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Old 18th January 2015, 23:30   #1
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Default A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar

It was a special trip last January. Our first visit to Rajasthan, one of our best driving trips, and seeing the places of history I've gorged on all my life. Here's a link to that travelogue:

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...r-kingdom.html (A week's drive through Rajasthan - The bastions of the Mewar Kingdom)

It became addictive. The live history lesson wasn't the only takeaway. So were the fantastic roads, amicable people, being addressed as "hukum", hotels suiting all kinds of budgets, and heritage seeping out of not just the palaces but every city wall.

So this January, we just had to go to Rajasthan again. This time West Rajasthan - Jodhpur, Bikaner and Jaisalmer. Like last time it was to be a driving trip. Again not with Predator, but with Argento - our spanking new Elite i20 CRDI Asta.

The following was the itinerary:

Day 1 - Drive from Delhi to Jodhpur.
Day 2 - Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada, Mandore.
Day 3 - Village safari, a walk through the rock park, followed by a heritage walk through the old Blue City of Jodhpur.
Day 4 - Drive to Bikaner visiting Ossian and Deshnoke.
Day 5 - Junagadh fort, Gajner, Camel Research centre.
Day 6 - Drive to Jaisalmer, camel safari at sand dunes.
Day 7 - Kuldhara, Jaisalmer fort and a city walk
Day 8 - Drive back to Delhi

Day 1 - Drive from Delhi to Jodhpur.

We left Delhi on 1st January at 7 AM. The city was sleeping after last night's revelries, and we had a smooth exit. Contrary to last year, when we had to drive through nearly 6 hours of dense fog, this time the weather gods were kind to us. An absolutely clear morning. Even trucks were sparse on the terrible Delhi-Jaipur stretch. The fastest we have done this stretch.

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Post Jaipur, NH8 turns into a beautiful multi-lane expressway. Wifey asserts her dominance. "My car, I get to drive".

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I am relegated to the passenger seat listening to Honey Singh ("My choice of music when I'm driving") and taking pics of the road. Sparse traffic, even in the day.

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Some stretches with no traffic at all.

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After 225 kms, I manage to wrench the steering wheel of her hands. We have reached Beawar, and it is time to turn off into the single lane NH14. The only stop we had en route is at this level crossing.

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For a train that took forever to arrive.

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The road from Beawar to Jodhpur is partly NH14, and partly a defence highway (can't recollect the number). All single carriageway road, but the condition of the road is very very good. We make brisk progress. By 5 PM, we are at our homestay in Jodhpur. 610 kms on the odo, in just 10 hours with one stop.

Day 2 - Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada, Mandore.

After a fabulous breakfast consisting of cereals and Jodhpuri onion kachoris, we leave for Mehrangarh fort. It is a weekday, so the roads are crammed with local traffic.

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I like Jodhpuri autos. Big, diesel-engined beasts of burden, that can seat 3.

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Or 6, or multiples thereof!

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In every historical city of India, you see these sights where the gaudy present has overrun the past. See this building in the left of the pic. I don't know what it used to be, but the facade has been overrun by ugly shops.

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Or this ancient haveli, with the intricate jali-work completely ruined.

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Anyway, so we continue towards the fort, first along the main road which houses the high court and several government buildings.

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Then one has to get on to a narrower road in the older part of town. Argento meets its Elite i20 brother.

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Then the final road which takes you to the fort.

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The imposing Mehrangarh fort, lording over the city, looms into view for the first time.

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Even for a weekday the fort is fairly crowded. We have to park at a distance from the main gate, and walk up to the entrance.

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"A palace that might have been built by Titans and colored by the morning sun - Rudyard Kipling

Mehragarh - the fort of Jodhpur crowns a rocky hill that rises 400 feet above the surrounding plain, and appears both to command and to meld with the landscape. One of the largest forts in Rajasthan, it contains some of the finest palaces and preserves in its museum many priceless relics of Indian courtly life.

