MAHUA KOTHI
KATNI, MADHYA PRADESH

USP: A slice of Indian village life, amidst dense forests, where deer sit at your door and snakes guard your room.

First a six-hour flight from Delhito Khajuraho. And then, almost fivehours of driving on bumpy anddusty roads. Mahua Kothi couldwell be a dampener for even themost spirited of travel enthusiasts.The only thing one can think of is acomfortable bed and a peacefulnight.

The moment I enter MahuaKothi, two smiling attendeeswarmly greet me with `Hari Om,'and offer me a wet, cold hand toweltopped with fragrant flowers and aglass of fresh lime. In the scorchingheat of June, there couldn't havebeen a better welcome!

They escort me to my hut or`kutia' as they call it, and I amentranced. It's a replica of a typicalIndian village house with modernfacilities. The air conditioner has a`touch-screen' remote, there's afive-starrish looking soft bed, apaper/fibre chandelier, triangularroof with semi-polished, thick treetrunks, grooves in the wall to holdlanterns, old style black switchesand tribal art works: the whole thinghas been beautifully put together.

The kutia's walls have raw,limestone plaster and the courtyardis plastered with real cow dung. Thestacked wooden almirahs have nodoors and the windows have reedcurtains. The water taps are set intree trunks and the washroom has abrass bucket, and a customised`rain-shower.' The floor of thewashroom is made of flattenedwooden logs. No shining steel rodshere to hang your towels; there's awooden ladder instead. However,you can soak your aches away in amodern bath tub, with fragrant,herbal shower gel, soap and theworks.

After washing up, I am escortedthrough the jungle to the 24-seaterdining hall, which again conveysrustic charm: there's a ragged toycar, a huge tree, and as many as 100lanterns (imported beforeIndependence), and heavy brasscrockery, all contriving to lend it anancient look.

Chef Siddharth serves Conti-Indian food here. I am offered achoice: chaupal dinner (courtyardsetting), a mahua dinner (under amahua tree), a bush dinner (matseating,barbequeued dinner) or aroof top dinner while star-gazing.From the roof at night, I spot a pairof deer on the open meadow next tothe dining hall. They have come todrink water from the pond.

The crimson sun sets and eveningslips into night. My kutia, among 12others, is sunk in dense forest. It iseasy to lose your way even duringthe day. At night, lanterns are lit toshow the way. On my way back to thekutia, I see colourful birds, and thena family of langurs jump from thetree, to get a look at me. I spot a snaketoo in my courtyard. "They live hereand never harm anyone," Jeet, thegeneral manager, assures me.

I sink into the luxurious bed. Ihave to get up at 5 a.m., for the junglesafari at Bandhavgarh NationalPark, barely a kilometre away.There's no need to set the alarm forthe twittering of birds will wake meup!

How to get there

Take the Delhi Nizamuddin Express to Katni. From Katni, it is 100 km by road or take the Narmada Express from New Delhi to Umaria.

From Umaria the resort is 30 km away.

Catch the Delhi to Jabalpur flight, followed by a four-and-half-hour drive or the Delhi to Khajuraho flight followed by a six-hour drive.

Things to do

Go on a jungle safari. It is organised twice a day (5.30 a.m and 4.30 p.m) at the Bandhavgarh National Park.

It has 250 species of birds and 50 tigers.

Visit the Khajuraho Temple and Laxman Temple.

Indulge in a spa massage.

Tariff

Rs. 27,000 per person per night that includes everything from laundry to safari (during peak season, October to March)

Rs. 18,000 per person per night off season

Rs. 10,000 per person per night which includes only one safari and no alcohol — only in May and June.

The resort is closed in July, August and September.

RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN

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