Would you believe me if I told you that I got a chance to live a fairy-tale for a day? Would you believe that this was no Disneyland but a real palace, with real a prince and princess? Would you believe that an alternate world in all it’s royal glory still exists? This fairy tale made me realise that the childhood fantasy stories we feasted on are not all fake. There’s an honesty in these tales which might not be evident, but I know it exists. If you read them carefully, it’ll peek from between the lines and make you believe in miracles. I am not advocating damsels in distress being rescued by Prince Charming. I am only advocating miracles. And hope. And a happily ever after. Even if it doesn’t have a prince in it. You get the drift?
Once upon a time when I was visiting the tribal state of Chhattisgarh, I suddenly landed inside a fairy tale, courtesy Chhattisgarh Tourism. We were guests of the royal family of Kanker, at their heritage home, the palace of Kanker. It was an experience so surreal it still feels that I’ve only imagined it. Kanker Palace brought us face to face with the legacy of a bygone era, bits and pieces of which still exist for real, creating a beautiful maze of memories. Built in 1937, the palace has an old school feel to it, typical of the buildings from the British Raj.
From the outside, it looks like just another building from the pre-independence era. But, from the inside, it has a story of it’s own, spanning lifetimes of it’s royal occupants. The Prince of Kanker, Maharaja Kumar Ashwini Pratap Deo shared tales of the dynasty and it’s days with us mere mortals. Have you listened to a fairy tale narrated by a Prince? Well, I have and I can’t stop boasting about it.
The living room of Kanker Palace was a treasure trove of legends, mostly dating back to the early 20th Century. It made history come alive in front of our eyes. Honestly, I was so lost in it’s aura that I could not even comprehend a starting point to absorb it all. Trust me, the place had more stories than one can read in a lifetime. I failed miserably at where to begin, but then an obvious beginning caught my attention. I am not sure why I was even searching for a starting point.
This beast, almost a hundred years old, stared at me from across the living room. Doesn’t it look ferocious even now? It was a man-eater who had killed eighteen people already before the king of Kanker pinned it down. The tiger was killed in a rescue operation when it was trying to slaughter a woman. Now, it rests at Kanker Palace, as a trophy of the king’s bravery and as a reminder of it’s own destiny. Don’t kings only belong in palaces?
I spent some time admiring these yellow eyes and recreating the scenes described by Prince Ashwini in my mind. It took me a while to come back to present day, and when I did, I saw some more of our friends from the wild hanging from the huge walls. Trophies? Power? Reminders of death? Just plain memories of the time hunting was allowed? I really didn’t know what to make of these, but they were fascinating to say the least.
I couldn’t even begin to count the number of stories that are caged in this cabinet.
All nooks and corners of the palace are adorned by pieces of art that are so beautiful that one could stare at them whole day. This one is traditional artwork of the region of Kanker, perfectly framed to capture it forever. Isn’t this a beauty?
I wanted to spend a leisurely afternoon in this quiet corner, reading a book. Something about this part of the palace was so inviting that I sat there, totally in awe of everything, trying to remember what good I had done to deserve this trip, and such a royal treatment. Lost in thoughts, I missed being a part of the group picture being taken with the Prince.
But, I didn’t miss a chance to get a picture clicked with the princesses. A conversation brewed in between change of lenses and camera clicks. Even though they are princesses of a kingdom that no longer exists, there is something very unique about these ladies. I got some life goals when I asked them if they believed in fairytales, or if their lives are one. I can assure you that I learnt a lesson or two in humility from the princesses of Kanker.
Conversations sprinkled with fairy dust gave way to a hearty lunch that we shared with the royal family. This was a delicious meal with local flavors playing a dominating role. A historical fan overlooked us as we relished the cuisines of Chhattisgarh.
Like all palaces, the lawns of Kanker Palace were big and beautiful and hosted an array of vintage cars. This one caught my attention.
Chhattisgarh is famous for its tribal roots and a glimpse of tribal culture was evident in the Kanker Palace lawns. The palace lawns seemed to be embracing the tribal vibe with happiness that spanned over acres of greenery.
Like most palaces in India, Kanker Palace has also opened it’s gates for guests and you can book a royal stay with them here. What distinguishes Kanker Palace from others is that the royals don’t mind mixing with the crowd and love to share stories, if you start a conversation. So, that’s why this palace is not another Indian palace, but one that lets you experience things that other palace hotels don’t.
Here’s what greets you, just outside the Kanker Palace.
They were featured on NDTV Good Times. Here’s a bit of royalty, in all it’s glory and surprising humility.
So we got to shake hands with a Prince, chit-chat with the princesses and even dine with them. Jealous? #wowcg