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Now in her 70’s, the owner of Deeppura Garh knows precisely when she fell under India’s spell. It was on her sixth birthday when her parents gave her The Jungle Book. As for so many other children, Rudyard Kipling’s tale set in India wove a spell for the little Italian girl. She recalls, “I read it again and again. It was so exotic.”  Since then she has kept a copy in every home she’s lived in.

Maria Grazia Baldan built up an esteemed career as a jeweller after starting out with her launch range of bangles in Milano when she was in her 20s. In the decades that followed, her work took her around the world and naturally led to India with its wealth of gemstones. She couldn’t have known that in her 60s, at a time when she had begun to consider a gradual exit from her business, she would find herself captivated by an architectural gem she discovered in northern Rajasthan, in the form of an abandoned, castellated fort in a state of severe disrepair.

While toying with the idea of spending part of each year in India, she came across Deeppura Garh in Sewad Bari, a village several hours’ drive from Jaipur. It had been abandoned for over a century. Some of the walls had collapsed. In places, the sky was visible through the roof. There was no plumbing or electricity; no kitchen, bathrooms or garden. However, what stole her breath and her heart were the surviving hand-painted facades with scenes depicting handsome warriors and beautiful maidens, elephants and other animals playing out legends that carried faint echoes from her childhood love of The Jungle Book.

Despite its dereliction, the building possessed good bones and the added good fortune to have Philippe de Villegas, a Belgian architect living in Rajasthan, to bring his experience in restoring historic buildings in the region. Crucially, the village is home to many superb craftsmen who set to work restoring and re-interpreting the space to the owner’s unique creative vision. With a total of 13 bedrooms - of which 10 are part of the guesthouse that opened in 2017 - the house looks very much as it would have a hundred years ago. The interior is now a blend of Indian and Italian refinement, designed with a conscious restraint that makes it a deliberately calm retreat from the commotion of colour and noise beyond its walls. 

Images courtesy of Deeppura Garh

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