Deep in the desert, against
a background of stony hills lies the large sprawling haveli (palace)
of Samode which stands apart in serene splendor amid rugged hills.
To reach the haveli one has to first pass through the quaint little
village of Samode. Small havelis and village houses are set on either
side of a stone paved road that curves gently up the hill and,
entering through a high arched gateway, one is finally inside the
building which gleams a pale yellow in the sunlight.
Within the four walls you can almost believe you are in
another world. The view of the façade is rather imposing; the
main building fans out to the sides and a series of balconies, one
atop another, are set in the center. Fretwork screens run all along
the length of the top floor and the family standard flutters from the
curved roof emblazoned with its coat of arms.
The Samode palace which belongs to the Rawals of Samode, is about 400
years old and has been converted into a comfortable hotel run by the
family. The Rawals trace their descent from Prithvi Singh of Amber
(1503-28), 17th prince of the house of Kacchwaha Rajputs, who is turn
trace their descent from Lord Rama. Gopal Singh, one of the 12 sons of
Prithvi Singh was given Samode.
The house is built in the characteristic pattern of an open courtyard
with rooms leading off the arched corridor that runs along all four
sides of the building. The sultan Mahal is on the first floor-an
exquisite room with a marble pillared verandah. It has the famous
Jaipur blue tile decorations. Every inch of the ceiling and the walls
are covered with floral, paisley and geometric motifs painted in
vegetable colors. It is called Sultan Mahal after the painstaking
craftsman, who created it. Old and heavy carved silver furniture
brought from Nepal by the grandmother of the present Rawal gleams
dully as a ray of sunlight strikes it. To the left of the main haveli
is the Durbar Hall, which was built about a hundred years ago. Again
it is completely painted in ornate floral motifs and colored
delicately with vegetable pigments which still have a special glow of
A hall of mirrors which is a must for any palace of consequence is
also to be found in Samode. Large and tiny fragments of polished
mirror are set into plasterwork. You walk into the room and see a
thousand images of yourself. At night a single candle flame can create
the effect of a thousand stars-a magical experience to say the least.
The people of the desert love mirrors because the cool polished
surface reminds them of water.
During the day a camel ride through
the Samode village and the surrounding countryside is a good idea.
Riding this supercilious looking animal with its rocking gait is the
best way of relaxing on a sunny morning.
Half an hour's walk up steep stone steps leads to the old qila or the
fort of Sheograrh. This is where the inhabitants of Samode barricaded
themselves in times of war. It is an austere building built on
traditional lines. We walked around the now tranquil battlements to
the sound of cooing pigeons and doves.
Three kilometers away, iridescent with flowering bushes, fruit trees
and lush green lawns, is Samode Bagh, a walled garden that once served
as the recreation grounds for Samode Palace. It is an oasis set amidst
the dry rugged expanse of an ochre desert.
Since Samode is only about 42 kilometers from Jaipur
it would be a good idea to stay here away from the hustle and bustle
of the city. One can drive out to Jaipur for a day's sightseeing and
return to this tranquil hamlet in the evening.