Sandur’s Glory – Wedged between the iron rich undulating mountains of Bellary district, surrounded by breathtaking countryside, Sandur was once a princely state, ruled by the Ghorpade family.Reminiscent of Hampi’s exalted ruins, the adjoining town transports you to an enchanting era of Kings and grand palaces– Sandur lies just 45 minutes from the heritage site of Hampi.Erstwhile Skandapuri, this was known as the city of Kumaraswamy, whose temple is still perched on top of a hill close by. In Kannada, ‘Sandu’ means a narrow gap and ‘uru’ is home or habitation. Etymology suggests that the name of the town came from its locational inspiration. Till now, the edge of the town mingles with vast tracts of cornfields and a million shades of green, skirted by stacks of mountains in the distance. For travelers, this is the perfect retreat from the urban world. The sheer quality of air and the easy vibe of the place help you slip into relaxation almost immediately. Infact, Mahatma Gandhi himself, called Sandur ‘an oasis’ when he visited in the 1930s.
The Ghorpade Family –The year 1471 A.D was a dramatic milestone in the trajectory of Sandur. Karna Singh, Shubha Krishnaji and Bhim Sinha, the ancestors of the Ghorpades and Bhosles took siege of the fort of Vishalgad through an inventive way. They scaled the high ramparts of the fort with the help of tying ropes around the belly of monitor lizards (ghorpad in Marathi). The inimitable valour of these three men earned them the title of ‘Raja Bahadur Ghorpade’ and the monitor lizard found a significant place as symbol within thecoat of arms. Till date, you can spot them in the emblem design and as sculptures on walls and pillars of the luxurious Shivavilas Palace.
More recently, the names Y.R Ghorpade and M.Y Ghorpade are the ones that the town Sandur associates with. Shrimant Maharaj Shri Yeshwantrao Hindurao Ghorpade was born in 1908 and assumed the role of the king from 1928 to 1949. Framed paintings and photographs of his wife, Sushila Devi and him still adorn the walls of Shivavilas Palace and people of Sandur still hold him in high esteem. His son, Shrimant Maharaj Shri Murarirao Hindurao Ghorpade succeeded his father. A well-known author, photographer and acclaimed philanthropist and educator, he maintained the glory of Sandur in the footsteps of his father. The Sandur Manganese and Iron Ores Ltd (SMIORE) started in 1954 continues to patron all the establishments initiated by the erstwhile King. Their home, the Sandur Palace has always remained the emblem of progress for the small town, as have the various establishments like hospitals, schools, roads and community centers built by the family.
Why Sandur – Retrace the steps of the royal family and be immersed in stories of valour and pride. With the ruins of the Vijaynagara Kingdom in Hampi, a UNESCO protected site, just 40 kms from the town and the legacy of its own rich history, Sandur becomes of exceptional interest to history enthusiasts. Even though the two periods were distanced by a few hundred years, the overall atmosphere of Sandur matches that of the glory of the empire that immortalized itself in the grandeur of splendid architecture. Shivavilas is one the best luxury hotels near Hampi and the perfect place to soak in the soothing atmosphere; for a tryst with the bouldery ruins of Vijayanagar, the village life of Anegundi and discoveries along the mighty Tungabhadra River.
The Shivavilas Palace – Enter the domed palace through the green pathway that swings around to the front porch, starting the royal immersion from here itself. From the intricate jaliwork on the terrace, main porch flanked by canons, to high ceilings, elaborate embellishments on the pillars and doors, there is no mistaking the royal touch. Black and white photographs of the erstwhile King and his son, objects d’art and acclaimed collection of furniture dot every part of the majestic palace.A centerpiece in the form of Krishna’s chariot in the main lounge announces the many significant milestones achieved by the Maharaja.
The restoration of this Anglo Saxon structure started in 2009, keeping the intimate character of the palace. The restoration work has been done with the infinite precision to re-establish the original ambiance, with a touch of modern amenities. The original antique furniture and furnishings, now refurbished, give a decided vintage feel. The sprawling 20 acres of the palace is a wondrous amalgamation of a vintage car museum, the spa, library, swimming pool, a billiards room and the lavish rooms.Guests can experience the famed hospitality of Sandur, which was once the sole preserve of royalty.