Eshita Kabra-Davies takes us to Rajasthan; her motherland, the location of her honeymoon, and the region that inspired her business, By Rotation, a leading fashion rental app. Here, she shares her insider guide to Ranthambore, Jaipur and Jodhpur.
Rajasthan. The land (‘sthan’) of the kings (‘rajas’). The beautiful and palatial desert state of India, also known for its renowned textile industry, and very appropriately – my birthplace.
In my teenage years and early 20s, I was desperate to explore other parts of the world. In my late 20s and now early 30s, I’ve been so intrigued by – and invested in – my own culture that I knew my honeymoon destination had to be back to my roots.
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If you’re familiar with By Rotation’s origin story, you will know that it was during my honeymoon that the idea came into being. I was inspired by my hometown’s beauty, simplicity (no pretentiousness here!) and approach to resourcefulness (re-using everything). It was special to learn and experience how communities here achieved self-reliance and harmony with nature. It felt very obvious and uncomplex, unlike the world I was living in. By Rotation was my eureka moment; a community-oriented approach to reusing fashion.
Four and a half years after my honeymoon – and the trip that inspired me to set up By Rotation – I was recently presented with the ideal opportunity to return to Rajasthan: my brother’s Indian wedding celebrations, a trip on which I visited three of Rajasthan’s most spectacular regions: Ranthambore, Jaipur and Jodhpur.
It was a privilege to revisit my motherland again. As a founder and CEO, you can be so amongst the weeds that you can lose sight of what made you so passionate about your calling in the first place.
I felt reinvigorated by the Rajasthani communities I connected with on this trip, and was reminded of my purpose and mission in life: to transform consumption and build communities for the future of our world. I am so proud to see the progress India has been making while always keeping the environment on its agenda. It was heartwarming to meet fellow Indian entrepreneurs who are very closely intertwining societal progress with commercial advancement – or the popular term “profit with purpose.” I returned home reminded of my life’s purpose in building By Rotation here in the UK and US – and hopefully in India one day soon.
Eshita’s Guide to Rajasthan:
My brother’s wedding was the final one in the Kabra household, and it was a beautiful affair. One that paid homage to our Rajasthani culture and traditions in Ranthambore, best known for its national park which is home to just under 100 tigers.
We booked out the Alsisar Nahargarh, a luxury hotel in the national park, for the occasion. This heritage property is known for its step-well pool and proximity to the tiger safari entrances; quite the location for an Indian wedding.
Things to do in Ranthambore:
- Tiger safari: It’s likely you will need to go a few times to spot the elusive tigers. I would recommend a private jeep safari, and this often needs to be booked months in advance. Your hotel concierge should be able to look into this for you.
- For dinner, try Mughal-inspired dishes and Rajasthani thalis at Aman-i-Khas or spiced lamb shanks at The Oberoi Vanyavilas Wildlife Resort.
After the five-day Indian wedding affair, my husband and I were in much need of respite. In Jaipur we stayed at Anopura, a luxury farm stay on the outskirts of Jaipur, Rajasthan’s capital. As we live in central London, our idea of a holiday getaway is to be secluded with a little bit of civilisation every now and then, and Anopura was the perfect base for us to unwind at. We had a private villa and pool and there were virtually no other guests to be seen.
We dined under the stars, milked cows for our morning chai, cooked traditional Rajasthani food with the villagers and drove to Jaipur (an hour away by car) to see our friends and scout for local treasures to bring home to our family, friends and colleagues.
Things to do in Jaipur:
- Bar Palladio is a favourite people-watching spot where the well-travelled locals and expats hang out. It’s also a break from Indian food, should you want one.
- Baradari, within the beautiful City Palace, is great for an aperitif.
- Rambagh Palace Hotel is a must-visit to soak in old-school Jaipur glamour. The Rajput Room is perfect for a fine dining experience, or the Verandah for a drink outdoors.
- Rajmahal Palace serves an Instagrammable afternoon tea in its Colonnade room.
Our final stop on this trip was Jodhpur, a more traditional city known for its blue architecture (also known as the Blue City), gems and spices. It was also proudly known for being home to warriors, and one of my favourite motifs that comes up in this area is the elegant Marwari horse – known for its bravery and loyalty to its warrior owner, and its very unusual and adorable ears.
