A luxurious royal residence
Kashmir is a destination for every season and Srinagar is the perfect place to begin your explorations. Spring brings forth blooms of every colour startling bright blue skies with fluffy errant clouds. It is also the time for the Tulips which take over the foothills of the Zabarwan skirting the banks of the Dal Lake in well-ordered profusion. Summer of course is perfection in this paradise land, while Monsoons which is low to moderate in the valley spans July and August. The fall months in Kashmir begin mid-September and last till early December when the famous gardens of Srinagar are ablaze with the fall colours of Chinars and Ginkgo. In fact this is also the time for the flowering of Saffron, famous as the red gold.
Karan Mahal is set on the erstwhile estate of the royal family of Jammu and Kashmir, a charming European-style villa on Srinagar’s Shankaracharya Hill overlooking the Dal Lake and surrounded by private orchards of peach and almonds. Built in the early 20th century, Karan Mahal served as the residence of Dr Karan Singh, and has since welcomed historical figures such as Edwina Mountbatten, Pandit Nehru, Nikita Khrushchev, Rajendra Prasad, Indira Gandhi and Joseph Campbell. At a walking distance from the promenade, Karan Mahal is easily Srinagar’s select address, curated for exclusivity and luxury by Vikramditya Singh and Chitrangadha.
Karan Mahal’s location, exclusivity with just eight rooms and is Srinagar’s first boutique hotel in the real sense as a stand-alone, owner run luxury boutique hotel. It is also the perfect design and its curation lends itself to the richness of Srinagar’s natural beauty and heritage.
Know Your Host
Vikramaditya and Chitrangada are not new to hospitality having successfully run Taragarh Palace in Palampur in Himachal for over a decade. Their vision for Karan Mahal is to share their residence with discerning guests and to provide them an exclusive boutique heritage stay to explore Srinagar.
A winding drive through a well-guarded gate takes you up to a couple of robust Chinar trees. The Residence stands away from the generous lawns and gardens that circle the bungalow all the way to the back and accessed from a side gate that brings you to the wrap around verandah that also serves as easy lounging spaces. The gardens with Chinars, flower beds and a large pool in the centre is ideal to sit out in the summer days and also under the fall’s tepid sun. The bungalow is colonial on the outside while the interiors have hints of classic art deco especially the staircases with their polished railings and hallways. The roofs sport the symmetrical handcrafted ‘katamband’, still preserved in the high ceilinged rooms and suites. The theme of Karan Mahal is to offer guests an exclusive residence all to themselves, with the luxury of personal and attentive service by well-trained staff.
Ten guest rooms and suites lavishly appointed with the best of Kashmir’s carpets, art deco furniture, art and objet d’art, silver ware, crystals, pristine linen and rich furnishings. Most suites have a private balcony and the large warp around verandah out front and almost every section of Karan Mahal opens up to unparalleled views of the Zabarwan and Pir Panjal ranges, orchards and the Dal Lake. Ideal for long stays and buy outs, the cuisine, services, spaces and hospitality at Karan Mahal have been perfected for those who value exclusivity and understated elegance. Ensuite bathrooms are elegant and large, beautifully monogramed towels and fragrant amenities from Kama Ayurveda. The rooms and suites are spread between the ground floor and first floor, two of the suites have private entrances while a couple of the rooms open directly to the gardens.
The main dining room is on the ground floor and accessed through the verandah and a brief reception area. Beautifully furnished and serviced by personal staff in livery, the cuisine is a mix of North Indian, Kashmiri and Continental recipes passed down over generations. Serving a selection of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, service is on delicately monogramed crockery and cutlery. The dining room allows for communal seating as well as private tables for couples. Karan Mahal allows guests to experience the full range of their kitchen delicacies and are able to cater to dietary restrictions and allergies on prior information.
Srinagar is an explorer’s paradise allowing for heritage excursions in to the old city, exploring the gardens of Srinagar and also visits to the Dachigam National Park. Shikara rides on the Dal Lake and visits to temples and craft centres for pashmina and papier-mâché can be organised on request. In house activities include morning and evening walks in the orchards with a member of the team.
A private heritage getaway with family members and friends, to celebrate a special occasion, explore Srinagar, and an ideal destination to enjoy privacy. In keeping with the quiet and serene ambience, the property is recommended for adults and children above 14. The eight rooms and suites can accommodate 16 adults comfortably on double/twin occupancy only (triple occupancy not allowed) with a minimum stay of two nights.
Karan Mahal is open from April to first week of January.
Built in the 1920s, Karan Mahal has been part of significant political and social moments. The carefully preserved artefacts reflect the eclectic history of this residence.
Local Community Engagement: Some of the staff at Karan Mahal comprise people who have been retainers of the royal family for over three generations. Local artists and musicians are promoted.
Light Footprint Tourism: The orchards surrounding the property yield numerous items Kashmir is famous for, like apples, apricots, pears, plums, cherries, and strawberries, and these are served as jams, chutneys, and marmalades, all made in-house. The private forest and orchard are open to guests for guided walks.
Sensitive Destination Discovery: For generations, the Royal family has been patron to many artisans that create papier-mâché, carpets, and shawls. A special selection of these handicrafts is curated upon request by the guests.
Heritage Preservation: The residence was built in the 1920s and continues to be a living heritage space. One can find art deco furniture, exquisite and carefully preserved artefacts, and the unique katamband wooden ceiling that is handcrafted with pieces of walnut or deodar wood and put into a geometrical pattern without nails. Traditional family recipes that have been passed down through generations are served. Traditional folk singers who perform Kashmiri songs using the traditional instrument called the rabab are invited to the residence.
Human Touch: The staff that has been part of the family for three generations is well looked after.
The RARE Sustainability Quotient is a self-audit tool that is used by our hotel partners to measure, document, and assess their planet and people friendly practises and is based on the RARE Touchstones.