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Meghraj Singh Royal Talks About what it Takes: Preserving and Restoring the Royal Heritage of MRS Group

India’s rich architectural heritage is a testament to its regal past, with grand palaces, forts, and havelis dotting the landscape. In recent years, a growing trend has emerged of converting these historic structures into luxury heritage hotels, allowing travelers to experience the opulence of a bygone era. However, transforming these culturally significant buildings into modern hospitality venues requires a delicate balance between preserving their heritage and incorporating contemporary amenities. Meghraj Singh Royal, the owner of MRS Group, shares insights into the meticulous and arduous process of transforming palaces into heritage hotels.

Restoring ancient havelis into heritage hotels is no easy feat. Architects and hoteliers face numerous challenges, from infrastructure upgrades to maintaining historical authenticity. Laying modern plumbing and electrical lines in centuries-old structures can be daunting, especially while preserving the antique aesthetics. Replicating intricate craftsmanship, such as marble or wood carvings, can be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.  

“It’s not just about restoring the physical structures,” Meghraj Singh Royal explains. “We have to ensure that the essence of the royal legacy is seamlessly woven into the guest experience.”

He adds, “India’s heritage hotels are architectural marvels that transport guests into the opulent world of the country’s royal legacy. These historic properties, once grand palaces, forts, havelis, or hunting lodges, showcase the unparalleled craftsmanship and design brilliance of a bygone era.” From intricate carvings and vibrant frescoes to ornate chandeliers and gleaming marble floors, every corner of these hotels is a visual delight that captivates the senses and all this needs to be retained during restoration.

Renovating forts involves a thoughtful blend of traditional and modern techniques to preserve their historic integrity. This includes using traditional materials like limestone, stone, and wood for repairs and replacements, and employing methods such as indenting, where damaged stones are replaced with new ones of the same material, as well as carving and refitting undamaged stones in their original positions.

Restoration efforts also rely on lime-based plasters and mortars and focus on maintaining original architectural features like intricate woodwork, sculptures, and jharokas (projecting balconies). The principle of minimal intervention is key, with a priority on retaining the fort’s original character and fabric, avoiding unnecessary modern additions, and carefully preserving any old furniture and artifacts found during restoration.

Detailed documentation and monitoring, including maintaining drawings, photographs, and records of the work, along with regular inspections by conservation architects, ensure proper maintenance. The renovation process also emphasizes environmental sustainability and the protection of potential archaeological deposits.

Meghraj Singh Royal says, “Community engagement is vital in heritage restoration projects. Involving local artisans and craftsmen to leverage their traditional skills and knowledge is crucial. Also including the local community, not just in the restoration process, but also in the future programming and use of the heritage site, is equally important. This helps preserve the authentic character of these historic structures and ensures they remain living, vibrant spaces that serve the community.”

This delicate balance is exemplified in the MRS group’s flagship property, Narendra Bhawan in Bikaner. Originally the abode of the last reigning Maharaja of Bikaner, the hotel was meticulously restored to retain its regal ambiance while offering modern comforts. “The idea was to showcase the city as a hidden jewel of Rajasthan through an authentic, yet contemporary hotel experience” says Singh

As more travelers seek immersive cultural experiences, the demand for luxury heritage hotels in India is expected to grow. By preserving these historic structures and adapting them to modern needs, hoteliers are not only safeguarding India’s architectural legacy but also providing a unique opportunity for visitors to connect with the country’s rich history and traditions.

However, the success of heritage hotels depends on striking the right balance between heritage preservation and contemporary development. With careful planning, collaboration with local experts, and a commitment to authenticity, India’s royal havelis can continue to captivate and inspire travelers for generations to come.

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