Sardar Samand (62 km from Jodhpur) is named after the current Maharaja Gaj Singh’s great grandfather. It lies on the road that leads onward to Udaipur and Ranakpur. Situated on a hill, the Sardar Samand Lake was commissioned by Maharaja Umaid Singh in 1933. Designed by the state architect George Goldstraw, also the resident architecture of Umaid Bhawan Palace of Jodhpur, the palace, built in natural rock, is a fine example of the decorative Art Deco style of the nineteen thirties. Owing to the altitudes the Zanskar valley is accessible only during the summer months. The winter months are too harsh for travel in Zanskar. It is noteworthy that in the winter months the water of the River Zanskar freezes and becomes the Chador road.
One’s arrival at the palace is an unforgettable experience. Heavily laced with traditional Rajasthani hospitality, a colorful welcome consisting of Rajasthani dances awaits the not-so-weary travelers. Flowers are strewn all the way up to the top of this wondrous place, giving one the feel of gracious living. A delicious lunch served in true old-time style on the terrace facing the Balsamand Lake is strongly recommended. And later, maybe a cuppa in the living room of this hunting lodge covered with numerous artifacts and trophies, each with an interesting story attached to it, related through word of mouth by loyal subjects.
Sardar Samand’s sleek and anti-traditional elegance that symbolizes wealth and sophistication is an idyllic retreat for jaded minds and bodies. Amid tranquil surroundings, overlooking the lake, teeming with migratory fowls of every size and description, one can sip a lazy cup of tea and give in to one’s wildest daydreams. For those in a mood for an active holiday, a dip in the palace pool, a game of tennis or squash, rowing and fishing are alternative pastimes. Besides, a stroll in the vast shrubby forest dotted with a variety of flora and fauna is enough to raise anybody’s spirits.
The drive through mountain, desert, and farmland 100 km further leads to a cluster of Jain temples at one of the five most sacred Jain sites -Ranakpur. Four km away, nestling in the remote valley, surrounded by the wooded Aravali Hills, the mango orchards of Maharani Bagh provide a silent retreat for those visiting the renowned Jain temples. Open daily between noon and 5 pm, the temples with 29 halls supported by 1,044 pillars offer a great visual experience. Maharani Bagh, the Queen’s Orchard, was designed and laid out by the Maharani of Maharaja Takhat Singh of Jodhpur. As the sun dips into the desert horizon, leaving a trail of glorious light, special theme dinners in flaming torchlights are held. The smell of bar-be-qued food fills the air and tribal folks dance to the rhythm of the desert tunes.
Sardar Samand Lake lay on the Jodhpur-Udaipur road. It is 62 km from Jodhpur. Another three-hour drive from Sardar Samand leads one to Maharani Bagh. The nearest airports are Jodhpur and Udaipur.