My trip to the resort starts early on a Wednesday morning. The season is spring, and the road toward Meerut is nice and empty at this hour. I’m part of a press trip invited to experience the intriguingly named Mudfort.
The highway soon opens up, and hunger pangs hit. There’s an appetising array of dhabas every few kilometres, and we stop at the oldest of the lot, ‘Shiv Dhaba Mama Yadav,’ on our driver’s recommendation. Great choice, indeed— earthy kulhad chai and piping hot gobhi paranthas dripping with butter served with thick cold dahi, chutney and achaar.
Cruising onward, I feast my eyes on the scenery. Acres of sunshine yellow mustards and lush green fields line the highway. An enormous yellow sign directs us to our destination.
The 18th-century structure has high walls that give it the appearance of a small fort. A vision in white and red, it stands on a mud dune amid full mustard fields. You enter through a huge arched door and come upon an elegant white fountain with colourful flowers floating in it. The staff welcome us in traditional royal style, with garlands, music, and glasses of freshly squeezed sugarcane juice garnished with homegrown basil leaves.
Huge antelope horns hang on the main door. Antique weapons and pictures of the royal family adorn the walls. Each room is named after the ancestors of the royal family. Ajit Singh’s family were granted the Jagir of Kuchesar and the title of ‘Rao Bahadur’ by the Mughal ruler Najib-ud-Daulah. In 1794, the lease was made perpetual by Shah Alam- emperor of Delhi and confirmed again in 1803 by the British government. A descendant of the clan – Rao Gulab Singh was granted the title of ‘Raja Bahadur’ and revenue rights for the jagir.
The fort served as the erstwhile seat of Jat Kingdom of Uttar Pradesh.
My room is spacious, with a queen-size four-poster bed and a huge metal infinity tree just above the headrest. Dappled light sweeps in from the colourful glass window. I take a moment to sit and soak in the comforting silence.
Going down the stairs, I stumble upon a 300-year-old wooden butter churner tucked away in a corner. My mind travels to the time when the palace must have been filled with sari-clad women, giggling among themselves as they milked cows, singing folk songs as they churned butter for the day.
I walk around the freshly mowed lawns, dip my feet in the cool pool water, and then join the rest of the group for a tractor ride to the mango orchards, about three kilometres away. Here, among the 800 mango trees, the breeze is fresh and the fields are almost impossibly green.
It’s the stuff every city-weary soul longs for—sitting on a charpai, sipping cold buttermilk, drinking in the serenity all around.
We climb trees, chop sugarcane, wash our hands from the hand pumps and savour our lunch of rich shahi paneer, tangy chicken curry and warm gulab jamuns.
The sweet country breeze and all that food makes us drowsy. At dusk, we make our way back. The warm orange sun is silhouetted against the grey sky. Back at the palace, we shoot videos of the golden mustard fields.
At night, we gather in the lawns for a bonfire, lit around a circle of jute chairs. Old stories, anecdotes and music flow, under a blanket of navy sky studded with hundreds of stars. I munch on pillowy devilled eggs and crispy fish fingers, switching between food and fun.
Dinner is laid out in the enormous gold and white dining room with blue chandeliers on the high ceilings. It is quite a feast—slow-simmered mutton curry, homegrown mixed vegetables, chef’s special coconut laddoos drizzled with chocolate sauce.
Tired, or rather relaxed, I am out like a light the moment my head hits the pillow.
I rise early and head to the jhoola suspended from the oldest tree in the palace. They serve me my morning adrak chai, followed by chef’s special masala idlis. I enjoy a pleasant spot of reading while birds chirp in the trees and peacocks strut around. The Queen of Jasmine Country by Sharanya Manivannan is a great travel read, by the way.
We soon leave for a morning stroll to a nearby village, stopping by at a jaggery factory. Here, sugarcane juice is churned into boiling vessels. The liquid is poured into extremely hot pans which a man stirs continuously, and hot caramel is then scraped out onto mats. We are offered some to taste, it melts the moment it hits our tongue.
Walking down the narrow alleys flanked by thatched houses, we stop at a potter’s shop, who readily gives us a quick lesson on pottery. We make a few misshapen pots and happily take them along with us.
After a quick lunch, it’s time to leave for Delhi. We return with bags of jaggery, sweet memories and new bonds.
Know Before You Go
- Route: Delhi-Hapur-Kuchesar. The nearest bus and train station is Hapur.
- April to early July is the best time to visit Mudfort. The mango orchards are in full bloom.
- Must try chef’s Tiranga paneer tikka and masala idllis.
- Plan a picnic at Brij Ghat, 25 km from the property.
- Must do’s: Go bird watching, play pool at Shikari Kamra, star gaze and bonfire.
Review: Amisha Sharan