10 EXPERIENCES YOU MUST NOT MISS IN RAJASTHAN
THE CULTURAL HUB OF INDIA
Palaces, forts, luxury and the vibrant culture of the Royal State of India flash upon the screen of your mind when you read the word ‘Rajasthan’. The state gives you a glimpse of the Royal Rajputana that was known for its gallantry, traditions and extravagant lifestyle. Through tourism most of its colours have been brought out to shine, but there are many experiences that you miss while simply following your fixed itinerary. So let me bring before you those hidden jewels and fantastic experiences you just shouldn’t miss.
1. CLICKING THE ICONIC STEP-WELL WITH 3500 STEPS
When the directors of The Dark Night wanted the best, geometrically designed prison for the adventure of Batman as a saviour, they couldn’t find a better match than this beautiful well, constructed centuries back by the Rajput Kings in India’s Rajasthan. The well isn’t only a perfect selfie spot but also the best spot for architecture and sculpture lovers. The stepwell, known as ‘Chand Baori,’ is located at Abhaneri village. The actual purpose of the well, that has a three storied residence on one side, was to serve as a summer holiday home for the kings of the time. Its architectural brilliance keeps it cool during summers and warm during winters.
The step-well even served as a source of drinking water till very recently. The complex around the well has some ancient idols of Hindu Gods and carvings.
It is altogether a different experience roaming around the village of Abhaneri, adorned with tiny mud houses, where the ladies cook on traditional stoves while wearing bright yellow saris. Also worth visiting is the Harshat Mata Temple. Regular buses and private cabs ply to Abhaneri, located on NH-11 or the Jaipuragra road, 95 kms from Jaipur.
2. WALK AROUND INDIA’S ANCIENT OPEN ART GALLERIES WITH FRESCOS
Not too far from the royal city of Jaipur, lived the richest merchants of the time who traded in opium and zari (golden thread) on the silk route. The group of villages they lived in came to be known as the Shekhavati villages. Each of the merchants were said to be richer than the richest kings of the Rajputana Empire. They showed off their wealth by decorating the walls of their havelis (royal homes), with frescos depicting the foreign merchants’ lifestyle and stories from Indian mythology. A few of them had their ceilings embellished with real gold sheets.
One of these villages, Churu, has huge havelis with around 11,000 windows. Each village in Shekhavati presents you with a new surprise as you walk around the streets awestruck at the paintings.
The merchants abandoned their havelis when they got the opportunity to settle in big cities like Kolkata and Mumbai during the British Era. One of these havelis belongs to one of the richest businessmen in the United Kingdom, Laxmi Mittal. The best villages to stroll around are Churu, Mandava and Nawalgarh. Rajasthan Tourism, as well as many travel agencies, provide a special package tour to these villages. Or else, you can book your stay at Castle Mandava or ‘Malji ka Kamra’ and ask them to arrange for their heritage walk around these villages.
3. EXPLORE AROUND THE CITY OF LAKES - UDAIPUR
At the heart of the otherwise barren land of Rajasthan lies a city adorned with a
number of lakes. Udaipur can be called the epitome of luxury and royal beauty. Apart from its splendid palaces, havelis and hotels, the city provides you an excellent cultural experience. Its traditional puppet shows, folk music and dance at Gangaur Ghat on the lake, and visits to its exquisite temples are a few of such experiences.
Moreover, this is the only city that lets you enjoy a stay right in the middle of a lake. The Taj Lake Palace Hotel at Udaipur is located in the centre of Lake Pichola with a grand view of the palace on one side and the sprawling range of the Aravali Hills on the other. For all the hippie and budget travelers, a number of arty hostels are available in the centre of the city.
4. SLEEP UNDER THE STARS ON THE GOLDEN SAND DUNES
Ever wished to wake up to the view of a star-studded ceiling in the middle of the night? That’s exactly what you get while camping in the dunes of the Thar Desert in Jaisalmer. While the city itself reflects the golden granules of sand in its pastel yellow architecture, the Thar Desert itself makes you fall in love with the stark beauty of the place. Besides dune camping, the Youth Hostel Association of India offers you trekking in the desert and camel and car rides on the inaccessible dunes. This nocturnal adventure creates a lifetime memory not to be missed at any cost.