We spent a day in The Rohet House, a secluded mansion within the city and a quiet respite with relaxing interiors: pastels, lush bedding and beautiful hand-drawn paintings. By day, we ventured to local food markets to taste Jodhpur’s specialities such as mirchi vada (a large, fried chilli pakora), jalebi (fried rings of batter and sugar syrup) and pyaz ki kacchori (fried pastry with onion and lentil). I loved speaking to all the generations-owned vendors in Hindi and Marwari, and learning about their commitment to continuing their family business – it was clear to me that this was their life’s purpose and calling, something I continuously reflect on as founder and CEO of By Rotation.
We also visited a textile and antiques dealer, who weaves and produces on behalf of luxury fashion houses such as Etro, Hermès and Loro Piana. It served as a reminder that India, my motherland, continues to have the highest craftsmanship and should be given more credit on the global stage.
The next day, we moved to our final and most-awaited destination of the trip: Mihir Garh. A rural Relais & Châteaux property, Mihir Garh is alike to a sandcastle and perhaps the most beautiful, secluded and hidden place you can stay at in Rajasthan. Every detail of this property pays homage to Jodhpuri culture – from Marwari horse curtain holders to embroidered mirror bed linen. We had stayed here during our honeymoon too, and it was a privilege to come back and see how little the property had changed – even down to the staff and villagers who recognised us, and vice-versa.
Our daytime was spent at the property, reading Murakami by our private plunge pool and visiting their legendary Marwari horses on-site. In the evening, we set out to visit the neighbouring Bishnoi tribe, a community known for being the first ever environmentalists in India for their way of living symbiotically with the environment. If you’ve seen Wes Anderson’s cult classic The Darjeeling Limited, you’ll know exactly who we met. We then went to see a potter, who demonstrated the making of beautiful vases, Marwari horses and whistles; children from the village joined in as a part of the potter’s audience. I remembered him from our honeymoon and noticed that while his workspace had had a facelift thanks to his success, his art was still very much tied to his heritage plus Marwari and Hindu culture.
Ahead of dinner, we set out for a sundown safari where we were lucky to spot the near threatened blackbuck, a species of antelope endemic to India and Nepal. For dinner, Mihir Garh organised a private candlelit, traditional Rajasthani meal under the starry skies; we will cherish the views of the abundant desert and moon forever.
I deeply appreciated revisiting these experiences: it felt as though, despite having a good awareness of the world modernising around them and adopting various aspects of said modernisation, the people we met knew deeply and truly – with confidence – what was most important to them. That is, their culture, heritage and stories.
Things to do in Jodhpur:
- Walk around the Old City to discover views of the blue-walled houses against the imposing Mehrangarh Fort.
- Taste local cuisine: the food market is best in the morning. To escape the rush, I’d suggest a 9:30AM start.
- Dine at Umaid Bhawan Palace: a favourite of celebrities such as Dua Lipa and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. Lunch offers fabulous seating on the main terrace overlooking its bougainvillea gardens.
Where to Shop For Fashion, Homewares and Souvenirs:
Shopping in Rajasthan is a great way to support local artisans directly. Often you will meet the maker, which will be a memory on its own.
The PDKF Store: Within the City Palace, it is a retail outlet created to showcase the products crafted by the women working with the Princess Diya Kumari Foundation. The product range is predominantly block print which makes great souvenirs, and the silhouettes are flattering. I’d highly recommend purchasing your block print fashion and homewares from here.
Parampara: Founded by Virginia Borrero de Castro, a Colombian native who has called Rajasthan home for more than six years, this boutique store houses the eponymous De Castro label which combines Indian and South American prints and patterns to create incredibly flattering silhouettes and accessories for modern women and men.
Hotel Narain Niwas Palace: This luxury hotel has a shopping arcade which has curated the best stores all in one place – I’d recommend visiting Aashka Bhargavi, Tokree, Andraab and Hot Pink (see below).
Hot Pink Jaipur: This is a concept store amongst the Hotel Narain Niwas Palace boutiques. We found something for everyone here beyond block print fabrics, including homeware gifts, menswear and even a silk kaftan with a traditional Indian print (which I am very excited to wear this summer!).
Gems & Jewels Palace: The best-known jeweller in Jodhpur, it showcases Kate Moss, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie amongst its many other famous patrons and is a store recommended by the majority of luxury hotel groups in the city. It has a workshop above its large showroom where you can watch the artisans in action.
Maharani Textiles & Handicrafts: For interiors and luxury textiles.
Kama Ayurveda Spa: After our flight from Jodhpur to Delhi, and before our flight home to London, I had a Radiance facial at the Kama Ayurveda spa in Aerocity (very close to the Indira Gandhi International Airport). The Kama Ayurveda brand has also now launched in the United Kingdom after much anticipation.
Images courtesy of Eshita Kabra-Davies
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