Showing posts with label Rajasthan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rajasthan. Show all posts


Chokhi Dhani- Jaipur

Last day at Jaipur, today we have kept ourselves more or less free for shopping. Had breakfast at hotel lawn for the first time. The buffet breakfast at Hotel Madhuvan worth only when you have time to enjoy it. We met one Indian family who were travelling from Gujrat for the Diwali weekend to Jaipur and wanted to join us at Chokhi Dhani later in the evening. Around 10 we left for shopping with Mr. Singh. Many shops were closed on account of after Diwali mood but still we managed to hop from one shop to another - Rajasthali, blue pottery shop etc. Then we tried the famous Ram Chandra Kulfi (Indian Ice Cream) in Tripolia Bazaar on way back to hotel for a siesta and left for Sanganer & Chokhi- Dhani around 5ish.
We took Jaipur-Tonk Highway and did more shopping at Sanganer famous for its block printing, screen printers, blue pottery and hand made papers. According to Mr. Singh many store/small factories do not let Indian inside as these stuffs are bit expensive for common Indian and mostly for export.
Choki Dhani basically gives picture of rural life of Rajasthan a miniature theme park. Bit expensive but worth going for the dinner alone. This resort is divided into two sections, one for daily visitors while the other for overnight stays. The first section charges an entrance (350 INR) fee that includes authentic veg Rajasthani dinner with traditional floor seating arrangement and allows the visitors to enjoy traditional rural activities such as tightrope walkers, camel cart rides for minimal fees. There is also an A/C section for food which charges around 700 INR.
Ram Ram Sa!!! Was first thing to hear. First we had dinner there which was wise decision as crowd was getting thicker with time. According to the ticket schedule our dinner time was 10 PM; but as it was around 8 there not much crowd and we got a seat quite easily. The elaborate Rajasthani thali have many varieties of Chapaties (bread) and vegetables which is served until you ask them to stop.
Took few rides to give Aarush exposure of all those village life; different type of Rajasthani folk dance and songs were performed live. The whole place is lighted with modern days lantern but as they are not very bright you get a feeling of going back in time. Over all had nice time and then we were back to hotel around 11.00pm
Next morning had flight back to Banglore in the morning. A bientot!!!!


Maro des “Rajasthan”

The first thing that struck me about Rajasthan was its roads when I last went in 2000 with my parents. Rajasthan roads are amazing; and they are very well connected interms of bus, train, private cars, even one can hire cars to drive around between different places with in state. This makes travelling in Rajasthan quite safe and less tiring. With good road conditions you can also explore the interiors of Rajasthan.
This fact remains same even today when I visited with my family on oct. 2010. The time from Oct to December is considered ideal to visit Rajasthan, though its high tourist season. One major drawback is they will make feel Indian tourists discriminated infront of westners as they get Tips in foreign currency.
Rajasthan is full of great eating out options from the regular highway dhabas to the most luxurious hotels in India. They have very rich culture interms of dress colour, turbans- they have more than 1000 types and styles of doing the turban, the variations depending on the region, casteand creed  in the society. An array of instruments such as sarangiektara, dhol, chang etc are used to create melodious tunes  as well as variations in folk dances. Camel safari is “must do”  depends if across Thar then its a great way to explore the vastness of the desert. Once you like the culture you feel like pluging deeper and getting mesmerised.
Being  one of the tourist hub it is highly commercialized in almost every aspect of its existence. There are many remote areas mostly nomadic villages, where entertaining the tourists is the only form of livelihood that can be thought of. Also, all tourist attractions charge for photography and videography which is worth but surprising thing is difference in prices for foreigner and indian tourist.
Another thing which I like about this place is they know business very well. If you go for shopping and think that certain thing may have to pay extra at airport then ofcourse you can opt for their courier service which they will do for free. But be aware, certain times complain are there that they send defective piece or change the fabric which you have opted for after it's INDIA where everything can happen.
Santanu is so impressed that he wants to travel again to Rajasthan but with different route probably - Bikaner, Mt.Abu ,Udaipur, Chittorgarh,Kota,Bundi, Ranthambore, Agra back to Jaipur. One thing I would like to add here is with no. of days we have spent there we could have easily covered Bikaner.



