Rajasthan Refreshed

Chris Caldicott

The best new design hotels in Rajasthan are radical reinterpretations of the area’s rich architectural heritage.

Devi Ratn

A60-suite, three-villa hotel opening in April just outside Jaipur, Devi Ratn is the latest creation from Lekha Poddar and her son Anupam, the pair who made their mark with Devi Garh, a former hilltop fort–palace near Udaipur. When Devi Garh opened 11 years ago, even entrenched traditionalists were surprised and delighted by the marble-minimalist aesthetic concealed within its traditional lemon-yellow walls. With Devi Ratn, the Poddars have again created something completely modern (newly constructed buildings designed by Ahmedabad-based architect Aniket Bhagwat) while taking inspiration from another of the area’s historic sites (Jantar Mantar, the Royal Observatory of Jaipur, built in 1728). At Devi Ratn, the relationship between past and present reveals itself though a series of extraordinary shapes and structures: The raw red stone of the first great arched building appears fiery in the evening sun, and the large, circular Chakra Bar has fountains of mist swirling outside its slit windows. The suites themselves are all about the jeweled colors for which Jaipur is known—fuchsia, emerald green and blue sapphire—set off against black-and-white zigzag terrazzo floors. Suites start at $650; 91-141/305-0211; deviresorts.in.


Another Poddar venture opening in April, Rasa is comprised of 40 bright-white cubic canvas tents lined up in shining precision just beyond the snaking walls of the 16th-century Amber Fort, a 20-minute drive from Jaipur. Each has a dazzlingly simple 500-square-foot interior, with huge latticed-glass bay windows opening onto triangular verandas. Miniature bushes and squares of gravel separate the tents, which are arranged along avenues of red Jodhpur stones. At the far end stands the restaurant, almost cathedral-like with arches of soaring canvas sails. Offering modern takes on traditional Indian dishes like ajwaini jhinga (grilled tiger prawns seasoned with carom seeds), the restaurant sources many of its ingredients from Rasa’s organic gardens. Set against the acacia trees is a black-stone pool for hot Indian summers; on cool winter nights, guests can keep warm around a bonfire. The essence of stripped-down elegance, Rasa also provides every modern convenience, including WiFi and air-conditioning. Rooms start at $340; 91-124/488-8011; rasaresorts.in.


Located deep in the old city of Jodhpur, Raas is a bold mix of the old and the new. For the hotel’s November 2009 opening, three uncompromisingly modern buildings were added to the large internal courtyard of a beautifully restored 18th-century haveli, or townhouse. The result is a study in contrasts that works surprisingly well. The new buildings, hidden behind walls of jallis (traditional screens of finely pierced pink sandstone), house the hotel’s 32 rooms and four of its seven suites, while the original haveli is home to an elegant spa and the remaining three suites. The rooms are contemporary classics, beautifully done with all-natural fabrics and pink sandstone walls. Authentic Rajasthani recipes, like a mustard-flavored fish curry, are prepared at the hotel’s recently opened restaurant, Darikhana, and guests can also take their meals in the shade of the old baradari, a pillared pavilion in the center of the courtyard, or outside on a deck overlooking the pink sandstone pool. Two stylish blue motor rickshaws are available for tours around the old city’s maze of streets. Rooms start at $280; 91-291/263-6455; raasjodhpur.com.



Two hours by car from Jodhpur stands the magnificent Ahhichatragarh, or “fort of the hooded cobra,” of Nagaur. Rebuilt from an ancient mud fort in the early 12th century, it has had a long and distinguished history. But by 1985, when it was placed in the care of the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, it had fallen into disrepair. A plan for its restoration, financed in part by the Getty Foundation, was drawn up in 1992, and it has recently emerged rescued and brilliantly renovated. Within the fort, the ten havelis that once housed the ten wives of 18th-century maharaja Bakht Singh now make up the six-month-old Ranvas hotel. Remodeled as accommodations, no two havelis are the same: For example, the Jhali Ji Ki, named after the province of the rani for which it was built, features two lovely bedrooms downstairs and one upstairs with its own roof terrace. Others have different arrangements of open alcoves around the small central courtyard, each with a tiny garden space. There are no televisions in the rooms, and in addition to standard showers, the bathrooms with their old marble basins offer a modern take on the “bucket bath”: a huge brass bucket filled with hot water from the tap. Guests dine in the fort’s main courtyard, either in the pillared baradari or under huge sails of soft yellow muslin near a low bank of small banana trees—an effect copied from the famous wall paintings inside the fort. Each February, Nagaur hosts an annual Sufi Festival, where musicians play and sing among the ruins, lit by oil lamps burning in hundreds of tiny niches. During the festivities, as the words of Rumi are sung and chanted, the old life is celebrated along with the new. Rooms start at $220; 91-11/4603-5500; jodhanaheritage.com.

Made in India

Hot Pink, the Jaipur boutique from the Gem Palace’s Munnu Kasliwal and jeweler Marie-Hélène de Taillac, recently opened a second outpost in Amber Fort. In addition to jewelry, Hot Pink Amer offers clothes from cutting-edge Indian designers, handwoven scarves and home goods in bright colors. hotpinkindia.com.