A trip to Jaisalmer is incomplete without experiencing royal hospitality. Our writer checks into the 300-year-old Nachana Haveli, which is lovingly run as a heritage hotel by its residents, Vikram Singh Nachana and his wife Meghna Kumari Singh. Text by Rashima Nagpal, photos by Rushabh Shah
Explore the beautiful Nachana Haveli in Jaisalmer with us
Built with Jailasmer’s quintessential ‘golden stone’, Nachana Haveli is located on a busy chowk in the heart of the city. A variety of stalls and shops flank its entrance. But the noise of the market fades out as I walk through its high-arched gate to arrive in the middle of a sprawling courtyard, under a neem tree. The haveli was built during the late 17th and early 18th century, I’m told by its present owner and resident, Vikram Singh Nachana, who belongs to the royal family of Jaisalmer.
“Post British Raj, we are the seventh generation to live here. We have a genealogical chart that begins with Lord Krishna and Rishi Atri and descends down to my son,” he shares. Now in his early 40s, Singh began restoration work at the haveli in 1996—at the persuasion of friends and local travel agents. Before that, the haveli was a holiday home for his family, who lived in Jodhpur. “I was 16 when I decided to start developing the rooms. Heritage hotels were a new concept back then. I had to ideate from scratch without any help. I wanted to store away our belongings, paint the doors rogue, and things like that,” he laughs. The opposite happened.
Each of the 13 guest rooms retain their original form till date; attached restrooms were added to them. In 2002, a restaurant called Saffron was set up with the help of Singh’s sister. The drawing room doubles up as a small museum today, housing artefacts and souvenirs collected by several generations of the family. Throughout the haveli, one finds family photographs hung on walls—from sepia-toned portraits of erstwhile kings and queens to candid photos from the weddings of Singh and his two siblings. Surrounded by all the memorabilia, Singh can’t help travelling back in time.
“When I was growing up in Jaisalmer, there were no autos. Only a handful of families owned two-wheelers, and [there was] no trace of four-wheelers. When I started developing the hotel, everything was brought on camel carts. Until almost 2002, people would take camels right from the hotel and go on [desert] safaris for days. We’d ride horses into the market,” Singh paints a vivid picture of the past.
While the walls of the haveli continue to be as thick as they always were, the people living and breathing here have changed over time. “My father was a finicky traveller. He did not permit us to go alone anywhere. My mother had never seen the market, the temples, or even stepped outside the palace for that matter. The parda system was at its peak when she came here,” Singh shares. Today, his wife and three kids aren’t shackled by tradition. While Singh is usually occupied with his 11-year-old career as a politician, his wife Meghna, who comes from the royal family of Sirmaur in Himachal Pradesh, spearheads operations at the haveli-cum-hotel, besides working for charities.
My daughters are almost teenagers now, and they understand the values, but they have seen a different Jaisalmer growing up. They are always on the hunt for stories of the bygone days. They love the camels, the desert. I’m surprised when I ask them to turn on the AC and they refuse to because they like the heat as well,” he quips.
The future of Nachana Haveli looks bright. The family is working on building the originally planned third storey that was never built, with plans of adding bigger suites with modern amenities and good old views of the Jaisalmer Fort.