For most of the Bengalis living in Kolkata, trips to Odisha begin and ends in Puri. Occasionally, it extends up to the Konark Temple or Chilka Lake. I’m no exception in this case! That’s why, when I first heard of the Belgadia Palace, I was quite fascinated by the thought of exploring Odisha like never before. Little did I know then, what grandeur and opulence were waiting for me ahead!
Kolkata to Baripada – a road trip!
Finally, a weekend’s getaway was planned and we left Kolkata on a Saturday, early in the morning. The Belgadia Palace, located in Baripada, is about 225 KM from Kolkata and we reached there in less than five hours. Baripada had always been known to be an entry point to Simlipal Tiger Reserve, which is famous for its tigers and elephants, in Odisha. An otherwise small town that often goes unnoticed by travelers, has this breathtakingly gorgeous palace with some interesting tales and an untold love story knitted to it.
Reaching Baripada, we sought the help of Google Maps to find our destination and as we drove through the ornate gateway with lush green gardens on both sides, we could see a gleaming white double-storied palace at the end of the driveway – The Belgadia Palace.
Age-old tales encircling this palace of Mayurbhanj.
Each place has its own story, and I believe that’s what makes every place unique.
The Belgadia Palace was established in 1804, and it served as the home for the royal family of Mayurbhanj – The Bhanj Deo dynasty. Constructed with a mix of Greek and Victorian architecture and Doric-Corinthian columns, the palace sits on a raised hill with sprawling lawns on either side. The Belgadia Palace is not just a boutique hotel but it’s also a living museum that enshrines the history of the Bhanj Deo dynasty with multiple links to royal families of Rajasthan and Nepal.
The palace was built by Shri Ramchandra Bhanj Deo, for Sucharu Devi, the daughter of Keshub Chandra Sen, a noted 19th-century philosopher and social reformer of Bengal. Sri Ram Chandra Bhanj Deo had fallen in love with Sucharu Devi while he was in Calcutta and later married her despite stiff opposition from his family. This 200-year-old palace still serves as the home for Maharaja Praveen Chandra Bhanjdeo, the 47th ruler of the Bhanjdeo dynasty and the property has been restored as a boutique homestay by his daughters – Mrinalika & Akhshita.
The paintings and art around the palace juxtapose the untamed and ethereal beauty of the district. Needless to say, this luxurious heritage homestay with themed rooms and open verandahs, walking paths through mango orchards, refurbished furniture, and royal upholstery makes it a perfect place for a luxurious weekend retreat.
Walking through the grand corridor into the palace, and exploring the rooms.
Stepping out of the car, my friend, Pramit, said that he was feeling as if we were on the set of some ‘Feluda’ movie. As we walked through the corridor into a room that now serves as the Reception, our eyes were dazzled to see the antique furniture, the taxidermied animal heads, gorgeous Persian rugs, and hundreds of books & journals dating back to the 18th & 19th Century.
Parvez welcomed us with warmth, sanitized all our luggage, and helped us with the entire check-in process. Later, he led us to a grand dining room where breakfast was served for us. We were still trying to soak in the beauty of the place, although we hadn’t yet seen much of it!
From left to right – the corridor of the Belgadia Palace; a corner in the ball-room which I fell in love with; the dining hall.
Post-breakfast, we were led to our room – The Peacock Suite. Painted in shades of royal blue, this huge room on the first (mezzanine) floor, accessible via a wrought iron staircase and overlooks the vast mango orchard. Other than the Peocock Suite, there are four more suite rooms along with standard & deluxe rooms. Each of these rooms have been thoughtfully decorated, with the jewel-toned colors adding a majestic look, and artifacts that can surely transport you to a bygone era.
The rooms have antiques and collections of artwork belonging to the royal family from their travels around the world. The modern and lux design of its interior contrasts the ancient and ornate architecture of its exterior, making the property and its surroundings a walk through the annals of time.
Taking a tour of the property and exploring a little bit of Baripada.
After relaxing for a while in the room, we stepped out to explore the palace – and Mrinalika graciously agreed to show us around the palace, telling us more about the history.
