New Delhi, India
October 29, 2012
The Kasmanda Palace has an interesting history: although it is now owned by the former royal family of the once-princely state of Kasmanda (in Orissa), it was originally built, in 1836, by Captain Rennie Tailour of the Bengal Engineers. Then part of the Christ Church next door, the building served as a sanatorium for British officers. Later, it was converted into a school; and, still later, bought by the royal family of Kasmanda.
Kasmanda Palace sits about 200 mt above the Mall, and the climb to it is pretty steep. (There’s no cause for worry there, though; a small car of theirs is always available to ferry guests up and down between the Mall and the hotel). The building is pretty: deep maroon turrets and sloping roofs, stark white walls, deodar and chinar trees, lawns, gardens full of marigolds, narcissi, freesias and lots of other flowers. There’s a badminton court, a small play area for children; a terrace where breakfasts and teatimes are especially good, what with the great view it offers; and a secluded and quiet ‘English tea garden’.
Inside, Kasmanda Palace (which is basically a large mansion) is all wooden-beamed high ceilings, polished wood floors and lovely large windows commanding a wonderful view over the hills around and the Doon Valley below. We were initially shown to a room looking out onto the mountainside, but were given a free upgrade to a valley-facing room when we asked for a room with a better view.
The corridors and halls are decorated with hunting trophies (mostly antlers) and well-preserved old photographs of the royal family of Kasmanda. Some of the most interesting are the many photos of the late 19th century-early 20th century ruler, Raja Bahadur Dr Suraj Baksh Singh, and his family, all of them dressed in all their finery, with the ladies wearing some exceptionally ornate jewellery.
Our room was large, with furniture that, while clean and polished, had a charmingly old-fashioned look to it: there were pretty floral-design ceramic tiles inlaid in the backs of the carved wooden chairs; the wardrobe had a bolt that I last saw in furniture made in the 50s or so; and the beds were the high, heavy ones that used to be popular around the same time, about half a century ago. The beds, incidentally, proved a little uncomfortable. Instead of this being a double bed (which was what we’d asked for), it was actually two single beds pulled together, each with its own mattress, but covered with a common double bedsheet. All very well, except that the beds weren’t quite at the same level—mine was about an inch higher than my husband’s, and turning in my sleep, I rolled over onto him a couple of times.
Our room had a TV (21") and a tray with tea and coffee fixings. In the bathroom (like the bedroom, clean and tastefully decorated but not especially fancy), there were soaps and little bottles of shampoo, moisturiser and talcum powder.
Kasmanda Palace has a restaurant named Magnolia, which serves a mix of fairly good Indian food and not-great Western fare. Kasmanda Palace also offers laundry facilities and can make arrangements for tours and adventure activities (like paragliding and bungee jumping), though you’ll need to let them know beforehand.
We stayed at Kasmanda Palace for three nights, and paid about Rs 18,225 for that, inclusive of breakfast and one other meal daily. It was a quiet, relaxing place to be in, and I’d happily go back there if I were to come to Mussoorie again. (Incidentally, a Hindi film was being shot at Kasmanda on our last day here. Despite that, and the usual hassle it involves for even those not concerned, we were pleasantly surprised that the staff of Kasmanda tried their best to make sure that other guests, like us, weren’t inconvenienced by the shoot).
From journal Eating and Sleeping in Mussoorie