Early morning reached Jaipur from Jaisalmer by train. This time our cab driver from hotel (Madhuban) was waiting and on reaching hotel relaxed  for while.   Before leaving for Jodhpur, we have fixed with Mr. Singh (our reliable cab driver) for this trip to Ajmer-Pushkar. As usual, he was there on time; left hotel room around 8.00am. Had our breakfast on way at small neat and clean dhaba. Road being 6 lane; had very comfort drive and was hardly crowded.
We went first to Kishangarh fort, with Phool Mahal Palace, a heritage hotel along side and Gundalao Lake on the front. This heritage hotel was previously the residence of the Maharajas of Kishangarh. Major part of lake bed is now converted into verdant fields. Area is quite famous for miniature paintings. But being holiday we could not visit any art gallery. Took few snaps and headed towards our next destination.
Soniji Ki Nasiyan at Ajmer is a Digambar Jain temple. The main chamber, known as the Swarna Nagari (City of Gold), has several gold-plated wooden figures, depicting characters in the Jain tradition. The main prayer hall is a separate complex.
From there went to Dargah Sharif of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. Being a Diwali day and Friday it was overly crowded. We had to leave camera and shoes outside with a  flower stall and head covering was mandatory. After paying our obeisance we asked for the way to Adhai Din Ka Jhopda, a Vaishnav Hindu temple constructed in 1153 and later converted into a mosque by Qutubudin Aybak in  1193. We went there by walk through a small lanes which are full of small eateries and sweet shops. If you are hygiene freak you might want to skip this part of Ajmer.
Mr. Singh took us to Anasagar Lake, man-made lake to relax and to take a break. It was really refreshing and helped us in gaining our breath break after all those pushing and Ochlophobia in-around Dargah.
Ajmer and Pushkar are two side of common mountain range and distance between them is only 15 KM. We first went to Brahma (the creator of the universe) temple at Pushkar. The best irony of Hindu mythology is Lord brahma is only worshiped in Pushkar in the whole universe as he was cursed by his 1st wife. Two temples of his two wives are at the top of two separate mountain tops and in between is his temple next to Pushkar lake.Unlike dargah, there was hardly any crowd here.
Finally, went  to Pushkar lake where all the house next to lake are painted in blue  to symbolize the Brahmin owner.  Just opposite to lake there is one resto where we had scrumptious Pasta (which was awesome) as lunch. On way back went to see Chota Pushkar nearby and by early evening we were at Jaipur city to celebrate Diwali.  Took a walk on residential area nearby our hotel  and had dinner thereafter.This was Aarush's first hand experience of Diwali in North India where sounds from crackers are louder compared to South.



