Eco-conscious and design-rich, RAAS Chhatrasagar is built on the edge of an embankment in Nimaj, Rajasthan.
When local chieftain Thakur Chhatra Singh built a dam across a tributary to the river Luni in the Pali district of Rajasthan in the 19th century, he probably didn’t envisage us checking in to live on it a hundred years hence! And yet here we are, just two hours east of Jodhpur, lazing with a book on a bed as soft as a cloud, gazing across the artificial lake from the privacy of our tent-like suite that is perched right on the dam. As avid birders, we are excited about the 200+ species of birds that can be spotted around this area, including migratory waterbirds like ducks, pelicans, and cranes that visit this green belt every year.
The RAAS group of hotels is known for its impeccable design sensibilities and RAAS Chhatrasagar, its newest offering, has the added advantage of having this superb vantage point. Named for the lake it is situated next to, it’s a 20-key property that is high on design and low on an ecological footprint. Conceptualised by Walled City Hotels and designed by New Delhi-based Studio Lotus, each key unlocks a unique experience of living close to nature in a suite built on stilts, with the dam reservoir on one side, the forest on the other, and thoughtful luxury at the centre of it all.
Sunshine shades and soft, natural fabrics cocoon us, while in the drapes above, motifs of flying Painted Storks by Dhvani Behl’s studio Flora For Fauna bring the outdoors inside. Think bespoke wood furniture by Mangrove Collective, floor-mounted air-conditioning units, and walk-in wardrobes. And en suite bathrooms with free-standing bathtubs from where you can enjoy untrammelled views of the dam and the expanse of water. Hand-dressed local Chitar stone heightens the experience of understated luxury.
Despite such glamorous rooms, RAAS Chhatrasagar whispers rather than shouts its presence atop the dam. A wildlife camping experience that reinterprets the historical, and weaves in the biodiversity of its setting with resilient ways of building, it seeks to stand out from the crowd by blending in with its environment.
Reminiscent of the tents that used to house visitors here before, the construction is lightweight and modern, and yet incorporates local styles and materials. This is evident in the cleverly placed Baradari restaurant that the designers like to call ‘a contemporary expression of the Rajputana twelve-pillared pavilion’ with its wraparound verandah that lets in plenty of natural light and sights.
Each of the ‘pods’ or rooms feature a private sit-out and a retractable skylight. The pods are separated by metal screens with bamboo infill while thermally and acoustically insulated fibre-cement board panels in the walls and roofing system form a shell, all of which affords you a lot of privacy even as you enjoy the open-to-nature feel. There’s also a lovely lap pool as well as a well-appointed spa that will open for post-pandemic pleasure when the time is right.
Meanwhile, you can use it as a secluded retreat, a beautiful base for birding around the dam reservoir, or a starting point to explore the surrounding villages, the Nimaj Palace nearby, or ninth-century temples like the Magarmandi Mata Mandir built by the erstwhile Gurjar Pratihar rulers of the region.