5. HERITAGE WALK TO SEE THE OPULENT HAVELIS IN THE LANES OF BIKANER
While the havelis at Shekhavati take you on a historic trip to a bygone era, the Rampuria havelis at Bikaner give you a glimpse into the lifestyle of a rich Rajput family. It is said that this family was so rich that even the king used to ask for loans in times of urgent need. Many families in Bikaner owned their own havelis resembling palaces and lived like royalty. With intricately carved walls and doors and architecture inspired by British palaces, the Rampuria Havelis are unique structures and also resembles the grand
old buildings of New York City. Visit early in the morning for superb photo-ops.
6. STARE AMAZED AT THE VIBRANT PALACES OF BIKANER
Grand corridors with artistically painted walls, flanked by elegant windows, pillars and antique artefacts add to the aesthetic elegance of Junagadh Palace. The palace is an epitome of art and boasts of many masterpieces in wall paintings. The colourful rooms at Lalgarh Palace and Lakshmi Niwas Palace are also equally astonishing. Staying in one these palaces, which have been converted into luxury hotels, can be a surreal experience.
7. WITNESS THE MARVELOUS MARBLE ARCHITECTURE OF RANAKPUR AND MT. ABU
The man-made marvels of Ranakpur and Mt. Abu would definitely leave you awestruck with their delicate designs carved in white shining marble. The temples are perfect specimens of the craftsmen’s hard work, skill and spirituality. Both the temples are located a few kilometers from each other, and were completed only due to the dedication of their builders. The work continued even after the builders bade goodbye to their earthly home. The temples startle you with their flowers, devil faces and other symbols of Jainism carved on pillars, doors, and walls of this place of worship. The audio guide entertains you with interesting stories behind each carving in the temple.
8. WALK AROUND THE SECOND LONGEST WALL OF THE WORLD
The fort that is the birthplace of the Legend named Maharana Pratap, the brave king of Mewar, is still guarded by a
mighty wall fringing the fortified area for 36 kilomteres. A walk on this wall, in the early morning, gives you a panoramic view of around 360 Hindu and Jain temples built across the fort, and a lofty palace overlooks the vast area at the other end, guarding the land that once flourished under the devoted subjects of the Rana Kings. The view outside the fort is equally mesmerizing, with acres of green fields spread as far as the eye can see.
9. DANCE TO THE BEATS OF FOLK MUSIC IN AN OLD HAVELI
As the sun bids adieu and paints lake Pichola with its vibrant colours in the city of Udaipur, the traditional dancers are all ready in their colourful attire to give you a glimpse of the astounding culture of Rajasthan. Bagaro ki haveli, tucked on the banks of the Lake Pichola, seems abandoned and quiet from its exterior, but the moment you enter, you are welcomed by the soothing sound of the ‘shehnais,’ accompanied with the resonating sound of the ‘dholak’. And the evening is filled with joy as the dancers amaze you with their graceful moves and their jingling anklets. ‘Kalbeliya’, ‘Ghumar’ , ‘Terataali’ , Matki
Bhavai’ and other folk dances performed here would take you back to the bygone era of the Rajputana kings.
10. DEVOUR THE SPIRITUAL VIBES AT PUSHKAR
When the petals of the Hindu God Brahma fell on earth, the town of Pushkar was blessed with the formation of lovely lakes. The main lake is fringed with serene ‘ghaats’ painted in white, and the town curls around the lake. The ghats are a tableau of the many customs from different corners of Rajasthan. It’s a prominent Hindu pilgrimage town and has one of the world’s few Brahma temples. A cable car ride to Saraswati temple offers stunning lake views. With 52 bathing ghats and 400 milky-blue temples, the town often hums with puja chants, generating an episodic soundtrack of prayers, drums, gongs, and devotional songs. Watch the evening ‘aarti,’ and in case you choose to be here on a Diwali night, you can expect to see the Ghats illuminated with thousands of earthen lamps. The Pushkar camel fair in November draws numerous tourists from both India and abroad.