We reached Jaisalmer early morning around 4.00am.Going from station to hotel is another headache if you don’t have pick-up service particularly at wee hours. We didn't had that service from hotel as it was extra 100INR so on reaching station we found, 10 people surrounded us even they don’t allow couples to talk among themselves.  Finally hired one for 40 INR to go to Deoki Niwas hotel. When we reached, we literally had to wake them up. It’s newly started so spic n span with good service and breakfast.
After rest around 10.00am we went to Satyajit Ray's “sonar kella” - Jaisalmer fort where we hired a guide who took us around.  This palace is made of yellowish sandstone, crowned by several ornate Jain temples. Many of the houses and temples are finely sculptured.  It is only living fort and about a quarter of city's population still live inside the fort. The main attractions inside the fort are: Raj Mahal (Royal palace), Jain temples and the Laxminath temple and four massive gates. It is filled with many artistic structures and monuments of historical importance.
Other then this there are havelis like: Patwon-ki-Haveli is ornate five-storey complex took fifty years to complete. This is the largest, magnificent and the most elaborate of Jaisalmer havelis. Among others are Nathmalji-ki-Haveli, Salam Singh-ki-Haveli, Haveli Shreenath. We covered this havelis by walk as they are very close by. Some of the doors and ceilings are wonderful examples of old carved wood from many hundreds years ago. Some of the doors have brass or iron fittings. Certain facade is a riot of ornamentation: flowers, birds, elephants, soldiers, a bicycle and even a steam engine. These havelis have countless rooms, with decorated windows, archways, doors and balconies and some have still lived in by the families that built them.
We had our late lunch near entrance to fort at Little Italy(nothing great). Then in afternoon 4PM we booked for desert safari they took us to Lodhurva. Lodhurva is famous for its Jain temples which are build with same yellow stones. There is a Kalpavriksha or the celestial tree build with metals which replaced the original tree died.  Since we didn’t book for any camel safari beforehand (I mean it was on spot) so kind of they cheated us by stopping quite before the actual Sam sand dune and they wanted us to go by camel. 2-3 KMs before reaching actual point of san dune we saw sun set and on reaching spot it was already dusk I was very depressed being cheated in this way as we went to see sunset only but Santanu-Aarush had nice time with first experience on camel ride.
With heavy heart we returned to Jaisalmer fort and had dinner at 8th July run by an Indian who resides in Australia. The highly personalized service of Mrs. Rama Bhatia ensuring that you get absolutely home cooked food hygienically prepared. Jags has an in-depth knowledge of shayri and old Hindi film music. Although it is slightly expensive but I guess one needs to pay a little extra for clean and tasty food.
Next morning Santanu went alone to see Gadisar Lake as Aarush was sleeping. Then after breakfast leisurely we checked out around 10.30am and went again to fort after taking one round of fort;  went to 8th July restaurant where Mrs. Rama Bhatia was already in work we took the best location with wonderful views of the palace under shade (its Veg resto and offers fresh alphanzo mango juice- tall glass). The restaurant is near Dussera pol gate and opposite the Palace. We ended up having lunch and packed food for dinner and returned to hotel to pick our luggage as he had our tain back to Jaipur at 4.00pm.It was our 2 day one night trip.
TIP: Only one night  is enough for Jaisalmer or or at the most 2 night stay if one likes to stay in sand dunes. Sam sand-unes is highly commercialised. In last 10 years, it has changed a lot. Some suggested  Khuri a village 45 km south west of Jaisalmer as better location for Sand dunes. Train (#4060) does not have a pantry car so please pick your dinner before leaving Jaisalmer.



We started early morning after breakfast around 8 .00am. But luck is always not in favour we got one nasty cab driver unlike Jaipur. Although hired cab through hotel and asked to take us to Osyian but he insisted on going to majestic sandstone palace of Umaid Bhawan. Before going there he took us to shops for early morning shopping but we didn’t.(they get commission when they take clients to their choice of place). Anyways, on reaching there we found that it was not yet open so we had to wait till it get opened. One part of this palace is converted to 5-star hotel, in second part king stays and third part is museum which is open to public.
From here we asked him to take us to Osyian famous for cluster of ruined brahmanical and jain temples dating from the 8th to 11th centuries. He took us to Sachiya mata temple but insisted to take one guide of his choice which we didn’t like but we had to. They are beautifully designed in terms of architecture. For entering the Sachiya Mata temple complex, there are series of magnificently sculpted arches.Outside walls of temple are beautifully sculpted with different dieties. Along with these there are many small temples around like jain temple, surya temple, vishnu temple, shiv mandir, pippala devi temple and harihara temple. The temples are raised on huge plinths. Almost every space in the temples is sculpted to a great extent. The temple ceilings were conceived by quite an imaginative mind and are decorated with lace like motifs.
Osyian holds a great significance for the Jain community.From top to bottom of temple they highly and beautifully carved-worth visiting this place. It takes almost 2 hrs to cover these area.
It was almost noon when we left for mandore garden which is said to be maiden place of Queen Mandodri, wife of King RAVAN of Shri Lanka.It is highly neglected site but fine piece of architecture. It houses cenotaphs and memorials of many rulers which is worth seeing. The garden also has a baoli and a hall of heroes that consists of 15 carved figures. These figures carved out of single  red sandstone.As it was too hot we had icecream here.
Then went towards Meherangarh fort but again our cabdriver insisted us to do shopping of his choice and took us to 2-3 places then lastly seeing our irritated face he went straight to fort. It is one of the largest fort with massive ramparts built around the edges. We hired a guide here  who took us around showing intricate carvings of moti mahal, sheesh mahal, phool mahal, zenana deodi, chamunda mataji temple, museum having exquisite collection of palanquins, elephant howdahs, armoury, paintings,music instrument,turbans etc. Entry to fort is through many gates like: jai pol, fateh pol, dedh kamgra pol, loha pol. Top of fort gives a breath taking view of  blue city of brahmapur. Basically, those who are brahmins they paint outside wall of their house in blue color. One can see winding roads to and from city. We had late lunch within fort campus as we did not wanted to take our cab-driver to place of his choice. It was almost 5.00pm
Then we asked him to take to Jaswant thada to which he said it is closed as already 5.00  but we also now insisted on going there.Truly, about to close but seeing us coming running they allowed us to which we are highly obliged. It is again architectural landmark made of white marble. These marbles are extremely thin, polished and intricately carved so that they emit a warm glow when the sun's rays dance across their surface.
From here we straight came to hotel as we had already checked out in morning; we wanted to take shower to freshen ourself so on request they gave us one room for 1hr.We had dinner innearby mall at Mc.Donald.Today we had late night train to Jaisalmer.


