Firangs, NRIs rush to buy Rajasthan forts
Jaipur, June 26: Weren't born into nobility but want to live like a king? Well, you can't turn your blood blue but, for a few crores and change, you can own the brick and mortar of history and heritage in Rajasthan, reported The Times of India.
Indiablooms News Service
Spread over the desertscape and shimmering lakes across the state are almost over 100 crenellated forts—once ornate palaces and castles built over centuries, home to Thakurs, kings and Rajput chieftains—are up for sale. And queuing up to buy these now crumbling properties, neglected by decaying royal families, are potential buyers from Europe, America, Singapore and West Asia.
Selling castles for a more viable adaptive reuse has been happening in Europe but where will you get a piece of history at prices amazingly close to or even lesser than a that of a city penthouse?
Sources close to the deals won't give out names but say the owners of these properties are in negotiation with NRIs and business houses overseas either to sell them or run heritage hotels in collaboration with an overseas parter.
One such seller is Gajraj Singh. With no heir to inherit his ancestral property, the 70-yearold owner of Pushkar castle, who manages various philanthropic missions in Ajmer, said, `Maintaining a property like that requires immense effort and funds and in the present secnario I just can't afford to spend that kind of money. I want to sell Pushkar castle and give part of the money to my adopted son and spend the rest on building a charitable hospital in the district.''
Of the properties up for sale, there are many that foreigners and NRIs are looking at with an eye to turning them into money-spinning heritage hotels.
`The West is excited by the concept of a castle surrounded by a forest and it costs lesser than a cramped apartment in London. There are few buyers that have evinced interest in buying multiple properties,'' said Islam Khan, who in collaboration with a Singapore based NRI, is converting a 250-year-old castle into a heritage hotel. `Plus they are drawn by history which is why the likes of Fredrick Forsyth, Elaine Page, Dominique Lapierre or our own Amitabh Bachchan prefer staying at heritage properties.''
The trend probably began with the 1464 AD Neemrana Fort being sold and converted into a heritage resorts in early 1990s. But what Neemrana has done, castle-buyers have done for decades in Europe and many castles in countries like Ireland are five-star hotels.
While Neemrana sold for Rs 10 lakh, today forts are more expensive given the real estate scenario and the success of the heritage hotel model.
Recently, Ajabgarh Haveli, near Alwar, with 25 rooms spread over 3,000 sq yards sold for only Rs 80 lakh, less than a 3BHK in a posh Jaipur neighbourhood. According to Khan, most of these properties range anywhere from Rs 1.25 crore to more than Rs 100 crore.
"The trend is on in a big way. The heritage movement has become the USP for India. Just everybody wants to add a heritage property in their portfolio," said Randhir Vikram Singh, general secretary Rajasthan Heritage Hotels Association.