Restoration of Fort Barwara: Past forward

In early spring when the sun peeks out from behind the Aravalli range looming over the Chauth Ka Barwara village, the mountain is framed perfectly by the window of the five-ft-thick and 20-ft-tall wall of 700-year-old Fort Barwara. The sunlight splashes shades of orange, yellow and red on the clear, cloudless sky overlooking the gentle slopes of the mountain and the periphery wall of the heritage structure in Sawai Madhopur, near the Ranthambore forest, 169 km away from Jaipur in Rajasthan. The fort, constructed in 1417 by Maharaja Bheem Singh Chauhan in the erstwhile kingdom of Ranthambore, is spread across 5.5 acres. Today, after 10 years of restoration, it is India’s first Six Senses spa resort with 48 suites.

In 2011, Prithviraj Singh, descendant of the family of the current owners of the fort, roped in Parul Zaveri and her late husband Nimish Patel of Panika, a conservation architectural firm, to restore the fort to its former glory and convert it into a luxury hotel. “When I first saw the site, it was scary,” admits Zaveri. It was once used as a war post with horse stables, a store for arms and ammunition, and has seen a lot of changes and wear and tear over the centuries. It fell into disuse after 1947, letting nature take over. Hundreds of bats had made the fort its home. “There were offshoots of plants and trees everywhere, deepening the cracks in the buildings. Parts of the fort’s wall and other structures were falling apart. It required a lot of work, especially to ensure that the heritage value and its old aesthetic were restored and its design and aesthetic continued in the new structures to make room for a luxury hotel,” she says.

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