The Tribune - Spectrum


, February 17, 2002

The charm of Fort Chanwa at Luni
Shona Adhikari

A view of Fort Chanwa
A view of Fort Chanwa

LUNI is the name of Marwar’s most important river. Dry most of the year, this rain-fed river depends on the monsoon to change it into a life-giving, meandering source of water.

The village named after the river, was originally situated on the banks of the river, but with the uncertain monsoon, the river bed has shifted and Luni the village, is now located almost 200 hundred yards away from where the river Luni flows. A small village, Luni has narrow paved streets and all the ingredients to make it a typical picturesque village of Rajasthan. In the very heart of this charming village stands the tiny fortress of Chanwa — rather like a mother protecting her brood!

Built over a hundred odd years ago, Fort Chanwa was inherited by Maharaja Dalip Singhji, the grand uncle of Jodhpur’s Maharaja Gaj Singh II. Fashioned out of the local red sandstone,, with ornately carved friezes and traditional paintings on the walls, the Fort has 20 ft-high ramparts and huge gates. Inside the Fort, is an immaculately maintained palace, complete with arches and carvings, it is managed with great elan by Dalip Singh’s son, Vikram Singh. A very popular place with tour groups, it draws tourists from all over the world.


Entering through the main door of the palace, it is plain that an expert interior designer has been at work. We discover that this is no other than Dalip Singh’s charming wife, Madhu. Here at this old fortress she has managed to create the most attractive and authentic decor by using the indigenous crafts of the region. The entry to the main lounge is through traditional arched doors, with coloured glasspanes. The sunlight filtering in through the panes lights up the interior in rainbow colours. Old carved furniture, traditional Rajasthani textiles and coloured glass chandeliers create a special old world charm.

The lounge has an old-world charm
The lounge has an old-world charm

The bedrooms are even more innovative. Here, a part of the rooms have been blocked off with low walls to create toilets. The ceilings of these, are appliqued canopies sloping down from the main wall. The bedcovers follow the same appliqued designs, and the colour combinations and designs are typically Rajasthani — red and yellow, maroon and black, or the popular yellow and red on a white ground. All the rooms have matching cushion covers and durries woven at Salawas — the centre for durree making, made famous in recent years by Shyam Ahuja.

With the interest in heritage properties rising steadily every year, Dalip Singh has recovered his initial small investment of Rs 4 lakh many times over. According to him, his main expenditure had been the plumbing fixtures. The exquisitely furnished double rooms and the one room on the upper floor which has been converted into a suite, are full almost the year round. With stone stairways and traditional arched niches on the wall, all of which have been left in the original state, the Fort has a wonderfully unspoilt look — exactly as one imagines a Fort would look, set in a somewhat remote village in Rajasthan.

Luni however is barely a forty -minute drive from Jodhpur, and is a busy and bustling place with metal workers, potters, fabric weavers and printers — all working at their traditional crafts. The solid walls of the fortress are unable to shut out the sounds and noises, the hustle and bustle of village life, as it rises to a crescendo at dusk and then all is quiet as night descends on the desert. From the fortress towers, the entire village can be seen in all its different moods — bustling and busy by day and quiet and peaceful by night.

Fort Chanwa is for all those who hanker for a chance to get away from their urban lives, and to relive the romance and grace of a life now extinct. If you are one of these, then all you need to do is to follow the meandering River Luni to Fort Chanwa — a great getaway!