Jodhpur 1st Nov 2010

31st midnight boarded train to Jodhpur from Jaipur after a long day we were very tired . The train was late as it arrived from Delhi. On the train meet Subhojit who was also in Rajasthan for one long week break just like us from Bangalore. Their itinerary was bit different compared to us and they were going to Jaiselmer. On the wee hours of 1st November reached the platform of Jodhpur and thankgod for ensuring that hotel provided a cab for pickup. Otherwise bargaining and negotiating with cab and auto drivers would be very difficult when you are half sleepy in a new town.
Reached our hotel Kuchamann haveli and slept as much we can.  Some how pulled ourselves out of the bed at 7.30am had breakfast. And at 8.20am started for bishnoi village day trip. Aarush was still sleeping when we reached the Jeep.
Our driver cum guide gave a brief description about Bishnoi community (29 bish: twenty, noi: nine) and was dressed in traditional attire and picked us in a old Willy Jeep. Although these people are Hindu, they bury their dead to give the body back to the nature and save woods for cremation. They are considered to be very eco friendly in order to protect trees even Khejarli Massacre (where 363 bishnoi people sacrificed to protect the trees) took place. Idea behind this tour is that it helps you escape from the modernity and rush of the city and takes you to “off beaten path” - small villages where the locals live.
On the way, from Jodhpur to Guda village we spotted some wild life (spotted deer, blue bulls and antelopes) which seems bishnoi people being close to nature they don't kill them.  Famous case of Salman Khan shooting a dear happened around here. Our guide was driving in bit speed and failed to  maneuver which caused our Jeep to topple side wise. Luckily nothing happened to any one and around 6-7 people came by to lift the jeep from the trench. Aarush was bit shocked and still remembers this incident clearly.
Our reception was warm and friendly starting with a visit to traditional opium ceremony. Although, Opium is illegal in India but the locals have special rights preserved for them to continue with their traditional practices. Very strange thing here is penniless women flaunt heavy silver jewelry. One more thing to notice was women being the symbol of creation they wear vibrant colors such as red and orange while men wear white as a symbol of cleanliness and austerity.
Then we saw many shepherds on the way to singhasni (Muslim religion Potter's village). We were instructed on how to spin the wheel, form clay and set the pots out to dry. The village looks like a battlefield with its drying pots resembling piles of cannonballs. Santanu did try his hand but it seems it’s not that easy as it looks to be. When they take you to such trip they expect you to buy their products.
To round out our trip we stopped at Salawas (Weavers village) where we had our lunch. Before lunch we were shown how durries (mat) are weaved; when he starts to speak he knows business, literally. Then traditional lunch was offered to us. After meal, although mat(durry) was costly but we bought one and bid them bye. Its place where life still goes on like the days of the past. The sun was quite hot and we came back around 3 PM back to hotel,

Aarush was sleepy but he did not sleep and as soon we boarded a auto he was sleeping. We went to C-Road, sardarpura which is a lively part of Jodhpur with many shops and eatery. The main purpose for going out was to dine at Gypsy. As we reached  quite early  Aarush was sleeping all along; we roamed around did little shopping before entering Gypsy a  superb clean place to be for pure veg. rajasthani thali with one condition food taken on plate can't be thrown. Food is served umpteen number of times. And they keep asking for more serving which we really enjoyed it. If you are a true connoisseur of food, then do not miss this place it only cost 150 INR per plate.



