Amidst the rustic yet historical land of Karnal, Haryana, Noor Mahal is a landmark in itself, offering a decadent royal experience that knows no bounds.
By: Tejashee Kashyap
Posted on: November 3, 2021
LF Says: ★★★★★
Domestic travel is unpacking a whole new chapter in India now. Staycation destinations and remote locations are becoming key entertainment points. In any case, India has always charmed international travellers with its vibrancy, colourful details, sometimes hidden rich heritage and excellent hospitality experiences. So one fine day, I decided to push away the cliched vacations in hill stations and bring a new spin through the borders of Karnal, Haryana.
As I drive past the hustle-bustle of the capital, the urbanscape fades into sugarcane and wheat fields and distant towns. The boundaries of Karnal may seem like another upcoming Greater Noida or Surajkund in the making. Enlightening me from my narrowed vision, modern-day Karnal houses no factories and the clear, fresh air meant a lung-cleansing therapy for most city-breds. History says that Karnal was founded by Karna, the brave warrior of Mahabharat. And another feather in its crown is the majestic Noor Mahal, a palatial luxury hotel.
I always try to squeeze in an architectural landmark that personifies the grandiose and elegance of a destination. But in Karnal, the first sight of Noor Mahal comforts your eyes, and you feel that you don’t need anything else from this vacation. A tall reflection of Rajputana and Mughal architecture, I can truly say that Noor Mahal stands as a gem for the growing city of Karnal.
The palace boasts a selection of 122 heritage-imbued rooms and suites, uniquely designed to provide luxurious royal splendour.
King-Size Royal Stay
Noor Mahal makes sure you’re greeted with a royal service that will be reckoned in your heart forever. I received a royal welcome just like how one receives in period dramas - with teekas and refreshing welcome drinks. The lobby with Rajasthani folk music playing in the background, amidst the “larger than life” artefacts and décor, transported me to an illustrious royal era. I was impressed beyond words by the grandeur of the lobby itself as I settled into the bespoke wooden and silver-plated lounging sofas. Noor Mahal staffs people who possess utmost etiquette that instantly makes you feel “at-home” and warm. My royal stay was looked over by Mr. Deepak Bharadwaj, a warm-hearted man who remained extremely attentive and courteous throughout the stay.
It’s not every day that one gets to have a special royal sleeping chamber in an authentic sense, but Noor Mahal and its rooms have a unique melange of traditional royal essence with modern amenities, of course. The palace boasts a selection of 122 heritage-imbued rooms and suites, uniquely designed to provide luxurious royal splendour. As I made my way towards my suite, the stunning, intricate interiors along with carefully curated and sourced decor takes you to live the imperial lifestyle for real. The large designed mirrors caught my special attention as I passed the sprawling and airy Deewan-e-Khas.
Hosted at one of the six ornate heritage suites, my suite was named after the legendary king of ghazal, Jagjit Singh. It included a living area, a bedroom with an office space too that are perfect for both royal staycation and workcation (thanks to great internet speed). Greeted by a culinary surprise with a delicious cake and a handwritten note, the royal pampering extended to custom-made pastries, exotic freshly baked assorted cookies carefully placed in choice silverware. It is an expansive suite done up in soothing wood tones. Traditional hand-paintings on the wall enhanced the grandeur. The typical carved wall-to-wall windows with the glaze of natural sunlight brightening up the whole suite also gives an overview of the sprawling Karnal city. Every corner of the room literally brightens with natural light itself. It echoed a happy glow of home - away from the continuous honks and chatters of the city.
The suite was elegantly decorated with a mix of bespoke furnishings - think of sofas with carved wooden details, wooden dining tables with glass-tops and chairs with old world charm grandeur. And don’t you worry, this palace does not despise you of modern amenities - flat-screen TVs both for the hall and bedroom, bathtubs, modern showers let you unearth your inner royal self. A grand king-size bed with comfortable linen and a telly opposite is the perfect combination of vintage and modern-day life while the ceilings were handpainted with blue floral details and a large dome floral carving at the centre. With impeccable regal decor all around and being in a suite earlier stayed in by Jagjit Singh, I was living the epitome of luxury life.
Coming to the bath space, it is equally enticing just like the rest of the room. With two life-size mirrors, a bathtub and a rain shower, the brightly lit bathroom gives a much-awaited pampering session opportunity - well, isn’t that what vacations are all about?
“There are only two of these [Swarovski chandelier] pieces in India, the other being in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.”
