With articles flooding the internet about how Rajasthan is the home for luxury weddings and royal experiences, the dream of staying in an authentic Haveli in Jaipur was one of many doubts. There was of course the worry about the budget - most authentic restored places are now boutique hotels that charge tens of thousands per night. But when I decided to take a trip to Jaipur with my sister, we knew that staying in a haveli was a non-negotiable for us. After copious amounts of research, she discovered Jaipur Haveli.
This 200-year-old Haveli is the home of Vikram and Shubi Seth and their family, a part of which they have converted to offer an authentic haveli experience to travellers. Inspired by the many bed and breakfasts that he’s encountered on his travels, Vikram wanted to offer a similar experience. In his own words, “I liked this concept of staying at a family house. Because you learn about the culture more, because you are part of the family. And because you're doing and learning less touristy things."
While there were a million little things that made the stay at Jaipur Haveli wonderful, it would primarily have to be broken down into the story, the aesthetics and most importantly, the people.
The History and Aesthetics
While we did book the place knowing that the Haveli had a veritable history to it, we were not ready for how rich the history was. It was purchased in 1921 by the current owner’s great-grandfather Ramjimalji after having to move from Patna to Jaipur after the black fever claimed the lives of their kin. After fleeing from their ancestral land with his younger brother, they learnt the craft of jewellery making and made a name for themselves. The haveli which was originally built in 1744 is perhaps as old as Jaipur itself and is set in the busy street of Johri Bazaar. While they don’t know more in detail about the owners before them, Vikram did tell me that he does have the old registration papers for the property with details of the previous owners.
While the initial restoration of the haveli took one year and 40 people, it continues to be an ongoing process. Through every step of the restoration, they have been attempting to retain the original character and details of the Haveli, by following traditional methods to ensure its architectural integrity is preserved.
The finer details of every corner of Jaipur Haveli are a testament to the artisanship that has gone into the haveli. From the stained glass jharokhas of the common room to the hand-painted facades of the haveli, to the hand-carved stone inlays that are peppered throughout the property, they speak to its rich heritage and culture. Offering 8 rooms to stay in - from a single room with hand painted walls to luxurious suites with a dedicated lounge area - they all have something unique to offer. There is also the beautiful terrace to venture out to, where you can get a bird’s eye view of Johri Bazaar which makes it a truly wonderful experience. While I could go on about the history and aesthetics of the Jaipur Haveli which is what brought me to the place, I’ll have to say that the people and experience are what truly elevated the experience.
The People and Experience
From Vikram, who continues to be in the family business of crafting jewellery while running the haveli and always stops by for a chat, to the bhaiyya who took us personally to courier our substantial purchase from Johri Bazaar (at a special rate, since he is a familiar), our stay in Jaipur Haveli was most importantly about the little moments.
There were fresh Parathas for breakfast and dinner options that featured seasonal favourites like Mooli Ki Sabzi and finished with delectable Gajar Ka Halwa. But what meant even more, was how it was served. Praveen uncle - Vikram's father - would drop by and make sure we were served roti after roti, urging us to have another helping, and always asking if we needed anything - a true experience of being a house guest, and not merely a tenant.
They had an auto driver who took us to visit units that did block printing and made precious jewellery. Sure, he got a commission if we made a purchase and you needed a whole new level of acumen to fight off the attempts of the salesmanship of the people at these shops to stay on budget. But we still appreciated the fact that we got to witness the makings of these things which we never would’ve been able to discover, if not for someone with local knowledge.
It was surprising perhaps to us, that it was just the two of us who were Indian guests in this beautiful property. Most of the other guests were overseas travellers who were seeking an authentic stay and were willing to go with the understandable limitations of staying in a centuries-old home. While Jaipur Havelis double room might be smaller than that of a run-of-the-mill hotel at similar pricing, it offered an experience that was far beyond the average hotel. It was like getting to experience life as a local in Jaipur - cutting through lanes and complexes on foot to save time, and skipping the touristy bazaars to find wholesale vendors who would do right by you.
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