While we had already seen the huge paintings as we walked into the hall, Mrinalika introduced us to each of her ancestors, starting from Sri Ram Chandra Bhanj Deo and his sons, their connection to the Second World War, matrimonial ties with the Kingdom of Nepal and the royal families of Rajasthan, and much more. She told us the tales about the Maharaja’s hunting adventures & the crocodile skulls hanging around the stairways, the cutleries brought back from England after an auction, the books restored for centuries, and how Mayurbhanj continued to be an independent state even after 1947.
As we were time-traveling, we couldn’t stop ourselves from clicking pictures at every few steps. Soon, it was time for lunch and we headed back to the royal dining hall, where a sumptuous buffet was laid.
After a hearty meal, we planned to head out and visit the Sitakund waterfalls. While it’s supposed to be a beautiful picnic spot during the monsoon, all we got to see was a thread of water flowing amidst the boulders. Our next stop was the Haripura Ruins, which is marked as a site of historical importance by the Archeological Survey of India. This was the erstwhile capital of Mayurbhanj before it was shifted to Baripada. The ruins of a temple and a fort have been found here in recent years, and it resembles those of Bankura & Bishnupur in Bengal. Lying amidst an open field, when we reached there late in the afternoon, I saw a tribal woman with her cow grazing in the scorching summer heat and a local man working out in the solitude of the expanse.
On our way back to the Belgadia Palace, we saw the Mayurbhanj Palace which was also built by Maharaja Shri Ram Chandra Bhanj Deo, and it resembles the Buckingham Palace. Currently, the royal family has donated this property and it serves as two colleges – Maharaja Purna Chandra College & Government Women’s College in Baripada.
By the time we returned back, tea and snacks were served on the terrace. The afternoon heat was replaced by the soothing breeze, and as we sat down sipping on tea and watching the moonrise, it felt like time had taken a pause. On most evenings, the Chau Dancers come and perform at the palace, but that day, they couldn’t come – due to some political issues in the town. So we were free for the rest of the evening and had enough time to relax & unwind. As we were quite exhausted by then, and thus, we headed back to our room.
Dinner was served early and later, we decided to take a walk around the mango orchard, while Pramit & RD shared ghost stories ‘coz they felt like it was the perfect ambiance!
The next day, we began from where we had ended the previous night! Yeah, a walk on the cobbled path around the mango orchards, with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. On some Sundays, that’s what you probably need – nature, sunshine, coffee & a little laughter! After having breakfast, I decided to spend a couple of hours in the library, before we checked out and embarked on our journey back to Kolkata.
We were back in the city by evening, and the weekend just passed by the wink of an eye! Yet, we were still drooling over the grandeur and royalty that we experienced at The Belgadia Palace.
Things To Do In & Around The Belgadia Palace.
Although we went there for just a night, it would be great if you plan for a stay of two nights. You can get in touch with Mrinalika by dropping a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll assist you in planning your trip. The entire staff is extremely cordial and would always be a step ahead to cater to your needs.
You can spend a day getting oriented with the Balgadia Palace and Baripada town, visiting the original 1804 Mayurbhanj Palace and nearby colonial heritage structures including the 700-year-old Jagannath Temple. (10 minutes from The Belgadia Palace)
Make sure to visit the Haripura Ruins, which about 20 minutes drive from the palace.
Visit Lulung waterfall and Sitakund waterfall, in the buffer area of Simlipal. The latter has stories tied to tribal mythology of Sita having bathed there.
Enjoy the Chhau (martial arts dance performance) and speak to the artists to understand the tribal martial arts dance form and its contemporary relevance.
You can also take a tour of the tribal villages, meet the dokra artisans as well as Sabai Grass (sustainable handicraft) self-help group, who run their shop in the town.
The Belgadia Palace can be your perfect destination for a weekend retreat, where you can enjoy your time amidst nature, soaking in the silence, knowing about the history and heritage of the property, and savoring delicious home-cooked food. A boutique homestay born out of the need to build self-sustaining communities in Baripada, Mrinalika & her sister are aiming to host travelers from different parts of the world, which could lead to local welfare in the years to come. They have envisioned their ancestral property as an anchor for nurturing the culture of Odisha as well as catering to the new-age ethical heritage tourism which has gained immense popularity worldwide.