While the silver salt lake is ablaze during the days with a golden tint coming from the swollen sun, and a dash of flamingo pink added to the palette, the nights are cooler, softer, and accompanied by millions of glistening stars and a breathtaking milky way. Sambhar in Rajasthan is a desert wonderland still far off from the gloom of the bustling city life, and the scenic Sambhar Heritage Resort is helping the world unfolding its secrets, one tale at a time. By Sushmita Srivastav
I took my boots off and stepped out of the flamingo pink SUV on the salt desert that seemed rugged and baked under the blazing sun. Instead, my bare feet were buried in soft sand, cool and crumbly enough to surprise me with a tickle. Soon, the sun started to hide behind the craggy Aravali range, and a cool salty wind began to blow through my hair. I looked around—a massive moonscape with nothing but a rocky hill with the Shakambhari Temple perched atop, and the golden sun setting afar, in sight. And it was quiet; not a frightening silence that reminds you of being isolated in a deserted land, but a soothing one that brings calm to mind and soul.
I was in the middle of Rajasthan’s Sambhar Lake—the largest inland salt lake in India that had, at that time, dried up to a pink dustbowl, and I sure was in calm. Come winter, the same turns into a cluster of wetlands that are flocked by thousands of migratory flamingoes who come all the way from Siberia in search of some sun, and are quite a sight while wading over the azure water in unison under the open skies.
After breathing in the beauty and tranquillity for quite some time, we started to drive to the Sambhar Heritage Resort—India’s first Circuit House built by the British in the 18th century that now serves as a luxe property with its four heritage suites. High ceilings, grand arches, bold interior colours, and eclectic décor—the imposing edifice powdered in pink, raised amidst the labyrinthine lawns, and I stood before it, awestruck. But this wasn’t all, I was told.
The Sambhar Heritage Project goes beyond the Circuit House and extends to an 18th-century bungalow called Kothi with eight suites, and 18 Swiss tents pitched a little far from the rest, overlooking the Sambhar Lake. To top it all, the resort is completely eco-friendly, and encourages sustainable living—think all vegetarian restaurants, a spa with therapeutic salt treatments, brass water tumblers by your bedside, and plantable stationery on your side tables!
Monochromatic patterns on the walls, carpeted wooden floorings, pretty chandeliers and lamps, a queen-sized bed with feather-soft duvets, a low-floor tub in the restroom, bathrobes with my initials, and an old-world charm—the glamping experience spoke for itself as I entered my gazebo with a strong desire of not wanting to leave anytime soon. But a lazy staycation isn’t what exactly Sambhar Heritage Resort is meant for—for an unmapped destination like Sambhar demands you to step out, and get your feet dirty.
From taking an early morning cycling tour, paddling on the far-stretched track along the lakebed, to roughing it out in the white desert on an ATV (all-terrain vehicle), to going for a village tour for that rustic feel, to taking a ride in a vintage buggy to see the salt production, and stopping in the middle of nowhere for a quick session of wine and cheese, to a dinner in the centre of the lake under the moonlight—the resort offered anything and everything, and I did it all. And then, I moved farther to explore Ulta Sambhar, that weaves around itself a fascinating fable of being haunted by a beggar’s ghost who once cursed a part of Sambhar and turned it upside down!
What remains today is a half-excavated ghosted site in ruins, and many versions of the folklore. Then, there was Devyani Sarovar—‘the mini Pushkar’ where Mughal emperor Akhbar wedded Rani Jodha; and the temple of Shakambhari Devi—the tutelary goddess of the Chauhan Rajputs who had, if legends are to be believed, turned Sambhar into a land of silver after being impressed by the devotion of Prithvi Raj Chauhan, and later made it into a silvery salt lake to prevent it from the strife that would have come along with the richly possession.
There are many such ancient folklores that are still believed to be true by the villagers here. True or not—arrive here in the land of salt to know.
Address: Sambhar Heritage Resort, Shakhambri Temple Road, Jhapok, Sambhar Lake
How To Reach: Jaipur Airport is the closest at a distance of 76 km and has direct connectivity from major national and international cities. One can also reach Jaipur and take the Kota Shri Ganganagar Superfast Express to Sambhar (30 mins), or drive from Delhi via Delhi-Jaipur Expressway (six hours).
Reservations: Sambhar Heritage Resort or +91 (0) 70739 01555