Perched on the verdant slopes of Kodaikanal, enveloped in mists that curl through its stately groves, the Dunnottar Bungalow is a canvas painted with the hues of history. This is a sanctum where antiquity meets allure, captured through a legacy meticulously restored under the watchful eye of the Puliyadi family.
With Harsha Biswajit's curated artwork crowning the spaces, the abode is transformed into a tableau of heritage, a living museum where the past is present in every brushstroke of charm.
“In Bnbs, I think customers have a clear idea of what to expect. For us, it was a learning process. We’ve honestly had not that much experience staying in a homestay prior to setting up Dunnottar. We made sure to maintain our identity, which is dual because we are selections from Madurai, immigrants from Gujarat in the 17th century – naturalized Kodaikanal residents. The villa previously belonged to a Scotsman who left behind everything but his personal belongings. The ‘Dunnottar’ is named after a Scottish castle," explained Shalini Biswajit, the owner of Dunnottar.
The Gateway to Nostalgia
Upon arrival, the eucalyptus-lined promenade flanked by towering pines ushers you into a sanctuary where nature’s watch has stood steadfast since the 1940s. This serene boulevard leads to the villa’s twin, Dunnottar North and South, each holding its distinct fascinations.
Dunnottar North greets its visitors with an exposed sunroom, a nook that offers reprieve and reflection, paired with sweeping views of the shimmering lake beyond. Within the villa, the remains of a time-lost era are resuscitated through salvaged beams and vintage furnishings, each piece a fragment of the historical puzzle expertly pieced together by the Puliyadi family.
When asked about the villa’s British association, Shalini recounted, “The previous owner came with the British Army and was a pilot. To escape malaria, the missionaries came to the hills. Our home, documented in the Kodai Chronicles, was one of the older homes around the lake. There’s been no connection [with the British owner], as they left everything behind three days before India’s independence.”
Get all the latest Share Market trends and news to set you up for the week ahead.
The Interplay of Art and Heritage
The artwork and portraits laced throughout the halls craft a narrative of celebration – a dialogue between the abode's cherished epochs and the halcyon days by the lake, captured in delicate frames of family photographs that paint the ’60s in quaint monochrome.
What anchors this heritage haven is the Chamberlain prints, a legacy left behind by former denizens that dictate the thematic décor of Dunnottar South’s bedchambers. Eucalyptus beams, repurposed from felled giants nursed by the estate’s soil, now lend their strength to the ceiling.
On the restoration challenges, Shalini said, “Being in a seismic hazard zone restricts building due to proximity to the lake. During renovations, we preserved the original beams and installed a new roof over the old one without altering the traditional plaster walls. Our heritage architect assisted, and local contractors were familiar with such tasks.”
The heritage and the uniqueness of the bungalow are dear to the owners, “The Dunnottar Bungalow stands still at the 1960s timeframe… it is the Dunnottar that is connected with the Chamberlain era.. That’s the story that we really wanted to share with our guests,” said Shalini, speaking of the heartfelt connection they wish to offer their visitors.
A Library of Legacy
Within Dunnottar's storied walls lies a trove dedicated to the written word—a library, where floors creak with the weight of history and skylights filter in the subtle brilliance of the world above.
Here, the spirit of Kuppuswamy Iyer, the philanthropist and movie producer from Madurai, is palpable. His desk, placed just so, proffers a window into a soul that once dreamt and dared within these walls.
The Heart of the Homestead: The Kitchen
As the cornerstone of any familial gathering, the Dunnottar kitchen fascinates with a meticulous melding of the traditional with artisanal modernity. Local pottery line the shelves, the echoes of raucous family meals reverberating in their very glaze. A door repurposed into a dining table invites new memories to be forged over hearty, home-cooked feasts.
“It’s about preserving the best of both worlds. When guests come in, we do not want to deny them any of the modern amenities… Our chef has been with us for 25 years, we serve good home food, not hotel food. We are happy to tweak our recipes to suit your palate… Our food is a lot of research and incorporates what the chef can do as well as what we are used to as a family with roots in Gujarat,” Shalini shared about their approach to catering to their guests at Dunnottar Bungalow.
She elaborated, "We were very clear [about] embracing the locals… right from the cutlery… made in Kodai by Potter’s Shed. Most condiments are also homemade. It is important for us to be totally self-sufficient… Our gardens are organic, and it’s like how Dunnottar was, with the towering eucalyptus trees.”
Dunnottar Bungalow's grounds are a celebration of the great outdoors. Wood once stoked to warm water now fuels fires under the stars where stories are shared. As guests bask in the warmth of the bonfire or the homely glow of the pizza patio, the bungalow’s heartbeats in the simple joys of camaraderie and rustic culinary delights.
Morning Serenade by the Lake
My day began with the tranquil embrace of dawn as I embarked on an early morning walk around the pristine Kodaikanal Lake. The air was fresh, intermingled with the soft chatter of waking wildlife and the gentle hum of local life stirring to action. Halfway through, I indulged in the local tradition — a steaming cup of masala chai, served at a quaint lakeside shop, which proved to be the perfect interlude.
Post-lunch, I found myself cycling around the lake’s edge on a Dunnottar Lakeside bicycle, enjoying the crisp air and picturesque views.
As dusk enveloped the hills, my day concluded with an effervescent bonfire at home, the fire’s amber glow bringing warmth to the cool night. Accompanied by the sizzle of a good old-fashioned BBQ, stories, and laughter filled the air, creating the perfect ending to an enriching day.
Day Two: The Heartbeat of Kodaikanal's Art and Nature
With the dawn chorus as my alarm, I accompanied Vijay, Kodaikanal's esteemed expert and one of the team members at Dunnottar, on a nature walk. His insights transformed our journey into a living classroom, where every leaf and insect held secrets for us to discover, revealing the intricate patterns woven by nature's hand.
The bazaar brimmed with life, especially the Sunday Farmers Market, where I sampled local delicacies, and the sundown found me on a self-drive through scenic vistas.
What sets The Dunnottar Bungalow apart is not merely its serene location or the luxurious appointment of its rooms; it is the embodiment of Kodaikanal's spirit—its hospitality, its history, and its harmonious blend with nature. For anyone who graces its doors, the bungalow offers more than a mere stay—it promises an experience etched into the very soul.
© 2023 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.