagh than its historical glory. What I truly found amazing about the property was the complex of ancient family temples within the hotel precincts. These temples with exquisite carvings stand as sentinels of ancient magnificence. Their beautiful setting in the midst of trees and wilderness makes them even more stunning. The temple is only open early in the morning for prayers and is closed for the rest of the day. You can wake up early to watch the ritual performed by the pujari who visits the temples every day.
Two ancient cenotaphs stand within the complex visible from all the rooms, yet subtly separated by the wilderness growing around. The two Chhatris (cenotaphs) built in 19th century are stupendous works of art and very well preserved.
The Baradari Palace is a magnificent Mughal- era structure consisting of a maze of 36 pillars called ‘chattisdari’. It is one of my favourite places in the entire property and the perfect place to sit and gaze at the peacocks or enjoy a royal meal or watch the spires of the cenotaphs visible over the trees and enjoy the breeze. The structure evokes beautiful memories of romantic Bollywood movies. The Baradari is surrounded by a moat filled with water to keep the place cool during summers.
ROYAL DINING EXPERIENCES
The dining experience at Deo Bagh is as unforgettable as the stay itself. The food menu at Deo Bagh is an interesting mix of Pan Indian and Continental with dishes from Chinese, Italian and Mexican cuisine as well.
While my teenage daughter was quite content with the western food offerings while I enjoyed the traditional Indian food. The chef was always accommodative to customise the food as per our taste. Over the two days period, we tasted variety of dishes and I can give a big thumbs up to the food quality and taste.
The highlight was the picnic lunch under a huge mango tree surrounded by the verdant beauty of nature. Chef Pramod Kumar along with his team rustled up a delicious meal on the mud tandoors. From baigan ka bharta to dal tadka, guava chutney and green tomato chutney and fresh chapatis, everything was made from scratch at this picnic venue. The guava chutney was freshly pounded on a traditional stone mortar. This was a unique experience which not many hotels can delight in. The complimentary high tea in the lush lawns is another unique selling point of Deo Bagh. Enjoying high- tea with frequently visiting peacocks was another wonderful experience.
The Char Bagh is the original and the most prominent Persian- style garden around which the property is developed. A stroll around this garden is the best way to recharge and refresh oneself. We spotted trees laden with grapefruits and the charm of sighting peacocks prancing around the lawn is spectacular. It’s such an amazing experience to relax in the garden with a book or take shade under its gigantic trees or sip a cup of tea in the portico while the beautiful birds keep fluttering around.
PRESERVING THE ENVIRONMENT
Sustainability forms the essence of Deo Bagh property. Though Deo Bagh houses modern amenities that make for a super comfortable stay, Jadhav family has been particularly emphatic about retaining the age-old trees and fruit orchards that make a pleasant home for hundreds of bird species.Currently Deo Bagh is home to more than 30 species of birds flourishing in the dense cornucopia of trees. Guava, mango and grapefruit orchards not only beautify the property but also serve organic produce to the property kitchen. Neemrana group of hotels, the operating partners of Deo Bagh are proud to serve fresh and organic produce to its guests.
HOW TO REACH DEO BAGH, GWALIOR
Deo Bagh is located in the city of Gwalior in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. It can be easily reached from New Delhi by-
Train– roughly 4 hours (I traveled by Gatiman Express from New Delhi which takes 3 hours to reach Gwalior)
Flight – flying time approximately 1 hour.
Road – approximate 5 to 6 hours.
“Guests love their stay at Deo Bagh with strong vibrations of peace and contentment amidst the ancient trees, bird songs and structures just the way I have felt despite being in the midst of a chaotic city. Neemrana Group of Hotels are perfect operating partners for us as they have the same ethics that we value. They operate with a very personal touch which provides an unforgettable experience.”
Owner, Deo Bagh, Umadevi Jadhav
The tranquil surroundings of Deo Bagh are a treat away from the din and clamour of everyday city life. The happy faces of the staff make you feel so much at home while the chef rustles up meals that satiate not only your gut but soul, too. I have to admit that I felt like a queen at Deo Bagh with a promise to return again and relive the beauty and comfort of this magnificent property. Deo Bagh should be a place on the top to-do list of every tourist. Also, the spectacular setting and beauty of Deo Bagh is becoming an increasingly popular attraction for weddings. Its stunning ground, the charming Baradari Palace and the quaint charm of the place are a popular draw as a wedding venue.
Facts you didn’t know about Deo Bagh-
- Hollywood movie ‘Singularity’ (later name changed to ‘The Lovers’) actually shot here at Deo Bagh.
- Deo Bagh has been continuously in ownership of Sardar Jadhav’s family for 5 generations
- Deo Bagh is currently home to 4 Jadhavs, 30 species of birds including 30 to 40 peacocks, fruit orchards and shrubs and creepers! Rare trees like Sita Ashoka, White Bahunia and exotic mango trees flourish in its beautiful gardens.
- Important Gwalior state meetings were held at Deo Bagh during the first war of independence.