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The Royal Touch

Romancing an old world charm of royalty in nature is what you get at Gaj Laxmi...

A shiver runs down the spine as you stand in the luxurious drawing room of Kumar Saheb Ranendra Pratap Singh Deo of Gaj Laxmi Rajbari of Dhenkanal. From an ornate glass showcase the fearsome stare of the Naranpatna man eating tiger bears down on you. Its piercing eyes and sharp rows of teeth was the stare of death to 83 people it had killed and eaten before being put down by Kumar Saheb. That was in 1986 in the Koraput district of Odisha.

After a quarter of a century, a strange twist of destiny has brought a man-eating tiger back! But this time it is on celluloid. Sandip Ray and his film shooting unit has set base at Kumar Shaheb's Gaj Laxmi Palace to shoot Satyajit Ray's Royal Bengal Rahasya.

Romancing an old world charm of royalty in nature is what you get at Gaj Laxmi, only an hour-and-a-half drive from Cuttack. It is a royal palace built way up on Megha hill that overlooks vast stretches of forests, dotted occasionally by small villages. So thick is the forest that to a casual eye it is impossible to locate the palace from the highway.
The view from the palace is incredible. And it is teeming with wild life - birds, elephants, deer, civets, monkeys and wild boars are in plenty, while an occasional leopard may make a casual appearance.

Kumar Saheb's son Jitendra Singh Deo and daughter in law Navneeta turned their age old home into a holiday destination to share their experience of mysticism of royalty set in the heart of nature. The food that comes from the kitchen is local and comes from the organic farm along the house. It has also a blend of Rajasthan's royalty courtesy Navneeta's connect to Chittorgarh and Maharana Pratap.

However, the trill of being in the wild begins from within the dwelling. There is a veranda that is shrouded in an eerie quietness. But to a keen ear the endless rustle of leaves and animal calls come from far.

Stepping out is not allowed unless accompanied with a trained forest guard. There are a few jungle trails that one can walk down in the morning and they offer splendid opportunities for small game and bird watching. Much of the wild life viewing is at the only water hole in the region and strategically placed a few minutes from the palace.

There is also an option of being in a tribal village with just a few hours drive from Gaj Laxmi and is well arranged if notified early.
Back to the palace, there are few rules to follow. Keep away from private quarters of the royalty and it is advisable to ask before you step out on the terrace for the door is kept locked. It is also good to keep a flash light at hand for nights can be dark when the electricity goes off.
Do certainly go in the monsoon. You would see the rumbling clouds come and gather around Megha hills and the palace.

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