Nestled amidst a lush green backdrop of rolling hills and sparkling waterfalls of the rich and diverse Eastern-Indian countryside is The Belgadia Palace. An 18th century victorian brick-built double-storey structure in the classical Western style of Doric–Corinthian column, a mixture of Greek and Victorian architecture. Home to the erstwhile royal family of Mayurbhanj, this boutique homestay invites guests to take a trip down memory lane and introduces the idea of purposeful travel by engaging with the local tribal community and through curated tours to truly explore the state of Odisha, the soul of incredible India. This unique blend of old and new is encapsulated at this off beat location which is an adventure lovers paradise a few hours from the Simlipal, an Elephant and Tiger UNESCO Biosphere, the second largest national park in India.
The Belgadia Palace’s construction began on the orders of Maharani Sumitra Devi Bhanj Deo in 1804, who ruled the state from 1796 to 1810. In phased development, the palace gets its aura of majesty with intricate designs being added during the rule of her descendents who used it as a royal guest house for state visitors. The present interiors are designed on the orders of the Bhanja dynasties most famous ruler Sri Ram Chandra Bhanj Deo, popularly known as ‘The Philosopher King’ for his second wife Maharani Sucharu Devi, daughter of Keshab Chandra Sen, founder of the Brahmo Samaj movement famous during the Bengal Rennaisance.
The palace sits on a raised hill overlooking sprawling lawns on either side, with the entrance highlighted by a long drive-in with indigenous flora and fauna dotting either side and ending at the Elephant Porch or “Hathi Baramdah”, which is a high arched porch built to accommodate the ruler when he would mount the howdah on an elephant for ceremonial processions. The double storied mansion with turrets flanked on either side, has rooms envisioned for work and leisure with the Maharajah and Maharani wing having black and white checkered marble verandahs overlooking the sprawling lawns, with the royal insignia embossed along the glass windows. A natural lake is situated at one border and a manicured walking path criss crosses the entire estate. The open verandahs were meant to be viewing parlours for the women of the family to watch the chhau performances at the main lawn, a martial arts dance form that were practiced by the state military and flourished under the patronage of the erstwhile rulers.
The present renovation echoes the golden era of the state with furniture and upholstery being repurposed from the original palace, whose exterior was built to be a replica of The Bukingham Palace. The annals of history come alive with vintage vinyl records, persian carpets, old world chandeliers and century old oil paintings placed along the halls and porches of the estate. The paintings and art around the palace juxtapose the untamed and ethereal beauty of the district. Nothing like the smell of monsoons hitting the red laterite soil as you lounge in the verandah enjoying the natural landscape!
The suites offer hints and whispers of a royal era with the dark winding mahogany staircase at the lobby draped with a red carpet used for receiving the Maharajah, connecting the first floor rooms to the upper chambers. With each step into the palace the jewel toned colors have a soothing effect with soft wooden finishes transporting you to a bygone era.
The Belgadia Palace
The palace’s restoration to its former glory included landscaping of its surrounding, fruit and flower orchards and an organic farm for a fresh array of local cuisines served on embossed cutlery. The careful restoration of its interiors was done in stages keeping in mind the unique pieces of furniture and furnishings handcrafted for the family. Additionally, the rooms have antiques and collections of artwork belonging to the royal family from their travels around the world. The modern and lux design of its interior contrasts the ancient and ornate architecture of its exterior making the property and its surroundings a walk through the annals of history.
The present day occupants of the palace, apart from the Maharajah, include the present Queen mother and the Queen of Mayurbhanj who belong to the royal families of Nepal and Jaisalmer respectively. Each of them bring their own aesthetic to the unique interiors which include 10 rooms, each designed.
Belgadia Palace is 3.5 hours from Kolkata
Belgadia Palace is 3.5 hours from Jamshedpur
Belgadia Palace is 3.5 hours from Bhubaneshwar
Belgadia Palace is 5.5 hours from Puri
Belgadia Palace is 6.5 hours from Ranchi
Belgadia Palace Mayurbhanj has the following tours to offer:
- Tribal Tourism – visit a tribal village and witness age old art forms with them such as Dhokra and learn dying arts such as chhau (martial arts dance form).
- Arts Tourism – visit villages and learn the different art forms such as black stone carving with visits to famous temples to understand the intricate architecture native to Odisha (Khiching). The temple of Kichakeswari at Khiching, built entirely of chlorite slabs is unique of its kind in India. A plethora of other temples also dominate the place some of which are still in active worship. The small museum situated here boasts of highly important historical specimens of sculpture, art and architecture.
- Wildlife and Nature Tourism: One of India’s most famous wildlife parks, Barheipani Falls, Simlipal National Park, Jaranda Falls are the must see attractions of this place. It is highly distinguished for its intensively dense forested lands, green vegetation and unique wildlife. Deokund, a beautiful scenic spot amidst green forests, has a picturesque waterfall. The hill top temple of Goddess Ambika is a special attraction of the place.Bhimkund a waterfall is a place of pilgrimage and is a scenic tourist spot
- Colonial Heritage Tourism – visiting building and structures that were constructed before the British entered india and pre independence such as the railway, air strip, Rani’s Dharamsala (old hotel built in 1904 for pilgrims and tourists), palace temple built in the 1930s,original royal palace with a 106 rooms and multiple courtyards, Haripur which was the original palace of the bhanja kings.
- Haripur comes within the Baripada subdivision and at a distance of 10miles from Baripada. It was the former capital of the state of Mayurbhanj before it was shifted to Baripada. The vast ruins afford ample and interesting material for antiquarian research.It was named after the Maharajah of Mayurbhanj Shri Harihar Bhanja who founded this place as the Capital in 1322, shifted from Khiching and later on is famous as Haripurgarh.
- Events/Festivals: Rath Yatra: Rath Yatra, also known as Car festival of Lord Jagannath is a very prominent festival of Simlipal city. Rath Yatra is popular for its distinctive culture and feel. One of the unique customs of this Yatra is women pulling the Ratha of Maa Subhadra and the devotees gather from every corner of the country to enjoy this festival.