Standing true to its name, Noor Mahal (noor meaning brilliance in urdu) is a union of the Rajputana and Mughal styles of architecture. Nine years ago, when Mrs Binny Choudhary, the Managing Director of Noor Mahal (and also the brain behind most of its intricate details) took a wrong turn on the Delhi-Jaipur highway and somehow landed in the adjoining jungles, she had absolutely no idea that the banjaras she would meet there would sell her one of the quirkiest attractions of her 10-acres property. She bought two baghghis made of interlocking woods that now proudly stand at the hotel’s largest courtyard, the Diwan-E-Khas, and make unwavering demands for attention.
It’s not just the baghghis that tell a story at Karnal’s Noor Mahal. From the centuries-old door on display at the main hall (procured from the Bikaner Haveli) to the Maharaja of Patiala’s shikaar bar and the planters in the lobby that are actually dholaks from Palampur to the lights made from elephant tooth, every detail at this hotel is well-thought.
The five-star luxury resort is not just the perfect getaway for the young crowd of the capital, but also a sought-after wedding destination seeped in royalty.
This palace-hotel has 125 rooms, with a presidential suite, six heritage suites and a royal chamber Khwabgah. The rooms are grand in scale and glamorous in aesthetics. Luxe velvet drapes, vibrant upholstery and decorative detailing, the rooms are a testimony to a rich royal history. Flaunting two colossal bedrooms, a living and dining area, a bar, a study and a private terrace, the Khwabgah is what dreams are made of. It sprawls over an area of 2,700 square feet (approximately the size of a lavish five bhk apartment). Mrs Choudhary’s son recalls how his mother, who is overly possessive and sentimental about this royal space, once had to be convinced to let Hema Malini spend a night in the suite!
The Khwabgah takes you back in time to the regal lifestyle of the maharajas and every detail throws light on the insane amount of thought put in its making. For example, the bar is actually the chajja of an old house brought all the way from Amritsar. The dining table is a door auctioned from a Rajasthani haveli and the chairs are windows of forts.
On a regular day during the wedding season, Noor Mahal hosts around 8-9 weddings with couples travelling from as far as Guwahati, Gwalior and overseas to tie the knot. The in-house salon, run by acclaimed MUA Tarun Kapoor, is where brides take up their beauty game. From the ghodi wallas and the mehendi wallas to the shehnai wallas and halwais, the management looks after everything to take the load off your shoulder. Colourful cabanas adorn the Jal Mahal (the poolside) for a picturesque mehendi ceremony. The well-manicured Rani Bagh and Raja Bagh offer the perfect setting for a luxe outdoor wedding, while the ballrooms Sheesh Mahal, Rang Mahal and Darbar Hall give enough reasons to love a grand indoor affair.
The hopeless romantics will find solace at the Noor-e-Mehtab, the terrace venue for an intimate starlit nuptial under the moon! Over the years, the hotel has happily served an array of clients and met their unique gastronomical demands- for a typical marwari wedding food is cooked in shuddh desi ghee and a special Satvik menu is curated for Jain weddings.
A 24*7 coffee house, confectionery, an eponymous setup designed in the form of the oldest dining mail in the country and a colonial style bar, the dining experience at Noor Mahal is something that stays in your memory and taste buds for days after your check out.
The in-house restaurant, Frontier Mail, takes inspiration from the 87 years old train that ran from Colaba in Bombay to Peshawar en route all the cantonments. The Noor Mahal edition of the rail offers a taste of the authentic cuisines of each of these cities that you can relish while sitting on trophy-shaped chairs made of tafan glass. The star of the menu remains the Pashtun kebab from Peshawar served with pulao and naan. At the Polo Bar, a fine selection of whiskey, malts and wine dominate a snooker table placed at the rear end of the dining area.
Designed by Himmat Singh Ji and finally approved by Nimish Patel, Noor Mahal is what a marriage of tradition and modern looks like. Besides the gold chandeliers and open jharokhas, one thing that you can see everywhere in Noor Mahal is pictures. Rare pictures of the maharajas of Ajmer and Bikaner playing polo, gold embroidered painting of Amritsari Sardarni worth over INR 19 lakh, and a portrait of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last king to own the famed Koh-i-Noor are a few classics from the inventory. In fact, the palace dedicates an entire section to pictures, called Tasveer Khana, in the lobby of the second floor.
Evenings at the mahal are drenched in the vibrancy of the Rajasthani culture with folk dancers and musicians performing in the dim-lit courtyards as guests sip tea with freshly baked cookies and cakes. Many would argue that if there is one corner in the hotel that is dramatically isolated from the rest of the property but still carry a larger than life charm, it is the rooftop that gives a panoramic view of Karnal city. Come closer to sunset, if you want to see the magical effect that the setting sun creates here. The gumbads turn deep-gold in shade and someone can mistake the blaze for fire.
Standing in Asht (one of the many pretty domes doting the rooftop), I can only see lush green fields for as far as my eyes can see. The wind blows my hair over my face.
At a distance, I see the illuminated buildings that now look like fireflies to me. I close my eyes and quickly promise myself to come back here soon. I now know why this place is called Noor Mahal.
How To Get There: Noor Mahal is only a three-hour drive from the capital
When To Visit: Through the year
Price: INR 7500- 20,000 depending on the room type
Book on https://www.noormahal.in/
Address: Noor Mahal Crossing, National Highway 1, Sector 32, Karnal, Haryana
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