For over five centuries Mehrangarh has been the headquarters of the senior branch of the Rajput clan known as the Rathores. According to their bards, the ruling dynasty of the clan had at an earlier period controlled Kanauj (in what is now Uttar Pradesh). Like other prominent medieval Rajput rulers - including the famous Prithviraj Chauhan - they were defeated by invaders from Afghanistan at the end of the 12th century. This catastrophe led to the disruption and migration of the early Rajput clans that they led. The Rathores came to Pali, in Marwar, in what is now central Rajasthan. It is claimed that they were invited to settle there to protect brahmin villages against cattle-rustling local tribes. The story may seem somewhat fanciful, but the protection of the priestly caste is one of the traditional roles assigned to the Rajputs. Their task in Pali was the basis of their expanding power in the region.

Rao Chunda (r. 1384-1428) the twelfth Rathore to rule in Marwar, established his capital at Mandore, which he had acquired as part of a dowry. Two generations later, Rao Jodha (r. 1438-89) began to build a fort at a new site six miles to the south, on an isolated rock with a higher elevation and better natural defences. Jodhpur, the town that sprang up at its base, was named after him. The fort was named Mehrangarh, meaning 'fort of the sun' - a reference to the clan's mythical descent from the sun god Surya. Over 500 yards long, its wall rises in places to a height of 120 feet and is 70 feet thick.

For Rao Jodha's successors, these defences were essential, though not always adequate. The centuries following the fort's foundation were marked by rivalries between the Rajput clans and by other external threats. A dominant influence over the region was asserted first by the Delhi sultanate and later by the Mughals. As they built their empire in India, the Mughals sought to subdue Rajput states like Marwar and its neighbours in Rajasthan, but they did not wish to eradicate them. To most established Indian rulers they preferred to offer terms of subsidiary alliance: serve the empire, they said, and you can retain control over your ancestral lands. Four successive generations of rulers in Marwar, between 1581 and 1678, accepted this challenge and became loyal allies and in effect feudatory chiefs of the empire. But for decades both before and after this phase, the understanding with the Mughals broke down, the city and fort of Jodhpur were overrun, and the Rathores were reduced to guerilla-style resistance in their own kingdom. It did not make matters easier that their relations with the bordering Rajput states such as Jaipur and Bikaner also tended to be volatile.

In those unstable times, a fort like Mehrangarh was an object of great power and prestige; in today's terms it would be rather like owning an aircraft carrier. Its uses perhaps, were somewhat more varied: it was not just a military base, but also a palace for the rulers and their wives; a centre of patronage for the arts, music and literature; and with its many temples and shrines it was also a place of worship. These diverse uses are reflected in the many buildings within.

The current head of the Rathore clan and custodian of the fort, Maharaja Gaj Singh II, has preserved the buildings and developed the museum as a record of the lives of this predecesors. His ancestors ruled the states of Marwar and over many generations built this architectural treasury, and it falls to him to ensure that their legacy is maintained and understood.


[Source: Mehrangarh - Giles Tillotson]

The current entrance to the fort is the Jai Pol. Unknown to many, this was not the original entrance to the fort. That was actually a ramp leading up from the old city (Brahmapuri, or blue city as it is better known). The Jai Pol was added in 1809 as an additional defence, after an invasion by the kingdom of Jaipur.

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A beautiful mural to the right of Jai Pol.

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Thanks to the trust maintained by Maharaj Gaj Singh, Mehrangarh is one of the better maintained forts in Rajasthan. To your right you can (partly) see the mazhar or grave of Shahid Bhure San, a Muslim courtier in the time of Maharaja Man Singh. Further ahead to the right is the souvenir store.

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The three-tiered balcony of the Daulat Khana, as seen from below, Makes an awesome picture, no?

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Canonball marks on the walls from the Jaipur invasion.

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The second gate, referred to as the Dedh Kangura Pol (meaning 1.5 merlons,) so called because the new wall added by Man Singh (when building the new entrance) partly overlaps its parapet. One can see it was built as a functional entrance, not ornamental. Its a simple gate, with no decorated arch.

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After Dedh Kangura the road takes a u-turn to the left. You join the original ascent path from Brahmapuri here. Immediately after is the third gate, the Amriti Pol. Four arches and a reasonably ornate gate.

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This is the tablet that marks the farthest point of the original fort Rao Jodha built.

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Further up we come across the first actual defensive gate, the Loha Pol. A steeply ascending rise to the gate followed by a sharp 90 degree right turn. So created because battering rams/charging elephants used to break down the gate would lose their momentum in taking the turn.

