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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

The Rajbari Bawali: A passion project of 10 years in the making

A 300-year old, regal haveli built by an army officer who was gifted a huge portion of land by the Mughal Emperor…

By Mr Ajay Rawla
Owner of the Rajbari Biwali

When my friends ask me what the Rajbari is like, I refer to the Beatles song that goes, “I give her all my love, that’s all I do, if you saw my love, you’d love her too.” That’s how I feel about The Rajbari. Just her aura and presence – this grand old lady has my whole heart.

When you travel to India, you want to feel that sense of timeless romance. It’s crazy what I found here in Bengal. A 300-year old, regal haveli built by an army officer who was gifted a huge portion of land by the Mughal Emperor as a reward for quelling a rebellion. When I first came across this place it was in an Angkor Wat-like state. There were no floors because the banyan trees had run through every corner and crevice. It took us 10 years to restore with help from amazing artisans hailing from Murshidabad, the old capital of Bengal and known for its craft. We never hired an interior designer or architect because we wanted to do everything organically.

I designed everything in a way as to maintain her integrity. Anything else would be like putting too much make-up on a lady. It never looks quite right. It’s our inner beauty that’s most honest and befitting. She’s 300 years old – she’s not trying to be a cheeky young babe. Whether it’s the old Italian marble, the Burmese teak floors or even the table lamp I made from an antique brass pot, the décor encapsulates a romantic period that stays true to the time it was built.

When it comes to the wide and varied food we offer, the highlight is of course Bengal’s amazing seafood. It’s superbly flavoured, especially the fish in banana leaf which I love. We also do a dish with tiny shrimp accompanied by a kind of spinach and a hint of mustard. It’s called potol bata chingris – absolutely superb.

We can orchestrate spectacular private dinners on our rooftop that overlooks the entire estate. Sometimes we bring our guests out to the paddy fields for breakfast. Come sunset we can take you out on a country-style boat onto the river where you might even see dolphins. It’s really quite lovely with musicians serenading you and sundowners in hand.

All I can say is, be prepared to have a great time.

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Alfred & Mr Ajay Rawla

Ajay is a 3rd generation Punjabi living in Bengal or, “Bongjabi” as he calls himself. He is an environmentalist with a keen eye for architecture and design and a passion to unearth the untold stories of the past. With experience in construction as well as fashion goods, restoring the 300-year old Rajbari haveli was one of his greatest projects. Ajay’s love of music, arts and cuisine helps him create delightful experiences that set the bar high