Belgadia Palace, Mayurbhanj
The last leg of our road-trip was the longest. It spanned across 380 kms, from Mangalajodi to Mayurbhanj. During our eight hour journey, we alternated between blasting music on the Mahindra XUV500’s infotainment system and enjoying the soothing sounds of the winter winds. We took turns catching up on a little sleep because after all, a royal encounter with the Bhanjdeo family awaited our arrival.
A mixture of Greek and Victorian architecture, the Belgadia Palace surpassed our expectations in every sense, as did Princess Mrinalika Bhanjdeo - the spunky young heiress of the palace. A yoga teacher by profession, she shuffles between Calcutta and her home in Odisha. She and her sister, Akshita Bhanjdeo, have attempted to revive the history of the palace by converting their family’s sprawling Rajbari (old royal house) into a heritage hotel. Every single corner of the palace is an ornate, with snippets of history from taxidermized tigers to souvenirs from England’s royal wedding.
Mrinalika’s reverence for the history left behind by her forefathers was evident in her animated narration of her family stories. A particular story that piqued our interest was about the man-eating crocodile, hunted down by her ancestors. The taxidermized amphibian, towered over the staircase. Next to it, was a neat case that bore the jewelry found in the stomach of the crocodile, the only remains of the people hunted.
The manor is pure white and stands tall in the background of lush foliage of the backyard. The main hall houses four doors in perfect symmetry - and more than once, we lost our way around. But it worked out in our favour. As amidst other gems, we discovered a library that had us fall in love with the place even more. Built from arch-top glass windows, it was stacked with rare and old books.
Dinners are naturally a royal affair in the gorgeous dining room. Meals are lovingly prepared by the staff - homespun and delicious. On our last night there, our hosts surprised us by organizing a Chhau dance performance. This ancient warrior dance form is believed to have originated in the Mayurbhanj district. Another highlight from our stay was driving our stunning Mahindra XUV500s to one of the oldest sites in Mayurbhanj - Haripur fort.
The palace left us with a rich insight into the history of the region, along with a collection of stunning photos. Pampered like royalty, we drove back to Bhubaneswar in the Mahindra XUV500.