If you don’t want to do the usual touristy trail in India—Agra, Jaipur, Delhi in the north; or then again Mumbai and Pune, or Kerala and Goa – an interesting region to explore is north-eastern India. Usually considered cut off from mainstream culture and society — even within India – the region’s pristine beauty, mountains, deeps waterfalls, the mighty Brahmaputra river cutting through it is unmatched.
Darjeeling is a town that people usually talk of when you put “holiday” and the “north-east” in the same sentence. Or, perhaps, Gangtok with its Buddhist influences. But if you are looking for a heritage experience that is, at the same time, plush, check out the Royal Heritage Tripura Castle, a palace that has been successfully converted into a hotel and was, indeed, the first heritage hotel in the region when it opened in 2003.
Visitors to the hotel can book the Maharaja suite where they can sleep on the same bed that the likes of Nobel prize winner Rabindranath Tagore slept. The poet was a close friend of the royal family, which, in fact, even funded his dream university, Shantiniketan.
Today, while India no longer recognizes any princey states or royalty, the 186th successive king of Tripura, “Maharaja” Pradyot Bikram Kishore Manikya Deb Burman is a common man. But the fact remains that he belongs to one of the oldest suriving dynasties in the world. Besides that he owns five palaces, several speed motorbikes and 67 dogs. The Tripura dynasty is one of the longest unbroken dynasties in the world today; surpassed only by the Mikado dynasty in Japan.
The “king” on the other hand is a down to earth man. He talks about the time when he had to take a bank loan to convert some of his property into a hotel—not because he needed the money but because his father thought that it would be good for him to learn its value.
Politics for Burman is not the only way to change. Passionate about educating people on the North-east, he has founded a magazine The North East Today, aimed at not just people from outside the state but also the younger people in the region who have lost touch with their languages, culture and traditions. And being a music lover, he is not averse to bringing in an international rock band on two to perform in his state.
So what are the highs and lows of being a royal? Burman says that the good bit is that people recognize the contribution of his family and there is a lot of goodwill as a result. However, growing up as a child, he says, his father took care to treat him as an ordinary child, taking the family on picnics et al. The human condition, one supposes, is the same for all.
Hotel: The outhouse of one of the royal palace in Shillong has been converted into a hotel. It is called The Royal Heritage Tripura Castle.
Address: Cleve Colony, Tripura Castle Road
Shillong- 793 003
Tel No: +91 364 250 1111/ 250 1149
Fax No: +91 364 250 1149
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
City Centre: 3 Km
Airport: 33 Kms (Umroi Airport) / 133 Kms (Guwahati Airport)
Railways: 104 Kms from Guwahati Railway Station
Room Tariffs: Rs 2,500 to 4,500 per night not including taxes. The Maharaja Suite is the room which was used Rabindranath Tagore
Conference Hall: This can accommodates 60 people
Other facilities: Multi-cuisine restaurant offering Indian, Chinese and Pan Asian cuisine; Mezzanine Bar; Spa. Coming up is a Continental cuisine restaurant coming alongside the present one.
Offers: Guests are taken on guided tours of Shillong and adjoining areas such as Cherapunji, Kaziranga etc. on request. Guests can also visit the Royal Castle (within the same premises) on special request.
Best month: It’s pleasant throughout the year, but great around Christmas as Shillong is at its festive best.
USP: There’s a personal touch to the hotel, as the Maharaja mingles with the guests whenever he’s in town