To the Manor Born

Rupa Balachandar | October 6, 2021 | Heritage

Mrinalika and Akshita Bhanj Deo, believe that to be young royals in today’s India, means being custodians of the heritage and legacy of the land – of telling stories that deserve to be told.

Queen Victoria may have ruled half the world at one point in time, but the legacy of regal buildings and architecturally distinctive constructions during her reign remain as splendid edifices across cities, worldwide. One such special structure is the Belgadia Palace, situated on the eastern fringes of the beautiful state of Odisha. Located conveniently between Kolkata and Bhubaneswar, this iconic home is a perfect blend of drama and whimsy.

Perched atop a hill, this Neo-Classical, Victorian mansion has an air of romance, typical of the early 19th century. With its graceful front porch, Corinthian style pillars, bay windows with fanciful cornices and gargoyles galore, the architectural flourishes add an air of elegance to the Palace which was originally built as a home exclusively for distinguished guests of the erstwhile Mayurbhanj royal family.

At the helm of Belgadia Palace heritage hotel are the dynamic Kolkata-born sisters, Mrinalika and Akshita Bhanj Deo, who believe that it is their duty to bring Odisha to the forefront as a great tourist destination.

“Belgadia has a beautiful legacy, one that is wrought with love, drama, destiny and death, all of which were discovered during the renovations. In dusty rooms filled with antique knick-knacks we found diaries and old photographs of my great-great-grandfather Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanj Deo and his second wife, Maharani Sucharu Devi. The incredibly handsome and charming Maharaja rebuilt the palace for his new wife. While the Maharani was acknowledged by the royal household, she was never accepted and the irony was that the king could never live in this palace with his wife as he mysteriously died during a hunting expedition soon after the marriage.” reveals Akshita Bhanj Deo, who is the Director of Experiences and Partnerships and is a communication strategist with the Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence, an AI for non-profit global social good. Additionally, Akshita, at the age of 20 was presented at the prestigious Le Bals Debutante in 2013 along with her maternal cousin, HH Chaitanya Raj Singh the Maharawal of Jaisalmer.

Mrinalika, on the other hand, is the Founder and Director of their project and oversees the management aspect of Belgadia Palace. She is also a certified yogini and curates retreats in India as well as abroad.

The Bhanjdeo sisters’ vision aims at giving back to society by earmarking funds earned through tours, workshops and cultural exchanges and taking on a long and arduous task to refit the Palace and make it contemporary while still trying to maintain its past glory. Designer and architect Pooja Bihani has managed to highlight the property’s striking details, while quietly conveying the grandeur of a residence that has had additions made over its 200 year history. Various parts of the interiors have also been refurbished and repurposed like the original furniture and fittings leading to a beautiful amalgamation of an era gone by with modern-day amenities and timeless charm.

However, for all its elegance, this prim and proper Victorian mansion has a wild side too. Enter any one of the 9 standard, deluxe or suite rooms and expect to see the chambers painted in eye-catching – from regal red to teal and even lime green – adding a touch of whimsy while tying in with the stories of the multi-ethnic royal family’s close ties to the Nepalese royal family and to those of Cooch Behar and Jaisalmer. In case the glorious past is not impressive enough, every room at the palace has character and a personal story about the erstwhile royal family adding a touch of pomp and circumstance to the property.

Each of the 5 deluxe rooms and 4 boutique-style suites, ooze royal panache with silk curtains, plush velvet sofas, antique teak and mahogany furniture, venetian mirrors, ornate chandeliers and mesmerising views of the tranquil gardens that surround the 20 acre property. To add to that, there are multiple drawing rooms and seating nooks, a spa, several workstations, a billiards room an impressive library and a lavish dining hall

Dining at the Palace is a walk down memory lane with dishes that have been curated and created, inspired by grand meals of the past. Impressive cutlery, custom embossed china, lavish linens take one back to the era of the Raj, where each meal was considered an event. The menu takes its provenance from Nepali, Odia and Continental cuisines and everything is freshly cooked with ingredients either sourced locally or from the property’s organic farms, taking the Farm to Fork concept quite literally.

Large verandas, wrap-around porches, water features along with charming walking paths across checkerboard greens and orchards make up this heritage homestay.

With the magnificent Belgadia Palace as your base, explore little known gems that surround Baripada. Visit tribal villages, experience art forms like the battle field dance ‘Chauu’, or dabble in metalsmithing and create something in the style. If you enjoy the outdoors, make a quick stop at Simlipal National Park or visit one of the many temples like Khiching and marvel at the tall spires and intricate carving details.

How to get there: Fly to Kolkata or Bhubaneswar and take a scenic drive to Mayurbhanj
Best time to visit: October through March



Words by Rupa Balachandar.

Edited by Paavni Chowdhry.

Cover photo view from Belgadia Palace by Debashish Mishra
Akshita and Mrinalika Photographed by Santosh Mishra
Interiors and facade courtesy of Belgadia Palace

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