10 EX­PE­RI­ENCES YOU MUST NOT MISS IN RA­JASTHAN

THE CUL­TURAL HUB OF IN­DIA

Airports India - - FRONT PAGE - TEXT & PHO­TOS: PURVI KAMALIYA

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.

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