Joanna Lester-George

The Hall of Clouds

KOKOindia the Travel Company | October 6th, 2018 | https://www.facebook.com/KOKOindiaTravel/

Junagarh Fort in Bikaner is (rather fantastically) a castle, a palace and a fort all rolled into one. Constructed many, many moons ago in the heart of the Rajasthani Desert, it is an epic sandstone maze of mahals (palaces), courtyards, landscaped gardens, temples and pavilions. Every successive Maharaja demanded his own private chambers be built, and the searing desert heat was a constant architectural challenge to overcome.

One such King of Bikaner came up with an ingenious way to both keep cool and get inspired. A passionate music lover, Maharaja Sardar Singh commissioned a special room within Junagarh Fort to simulate a cooler, wetter climate – one that would not stifle his musical creativity. He called it the Badal Mahal meaning Hall of Clouds.

The walls were decorated with whimsical murals of blue skies and fluffy white clouds, and a clever natural cooling system saw thin sheets of water flow onto the floor which were then fanned by servants known as Pankha Wallahs. In his fabulously cool music room, the Maharaja would sit on an elevated platform singing away to his heart’s content to the soundtrack of gently gurgling water.

Our brilliant guide at Junagarh Fort had my son captivated at the notion that the royal children would splash about in the water in the Badal Mahal. He could imagine their delight at experiencing the feeling of rain for the first time - just as my son, born and raised in tropical Goa, has never dived headlong into the snow...