A 200-year-old abode on the banks of the River Ganga, Brijrama Palace in Varanasi spoils you with a royal stay, exclusive dining options, and a magical ambience. By Sushmita Gupta
Varanasi has always fascinated me. One of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities, it lies in between the rivers Varuna and Asi. According to the Vamana Purana, Varuna and Asi were created by the gods, during what the religious text calls, ‘the beginning of time’.
Brijrama Palace, Varanasi, one of the oldest landmarks of the city, dates back to the year 1812. It was built by Shridhara Narayana Munshi, the then minister for the estate of Nagpur, and thereafter acquired by Rameshwar Singh Bahadur (the Brahmin King of Darbhanga-Bihar) along with the ghat in 1915.
At Brijrama, travellers are treated like royalty and so was I, as all the services were tailored to excellence. The royal experience began at the Bhaisasur Ghat, from where I was escorted to the hotel in a bajra (a traditional Indian wooden boat). I soaked up the captivating beauty and history of Varanasi and its famous ghats, before reaching the property that I had heard so much about.
After a ride of about 10 minutes, the palatial property loomed ahead, above the Darbhanga Ghat. It boasts Maratha architecture and intricate design. The elevator at the hotel installed in 1918—is India’s first, and was the first thing to grab my attention. After being warmly welcomed, I checked into one of the 32 well-appointed rooms of the property, on the second floor.
Gold and silver motifs and hand-painted artworks adorn the ceilings, and the room sports a classical Banarasi touch. The silk furnishings in the room, I was informed, are picked from the oldest silk house in the country. There are also traditional lamps, old-fashioned beds with bedposts, and beautiful paintings. The property also offers a great dining experience. I decided to dine at the multi-cuisine vegetarian restaurant, Darbhanga. The chefs made the effort to understand my food preferences and dished out pretty much everything from a traditional Banarasi thali to Indian, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Thai food. The dining experience was further elevated by the beautiful fresco paintings that embellished the ceiling. For high tea, I dropped by the Kamalya Café that offers sweeping views of the River Ganga.
Brijrama Palace also has on offer great destination experiences for their guests. A guide accompanied me onan excursion to the iconic temples of Varanasi, hidden lanes and bylanes, age-old ruins, ghats, and the spectacular Ganga Aarti. The eight-kilometre stretch of the Ganga in Varanasi has 84 ghats and over 300 temples dedicated to various Hindu deities. Dashashwamedh Ghat deserves special mention, as it is where the Ganga Aarti is held every day at dusk, with cymbals ringing in the background. Devotees and travellers from around the globe participate in this ritual every day, throughout the year.
I, too, experienced the captivating sight of the Ganga Aarti—the divine ceremony where a thousand lamps are lit and the ghat is filled with songs, prayers, and a palpable sense of spirituality. Back at the hotel, I enjoyed an evening of live classical music and dance at Bada Angan (the main atrium of the palace). The rhythm of the performance reverberated throughout Brijrama Palace, and I, once again, got lost in the glory of Varanasi, which is sacred, soulful, and absolutely spectacular.
Varanasi airport is well connected to all major cities of India and a few international destinations like Kathmandu, Colombo, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Dubai. Take a cab to Mahishasura Ghat from the airport. It is a 20-minute boat ride from the ghat to Brijrama Palace, Varanasi.
Brijrama Palace, Varanasi, Darbhanga Ghat, Dashashwamedh Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
Starts from INR 28,000/ USD394.
October to April.
Couples, families, solo travellers.
Subah-e-Banaras or sunrise boat ride on River Ganga, heritage walk in the old city of Kashi, Ram Nagar Fort, and Sankatmochan Temple.