THE HOUSE of Kotwara has a large number of interests contained under the brand. The people behind it are Muzaffar Ali—from the royal family of Kotwara, Uttar Pradesh— who is a poet, filmmaker and also the head of Rumi Foundation, and his wife Meera Ali, who is an architect and designer. The five Cs of the House of Kotwara are culture (of Lucknow), crafts (working among villagers and promoting their crafts), couture line, cinema and cuisine. All these Cs are offered to travellers under Kotwara Initiatives, under the House of Kotwara.
Kotwara Initiatives includes experiences, restaurants and accommodation in Delhi, Lucknow and Kotwara. “Kotwara Initiatives can be a singular experience, which can just be a glimpse of its cuisine in Delhi; an intense mix of cuisine, culture, art and interaction at Kotwara House in Qaiserbagh in Lucknow; or, together with Ahnalwara Palace (in Kotwara), can bring in elements of textiles and nature, as a composite programme on Awadh,” says Shoba Mohan, managing director, Rare—Destinations and Experiences, a company that markets small boutique ideas and concepts. Mohan has been engaged with the brand for two years now. Rare had also been involved with Muzaffar Ali’s Wajid Ali Shah Festival that promotes Lucknow as a travel destination.
The Awadhi dining experience, ‘Maashra’, can be felt in Meera and Muzaffar Ali’s farmhouse on the outskirts of Delhi, off the Faridabad-Gurgaon highway. A handcrafted tent, decorated with memorabilia and art, can seat up to 30 people here. Five-course Awadhi cuisine from the royal household of Kotwara is served to guests at this sit-down dining experience. “The dinners are spectacular, and they offer lunches as well,” says Mohan.
In Lucknow, three suites of Kotwara House, the family home, are also given out as homestays. “The conscious effort and decision to open up Kotwara House for discerning visitors ensued from the vision of connecting hospitality with grassroot traditions and human resource,” states Meera Ali.
Private dinners and private high teas are also organised for interested guests. Other activities include a Qaiserbagh Walk, which is a heritage trail of Qaiserbagh in Lucknow. Cooking demonstrations of Awadhi cuisine can also be conducted for interested guests.
Kotwara is about 160 km from Lucknow and is a gateway to the forests of Dudhwa and Kishanpur, one of the largest forest tracks in India.
Ahnalwara Palace offers seven suites to guests. Village excursions, nature walks and picnics in nearby forests are some of the available activities for interested travellers.
Guests can also interact with craftswomen in the nearby villages. Meera and Muzaffar Ali run a non-profit programme called ‘Dwar Pe Rozi’, which literally means ‘livelihood at the doorstep’. Under this, they commission their embroidery work to village women in the latter’s homes.
The dresses are designed, cut and then sent to these women, who after completing their household chores, do the embroidery work and earn about $100 a month.
Meera and Muzaffar Ali also run a school for the children of these craftspeople. There are almost 600 children studying in the school presently.
Alongwith formal education, the craftspeople’s children are also initiated into learning needlework from a young age.