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Published on: Feb. 6, 2022, 8:53 p.m.
Stay in the sky
  • The Leela Gandhinagar: majestic presence

By Suman Tarafdar

A hotel atop a railway station? Yes, you read it right, the newly opened Leela Gandhinagar has been built in the airspace above the station. It might take some effort for you to wrap your head around this unique concept, but easily the most striking architectural feature of the hotel is that, in an almost Howard Roark-esque way, it shoots up in the sky; and there is no other building or anything else approaching that height on the horizon.  

The story of The Leela Gandhinagar needs some context. Named after the father of the nation, Gandhinagar replaced Ahmedabad as the capital of Gujarat in 1970 (the state itself had been carved out of the erstwhile Bombay state a decade earlier). While the state government did shift to this new town about 25 km north of Ahmedabad, for decades it remained what in India is referred to as a ‘retirement town’.

Of late, however, it has seen a spurt in activity, among which is an ambitious showcase of a string of structures at its core. Stretching east to west, this includes the seat of the state government, the Sachivalaya, with the Sabarmati river to its east. A park stretches westwards and, at the other end, is a convention centre, the Mahatma Mandir Convention Centre (MMCC). Immediately further west, still in a line, is a museum on Gandhi called Dandi Kutir.

Right next to it is The Leela Gandhinagar. Yes, if the layout reminds you of Washington’s National Mall or, nearer home, Delhi’s Rajpath aka central vista, stretching from the Rashtrapati Bhawan to India Gate and National Stadium and the (Yamuna) river beyond, you get it. The entire stretch is designed to visually impress.

The 10-storey three-winged hotel floats 22 metres above the station, so effectively add about six storeys to get the right height perspective. The bottom two floors of the hotel have public spaces, while most of the upper eight floors are residential. The top two floors are not functional yet, but expected to open soon.

The hotel is owned jointly by the state government and the government of India (via Indian Railways, on whose land/airspace it is built) and managed by the Leela. Jaideep Anand, vice-president & general manager, The Leela Gandhinagar and Mahatma Mandir Exhibition & Convention Centre, is bullish about the future of the hotel. “Connectivity is the key and we have 11 international airlines coming to Gujarat,” he points out. “Gujarat has good infrastructure and Gujaratis are the largest non-resident Indian community; the average rates in the city are competitive, which is a huge advantage for the city.”  

Anand also expects the hotel to be a leader in the social MICE space. “Gujaratis spend the most on weddings, and non-resident Gujaratis come back home for weddings,” stresses Anand. He admits that Covid’s impact has thrown the industry into an uncharted territory, with a number of cancellations or scaling down of events.  “We are tightening our pockets, trying to reduce our fixed costs, trying to bring our break even as low as possible. Fortunately, since we opened, we have become a destination for food and for weekend travel. We have high occupancies on weekends.”

  • Anand: connectivity is key

    Anand: connectivity is key

Delight in details

The hotel houses 318 keys, easily making it the largest hotel in Gandhinagar, if not Ahmedabad. This includes four ‘presidential suites’, eight ‘royal suites’, all on floors 8 to 10, and 152 deluxe rooms, amongst others. The Leela standards of luxury are a given.

Given that the entrance to the hotel is well above ground, inordinately long ramps lead to the entrance. The hotel’s interiors are opulent, drawing influence from the vast architectural and design heritage of Gujarat. There is opulent use of Italian and Indian marbles – in complementing shades of red and white. Inspirations for the design elements include the Tree of Life at Ahmedabad’s Sidi Sayyed Mosque, Adalaj step-well, traditional glass beadwork and textile patterns of Bandhej, Ajrakh and Batik.

Along with a large room inventory, the hotel has matching meeting/banqueting spaces. The Grand Ballroom, with an attached open pre-function area, is spread over 8,545 sq ft. Other meeting options include four meeting rooms in the Business Centre – Narmada, Tapti, Gomati and Nayra, varying only by size; a chairman boardroom and two more meeting rooms, Sabarmati and Mahi, at the Royal Club Floor.

The hotel has ample wellness options, from a pool on the first floor to a spa that offers oriental, ayurveda and western therapies. Add a well-appointed fitness centre and a salon – with separate sections for men and women – and the level of pampering can be considerable!

The hotel can rightly claim to set new hospitality benchmarks for the twin cities. Given the juxtaposition of potential, this could well be a wider model for convention hotels that are in planning stages across the country.


  • Diya’s ornate interiors are mirrored in the cuisine

Unique dining destinations

Food is a highlight for the hotel and its restaurants are geared to satiate the visitor. Citrus Junction, an all-day dining restaurant, offers a selection of Indian, oriental and continental cuisines. What stands out, besides the superlative food overseen by the perfectionist Executive Chef Ashish Rout, are the interiors. Citrus Junction pays homage to the railway heritage by having a railway-inspired interior design, starting with Burma teak doors.

Various sections of the restaurant even have different designs, such as the PDRs resembling the interiors of luxurious railway coaches of a bygone era, brass door handles akin to what coach doors had. Section separators could take you back to your Bombay ‘local’ days while the filigree brass plaques over the food counters hark back to colonial era train interiors. There are railways inspired wall installations, while tables and chairs have subtle nods to ‘dining cars’. A standout feature is a cluster of multiple ceiling lamps, again a reminder of what Indian railway coaches have to this day.

Another noteworthy eating destination is the Moksha Lounge, situated right opposite the reception in the main lobby. Elegantly casual, it is designed to attract the unhurried guest, ready to linger over an all-day tapas menu and conversation. Then there is Diya, the fine dining restaurant that specialises in Indian cuisine. The interiors are heady – a mix of champagne gold paisley brocade thikri designed walls, juxtaposed with beautiful Venetian mirrors and a layer of artwork displaying the archaeological magnificence of Gujarat, while opulent colonial era design inspired chandeliers ensure the perfect ambience. Unsurprisingly, the food comes in gold- or silver-hued platters, fussed over by a lot of attentive servers. 

There is also The Royal Club Lounge, which comprises an exclusive dining area serving breakfast, afternoon tea and evening beverages, accessible exclusively to the guests staying at The Royal Club Rooms and Suites.

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