We woke around 7ish and left by the same Cab with Mr. Singh (who took us to Shekhawati) around 8:30 from hotel. As Mr. Singh said jokingly lets start the day in auspicious way – which mean Birla Temple was first on the list and we reached the parking lot at dot 9. The journey took us trough the posh residential area of Jaipur with huge bungalows which have similarities with the Lutyens’ Delhi but a rarity in modern India.
Birla Temple of Jaipur like any other Birla Temple is made with pure white marble. There is Moti Dungri Fort in the back ground. Next to the Birla Temple is most famous Ganesh Temple which we skipped. After the quick tour of Birla Temple Mr. Singh took us for Breakfast. The choice was very simple Jalebi and Samosa as coming from Bangalore we were craving for it. The street we stopped  was full of traditional sweet makers. The Samosa was just made in front of us and it was so fricking hot that we both burnt our tongue but both were too good.
Hawa Mahal was our next stop  - the iconic building of Jaipur. We entered from the side and bought a combo ticket that allows entering 5 Government maintained attractions. At ticket counter, we were told Audio Guide wasn’t available but which was not right as we saw the counter once inside. We hired a guide for 150(posted price was 200 we were  his first client).The guide was a gentle person who knew the history and the Kodak-spots very well.
From the back Hawa Mahal does not look that appealing, it has two big courtyards.  The building was made for the royal ladies so that they can view the world without being seen. There are around thousands (937) of windows which over looks the Delhi-Jaipur highway. In those days, all the big parades or activites used to happen on this road. And that allowed ladies to watch royal processions and festivities. In this five storey building , top floor was for the maids and small children. The outer wall is not 90° rather inclined at 70° to give much better visibility from the top. The small windows on the façade gives it a honey comb look. From the top we could see city palace, Jantar Mantar clearly and the whole Aravalli (one of the oldest mountain range in the word) range which gives a natural protection to the city of Jaipur.
From here went to Jantar Mantar; this time we were not that lucky as there were no concession in terms of hiring a guide. The Founder king of Jaipur was great in astronomy, he built five such Jantar Instruments & Mantar(calculation) in India. Jaipur has the largest and best preserved of all. The largest sundial of the word has an accuracy of 2 seconds. The other instruments are more complex and innovative. There always a small replica made before the big ones are constructed to ensure the accuracy is maintained. The Jantar Matar is quite well maintained but as usual there were few Indian who don’t follow rules and step into the constructions for their photos.
The Sun was getting hotter in each passing minutes and so the naughtiness of Aarush. Not sure it was due to Sun or just like that. But after running around in Jantar Mantar we crossed road and entered City Palace. The city palace is divided into two parts one for the public and other where the current ruler still stays. The administration is private here. The ticket is quite expensive but the monument is very well maintained. Chandra Mahal is part of the private part of current Royal family a seven storey building which host the royal flag of Jaipur. Almost after 90 minutes we made our exit from City palace and by that time the heat was too much. We got some curd and fruits for Aarush on way towards Amber ford.
On the way we did stopped for few minutes at Maharani ki Chhatri and Jal Mahal. Jal Mahal is  on man made Man Sagar Lake.
Amber Fort was the royal fort and Amber was capital before Man Singh moved his capital and Royal Palace to the modern Jaipur. It has plenty of history and details for which a guide is must. Amber fort is build over centuries and the cost of the building is unknown but some say it might cost 3 to 4 times the cost of Taj Mahal.  The palace has the famous Sheesh Mahal (palace of mirrors) which lights up with a single candle.  There are many passage which carries water and air to ensure there is enough cooling for the hot summer month. The concept  of sustainable architecture is at it best.  I must admit the architects ensured every drops of monsoon rain is saved and properly used so they can survive a harsh drought if needed.
It took us more than an hour to walk around different parts of the palace.We had a simple vegetarian lunch (very late one) before moving to Jaigarh Fort. You can walk between Amber and Jaigarh fort if your legs and lungs permit; with car one needs to take a long detour. Aarush fall asleep as car started to roll. We paid extra so we can take our cab inside which was a great idea with sleeping Aaursh. Jaigarh Fort is situated on a higher hill and that gives it a complete view of Amber fort. Jaigarh fort was a army station  so in case of an emergency it can save Royal Family located at Amber fort. It was closing time when we came out of Jaigarh fort.
Last on the list was Nahargarh Fort, it is on the edge of the hills and overlooks Jaipur city. We were lucky enough to catch Sunset but  sky was not very clear.  By the time we finished Nahargarh Fort and headed back to Jaipur city it was dark.
We stopped at one shop for some shopping before returning to hotel where we had a simple dinner after getting freshened up. That midnight,we had our train to Jodhpur. It was a very long day indeed.