Waking up in a small, new city usually means pouring over restaurant reviews here and there left by other disgruntled travellers. It's a comforting thought knowing that all of your favourite breakfast foods are an elevator's ride down to the lobby where you could even show up in your PJs and nobody would say a thing. The thought of arriving at a royal-laden breakfast in Noor Mahal delighted me even more. My breakfast was at their all-day dining restaurant - Brown Sugar, a multi-cuisine restaurant, which offers a buffet and an a la carte menu. Freshly squeezed orange juice, light chicken sausages and beans, adequately oiled potato wedges topped off with an irresistible and fresh croissant – bliss!. The breakfast menu has an array of delicacies catering to the Indian palate too - from chole bhature to gunpowder idlis and live-dosa counters, it made sure to roll out a hearty and healthy breakfast for the global you.
Iconic Architecture All-Around
I have always believed that décor and hospitality at a hotel lobby itself is the key to making a great and grand impression. After all, it is the centrepiece of the guest experience. Noor Mahal’s impressive lobby took me to feel like being in the actual palaces of yesteryears. Here, I took a good “pause for a moment” to imbibe the beauty of all the intricate works that adorned the lobby. It is a display of art with a soothing marble fountain welcoming the guests, white marble floor, antique silver and lac coated furniture.
Just at the centre of the lobby, my attention was caught by a majestic, mesmerising, Swarovski chandelier. Mr. Arjun Verma, the General Manager, enlightens that this is one of the few Swarovski masterpieces available in India: “There are only two of these pieces in India, the other being in the Rashtrapati Bhavan”. The walls and dome have been beautified with extremely rare vegetable colour hand-paintings and intricate ‘tikdi’ work. At the end of the lobby, your eyes will be arrested by a life-size portrait of Maharaja Duleep Singh - the last king to own the famed Koh-i-Noor diamond - made with rare gemstones and 18-kt real gold. The Mahal, belonging to the lineage of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, surely knows how to transport you to a different century.
The elegant and intelligent use of both Mughal and Rajputana schools of architecture is evident in the domes, arches and pillars. Beautifully designed interiors with white agaria marble flooring, intricately crafted semi-precious stone inlay work reflect the surrounding style and influences, similar to the Taj Mahal. The decorative gilt mouldings, sculpted marble columns, and fine fretwork screens reinforce a regal charm of palatial innovations - handcrafted detailing, gold leaf frescos, high-domed ceilings and magnificent crystal chandeliers. The concierge desk, too, is packed with old-world charm in the form of an ornate table and a backdrop of ‘tikri’ art in blue and orange. Well, just as my eyes were getting full with all of the old-world charms, it only got better.
The hotel has two courtyards laid out along the East and West axis. The first courtyard is Deewan-e-Aam on the lobby level providing access from all four sides; the second is the Deewan-e-Khas on the first floor. It is surrounded by rooms, balconies with low jaalis and chajjas made in yesteryear style. Another aspect that I thoroughly enjoyed was how they segregated the palace, dividing the green lawns, main palace building area, and F&B outlets, considering the natural flow of sunlight that lighted up every “artsy” corner. Talking in millennial language - every corner of the common areas is worth Instagramming.
Luxury Amidst Fields
All during this time, the constant thought of why would someone build an opulent hotel in the middle of nowhere kept lurking in my mind. But then I realised today, luxury knows no bounds, and can be easily reached to in every nook and corner, even by virtual means. Tapping the great potential of indigenous travel, far before this pandemic hit, this palace hotel enjoys proximity to Delhi and Chandigarh. With a mere three-hour drive from Delhi, an upcoming airport in Karnal and a royal getaway - Colonel Manbeer Choudhary, an ex-army man and the founder-owner of Noor Mahal, knew how to soak in the old world charm of heritage hospitality. The precise “mahal architecture” has been resonated at all levels in order to conserve the palatial landscape. The structure has intentionally been kept as a low-rise building.
Mr. Bharadwaj also enlightened me on how Noor Mahal is an extravagant wedding pavilion and stands as a torch-bearer in the north for destination weddings. There is an increasing trend of intimate weddings at palaces in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur. These palace-like hotels are seeing tremendous demand given that one cannot jet away to Italy or Switzerland for a wedding. Even during my three-day stay, I saw 7-8 families checking in to the property daily for weddings.
The Mahal has 16 banquets and party lawns, named Rani Bagh, Raja Bagh, Sheesh Mahal, Rang Mahal and so on, that have a different colour combination to it with different art forms enhancing the beauty of each convention centre. Not just that, it is also a one-stop-shop for all wedding requirements. From a wedding photographer, designer boutique, antique jewellery store to a souvenir house, all can be found on the premises. The mix of royal grandeur and the rich modern hospitality makes this beautiful palace a dream destination to take marriage vows for the “larger than life” wedding obsessed Indian crowd.
The Mahal, belonging to the lineage of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, surely knows how to transport you to a different century.
Noor Mahal endorses the opulent royalty of the era of Indian maharajas and it’s a modern miracle amidst the rustic land of Karnal - truly luxury is reaching all nooks and corners of the country!
LF Says: ★★★★★
Coordinates: Noormahal Crossing, National Highway 1, Sector 32, Karnal, Haryana, India