Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Roadtrip to Sawantwadi | A walk into history at Sawantwadi Palace & Moti Talao + Malvani food

Despite having crossed this place several times on my visits to the city, I never really stopped by at Sawantwadi and tried to explore the place. But on this one road trip to Belgaum - we decided to stop at Sawantwadi and drop the Belgaum plan! So that was pretty much why we stopped by to admire the magnificent lake and royal palace of Sawantwadi.

You take around one and a half hours to reach Sawantwadi from Goa via the NH66. A perfect destination for a day trip over the weekend. Our trip was pretty random, and we had no plans in mind. Our internet wouldn't work and we had to explore the place on our own!


The princely state, once the seat of the Royal family of Bhonsles, still retains some of the stately grandeur. With the neatly maintained palace and massive lake right in the middle of the city surrounded by lush green mountains and old school buildings, Sawanwadi forms a spectacular townships right at the foothills of the Western Ghats. It's also known for it's rich cultural heritage and wood art.

Moti Talao - Sawantwadi Lake

Our first stop was the Moti Talao - the Sawantwadi lake. It's a massive man-made lake constructed somewhere in the late 18th century after the palace was shifted to the existing location. During the evening, the lake is lit up and shines in full glory.

Beautiful Sawantwadi lake surrounded by lush green hills at sunset

Sawantwadi Palace 

The Royal Palace of Sawantwadi, built by Khem Sawant Bhonsle, the ruler of this region during 1755-1803, still retains it's royal touch. The entry gate, which they call the Lester gate was built in 1895.

The bricked brown walls of the palace have a very ethnic touch to it. Wonderfully carved rooms, war weapons and verdant environs inspire you to flip through your history books once again. The preserved hunted animals next to the throne definitely steal the show.

Another speciality of the palace is the wonderful arts and crafts that are developed here. The walls of the palace are neatly plastered with old photographs, which make your sauntering around a very knowledgeable experience. The artisans are still seen working their magic on wood. 

The tour guide (he is 80 years old) knows the place quite well and explians in detail as he takes you around the old Rajwada which is now a place for exhibition of handicrafts items, photographs and old antique items. 

The entrance of the Sawantwadi Palace
Magnificent Royal Palace 
Well maintained 18th century palace
Hunted tiger next to the royal throne
Doors of the Rajwada
Antique palanquin and cradle
Old photographs and statues 
View of the Moti Talao from the Sawantwadi Palace window

Food in Swantwadi

Food is an important part of every trip of mine. This one was no different. After using my little Marathi speaking skills, I managed to talk to locals and find out the best restaurant in town. By best I meant the one serving the best local food. 

And I wasn't disappointed when I stepped into Bhalekar Khanawal, also known as the Mahalaxmi Bhojanalaya. The earthy vibe and Malvani food screamed ethnic. Everything about the place and the food was so authentic, you knew you were in the Marathi land.. the place smelt Marathi!

Malvani kingfish thali at Bhalekar Khanawal
This place is known to serve the best seafood in town. I was told (later) by an elderly man that this is the most expensive restaurant in town, but definitely the finest. They have literally every type of fresh seafood. And when I say fresh - it's the fresh catch of the day. They do not repeat the days seafood to the next.

The place, though small, is buzzing with crowd on neatly laid benches and wooden tables and eating off steel cutlery! The waiters - tell you the menu in brief and you can pick from the types of seafood you wish to have.

We asked for a Kingfish thali (priced at INR 250). It's surely the smallest thali I've ever eaten. A portion of rice, veggie, two types of coconut fish curries, kokum curry and a slice of fried kingfish. That's about it in this authentic Malvani thali. I've eaten Malvani thali's before and the flavours seemed familiar, but surely I haven't eaten a Malwani thali this small. You have an option between boiled rice, white rice, regular chapatis and bhakri (authentic Maharashtrian bread made of jowar flour).

Malvani kingfish thali at Bhalekar's Mahalaxmi Bhojanalaya

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