Shekhawati - Open Air Art Gallery

29th Oct - We took SpiceJet flight to Jaipur but unfortunately could not make it within time due to technical problems and traffic congestion we were made to wait for 3 hrs inside flight. We reached around 22:00 to our pre-booked Hotel Madhuban by prepaid taxi.
On reaching hotel driver says "kya bekar hotel liya hain sir"....ughh. Lump in my throat as all booking was done by me. It was a laborious, monotonous job going through website after website, jotting down details regarding price. With heavy heart went in but found everything as per internet photos only. We asked for next day car-hire for Shekhawati daytrip which they arranged.
30th Oct - Morning 7.00am nice, clean amby was provided to us and we started our day trip towards withering Land of kuber. On way we had hot tasty parantha idly as breakfast from Dhabba. It takes 3hrs to reach that region.  On way after talking to our cab driver we made our circuit starting from towns like Fatehpur, Mandawa, Churi-Ajithgarh, Dundlod, and Nawalgarh back to Jaipur.
Shekhawati is world renowned for its painted havelis and paintings, their frescos depicting mythological and historical themes. Actually, when the Marwaris made their first foray with the Maharajahs and Thakurs, they found that there was money to be made from establishing business in distant centres. Under the British their prosperity aspired even higher, and they took their business to Calcutta, mumbai and other pockets of influence. Tradition in those days was whoever made it good would come back and build 4 things-haveli, baoli(well), mandir and dharamshala. With the money they made, they ordered lavish havelis back home and in order to make them attractive had them painted in what has come to be defined as the Shekhawati fresco style. A sense of competitiveness brought in excess, since this provided the worth of the owner's presumed wealth.
Today’s eminent business group Birla, Goenka, Singhania, Poddar are all from Shekhawati region which has now immerged as open art painting gallery well preserving its historical heritage. Havelis are guarded at the entrance by large wooden doors. Within these, a smaller door is normally used for daily movements. Intricate wooden carvings with fancy brass iron fittings demonstrating the owners’ wealth. The ground floor is normally recessed in such a way that balconies overhang the street. It was from the latticed windows on the balconies and over the courtyards that women were able to get a glimpse of the men’s world. The facade, the gateways, the courtyard walls, the parapets and ceilings, were all covered with frescoes.
All these paintings are made with natural colors. For example yellow was also obtained by evaporating the urine of cows fed for ten days on nothing but mango leaves. The resulting paste was rolled into small round ‘gayagolis’ and produced a brilliant yellow when dilated with water.
They  used  the ‘Fresco Buono’ technique -  in this method only a part of the wall was plastered at a time with three layers of very fine clay. Sketches were made on the walls scratching the outshines into the wet plaster with a sharpened stick. It remained without fading for almost as long as the building lasted. A gum made from local plant or a derivative of camel fat was used as the crucial binding agent.
At Fatehpur main attraction was Nadine la Prince which is bought and restored by a French artist Nadine. At Mandawa its Castle Mandawa besides Sneh ram ladia ,Gulab rai ladia haveli and JhunJunuwala golden painted haveli, Murmura and Double Goenka haveli (we could not visit as it was closed) at Churi Ajithgarh it’s Sheonarayans haveli at Dundlod its Goenka haveli and at Nawalgarh its Poddar haveli.
TIPS: Best way to visit this regions by own transport but still you need to do a good amount of walking once you reach one particular destination. Hire guide(negotiable) to take you around. No doubt beautiful painting, awesome architecture but one thing is sure at Shekhawati after craning your neck whole day long at end you feel like every other painting is same. After sunset there is no sense to be there as artificial light will be not sufficient enough to see the intricate painting details.
We skipped lunch to cover our itinerary and had very early dinner on way back to Jaipur and by 9.00pm we were at our hotel door.

Day 3 - Rishikesh

The weather looked gloomy with an overcast sky as we woke up. We had breakfast at the hotel and decided to visit Rishikesh today. Again we...