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There is an interesting sight here. Women who accompanied their husbands to their funeral pyre left their hand impressions here, later carved permanently into stone at the Loha Pol. By the size of the impressions, not all Satis even attained adulthood. Sadly, the photo I took turned corrupt. The Satis did not not want to be photographed.

A couple of jolly musicians who play all day for tips. Trust employees, apparently.

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Now you are in the couryard of the fort. The first building to your right is the naqqar khana (drum house) where musicians announced the departure/arrival of the Maharaja and important guests. Now converted into a nice cafe.

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Now you are in the Shringar Chowk, the first building of the fort. The royal coronations used to take place here.

Red sandstone balconies. The jali work not only served as decoration, but also to circulate cool air within the building.

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A beautiful window.

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The marble throne on which the royal coronation used to take place. Interestingly, the arch on the throne is an Islamic arch. The last thing I expected in a Hindu kingdom, and something my guide couldn't answer. Perhaps it has to do with the years of serving as aides to the Mughal emperors. Maybe a gift from them.

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(Continued)

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Old 1st February 2015, 18:48   #2
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Default Re: A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar

Day 2 (Continued)

Unfortunately Shringar Chowk doesn't offer much in terms of architecture, beyond the central courtyard. There are 2 rooms, the Howdah Khana (housing various elephant Howdas) and Palki khana (housing what the name suggests). Novel if this is your first trip to Rajasthan, not so if you've been to any of the kingdoms earlier. Still, some photos for the record.

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An ornamental thing worn by the royal elephant.

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Some palkis in the palki khana.

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This elderly gentleman is an employee of the trust. For the last 18 years, his job has been to pose with a hookah at the Shringar Chowk courtyard. A souvenir pic with wifey.

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The next building we are taken to is the Daulat Khana. You have seen a picture of the 3 tiered balcony in the previous post. This building was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh. The ground floor used to be an audience hall, famously called "Shehes Stambh" or the "Thousand columned hall. The 1st floor was Ajit Singh's personal quarters, and the 2nd floor an open terrace. The ground floor has been converted to another souvenir museum. I was told some of the pillars were removed during a subsequent Maharaja's time, yet I couldn't count anything close to even 100! As for the souvenirs, didn't find too much interesting. This golden palki takes pride of place here. Maharaja Abhay Singh, who served as Governor of Gujarat during the Mughals, won this as booty.

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And some weapons.

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Wow. A 19th century gun, also called a handcannon.

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We move on to the 1st floor, the personal quarters of Ajit Singh. This is also called the Umaid Mahal.

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Intricate mirror work all over. Lots of pictures of Hindu gods. Multi-colored balls and a beautiful glass chandelier. Unfortunately my camera wasn't good enough to take a picture in the (extremely limited) available light.

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We then move on to the Phul Mahal, a grand room constructed by Abhay Singh, Ajit Singh's son. This was a private audience hall, obviously meant for an exclusive group of people like ministers and thakurs. It was also intended to hold dance performances.

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All this intricate work was done over 15 years by a single artist!

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We move on to the 2nd floor terrace. Play Maharaja for a brief while, training our cannons on to the unsuspecting city.

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Next to the Daulat Khana is another open hall. Historical references quote this as a Bhojan Shala (lunch room) but the trust has made every available space into a museum. So this is now the Shastra Khana. Some more weapons.

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Another must visit of Daulat Khana is the Takhat Vilas, the personal quarters of Maharaj Takhat Singh. While I did not find the sculptures as well done as the Phul Mahal, what is remarkable is that such a large hall (you only see a portion in the pic below) doesn't have a single supporting column! The ceiling is carried on huge wooden beams that are in turn supported by piers on the side walls. Sadly couldn't take better photos for want of a better camera.

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We are now in the other side of the terrace. The design of the fort base can be seen very well here:

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As can the entire old city, Brahmapuri. It was here that I decided that the Jodhpur visit would be incomplete without a walking tour of the old city. An itch I could scratch the very next day.

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Before we leave Daulat Khana, this remarkable painting is worth mention. I will quote Giles Tillotson here:

It (the painting) is the work of Archibald Herman Muller (1878-1952) the son of a German father and an Indian mother; who studied at Madras School of Art, and in his later years worked in various places in Rajasthan. This image depicts the great Rathore hero, Durga Das, scourge of Aurangzeb and protector of Ajit Singh, and shows the hero and his young charge undergoing the rigours of exile. It was not commissioned by the Jodhpur court. It hangs here today as a gift from the family of a former Thakur.

