Express News Service

Uttarakhand’s most revered city—Haridwar—is surprisingly a case study in art and architecture. Aside from the temples and ashrams that dot the town, there are age-old havelis and ancestral bungalows that whisper secrets of its antique past. Most of them have striking arches and frescoes that may have faded with time, but, nonetheless, are a reflection of the city’s regal aesthetic.

Amrit Bhawan is one such space that stands tall in the historic neighbourhood of Kankhal. The modest family home that was built in the 1970s, offers tranquility to its visitors. Converted into a three-storeyed plush boutique hotel in 2018, it has been retrofitted with all modern amenities like dual air conditioners, jacuzzi, heat pumps and more, with eight guest rooms that can accommodate up to 20 people. There’s also a private ghat and a lush garden laden with fruit trees bearing mangoes and jamuns, apart from herbs like basil, lemongrass and ajwain, which eventually find a way into their chutneys and kadhas. 

A river-view suite

A towering semal tree with a buttressed base occupies pride of place in the garden. “The property has been with the family for over 40 years. It initially belonged to a Gujarati widow, who sold it to my paternal grandfather,” shares Varun Bajaj, director at Amrit Bhawan.

The property wasn’t fit for habitation in the early 2000s. In 2017, Bajaj, who had recently returned from the US, decided to take on the task of restoring the space, without tampering with its essence. After three years of renovation, it opened to the public in March 2020.

The heritage property has art-deco elements that can’t go unnoticed: Jaalis boasting a distinctive pattern, while highlighting the curvature of certain columns and the use of terrazzo, a composite flooring material made from crushed marble or granite that is set into a layer of mortar before polishing the surface. “Dehradun is known for its mosaic flooring and terrazzo. It’s a cost-effective way to do up a building. But once quarrying was banned in the Himalayas, it died as an art.

Now you don’t really have skilled karigars to do it,” shares Bajaj. So, when the restoration of the property began, it was clear that the terrazzo would be the centrepiece. “Each room is unique and has its own colour palette. We have used cement mosaic floors in different hues and forms. Even the walls have pastel shades that are done using putty,” he adds.

For Bajaj, manufactured heritage has no appeal. He wanted to retain the original structure without losing its essence. “We didn’t want to tamper with our heritage,”he says, as he gazes wistfully at the ghat.

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