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We move on now to the Khwabgah Mahal, the quarters of the munshi ji. Naturally spartan in its decoration. Just one pic which shows the writing table of the accounts keeper.

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Next up is the Jhanki Mahal, the "zenana" part of the royal quarters. This was originally a hall from which the palace women could observe events happening in the courtyard. Now it houses a collection of jhoolas which have rocked various kings in their infancy.

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This particular Jhoola was gifted to Maharaja Gaj Singh II by grateful engineers of PWD Jodhpur. It has a mechanical rocking motion!

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(Continued)

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Day 2 (Continued)

Our next visit is Moti Mahal. A large courtyard in the centre and another grand hall on the right side. This used to be Takhat Singh's throne room. What makes it unique (and gives it the name moti) is that actual seashells were crushed into the mortar while making the walls, thus lending it a lustrous white finish.

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We are now in the last section of the Mahal, called the Zenana Deodhi. Originally this used to be a massive structure, containing queens, the harem, unmarried daughters as well as quarters of female servants. However legend says Hanwant Singh took most of these quarters down to construct additional, utilitarian buildings.

As of now only one courtyard survives. The balconies around this courtyard have the most intricate jaali carvings.

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One photo for posterity.

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And there ends our guided tour of the royal quarters. We leave the main building to walk to the end of the fort.

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There are people living in this section of the fort. Probably families of trust members and guards. This lady hands out free drinking water.

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This one sells puppets.

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We come on to the gun terrace, housing the royal cannons. Wifey strikes a pose with one.

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Tries setting off another.

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An intricately carved member of the canon family.

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Another birds-eye view of the old city.

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The chamunda temple at the absolute end of the fort complex.

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We pay a visit.

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While coming back, we spot a small, modern temple in the unused section of the fort.

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And finally, after a salute to the Jodhpur royal crest, we leave Mehrangarh. Our next stop, Jaswant Thada.

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Jaswant Thada

The history of the Marwar dynasty in Rajasthan began at Mandore. Even though Rao Jodha shifted his city away to Jodhpur, the royal cremations continued to be held at Mandore.

Till 1895, when after the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, his widow commissioned a new cremation site on a plateu just off the main road leading to the fort. A huge marble cenotaph, called Jaswant Thada in his honor.

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The marble cenotaph is actually not Jaswant Singh's chhatri, but a concept Giles Tillotson calls a "Rathore Valhalla" - commemorating the entire dynasty. It contains portraits of all the rulers of the Marwar clan, and a small pedestal on which the current ruler has mounted photos of his father and grandfather.

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The central place of worship

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What struck me as more interesting is the grade of Makrana marble used here. I'm told the Taj Mahal was built with a grade of fine translucent marble that would pass sunlight through it. In all my visits to that monument I've never seen that happening, thanks to the immense crowd and the way the security guards make you run around and out of the central hall!

Here, in the solitude of Jaswant Thada, I saw the phenomenon for the first time.

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Fascinating, isn't it?

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Anyway, we come out into the garden.

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Pose for posterity.

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and check out the Chhatri of Jaswant Singh.

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And on the further side, the chhatris of his successors. Maharajas Sardar Singh, Sumer Singh, Umed Singh and Hanwant Singh.

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Some more chhatris commemorating less illustrious members of the dynasty. Accordingly these are smaller, and built in sandstone instead of white marble.

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Jaswant Thada also houses a small lake next to the cenotaph. Pictured, the Northern Shoveler.

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And what looked like black necked stork.

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We say goodbye to this beautiful and well maintained monument, and set off for Mandore, our last destination of the day.

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Day 2 (Continued) - Mandore

When one delves into history, the further back he goes in time, the more his urge to discover "Where did it all begin?". Last year, while traversing the Mewar kingdom, it was this urge that took me to Chittor. This time it brought me to Mandore. A place that has its origins in time when Chittor didn't even exist.

There are actually 2 parts to Mandore. In the 6th century the King Nahar Rao Pratihar, of the Gurjara Pratiharas established Mandore Fort as the capital of their kingdom, Marwar. It was used as the base to extend a kingdom as far as Bharuch in Gujarat. For many years under the Pratiharas Mandore flourished as a centre for arts and culture. Many beautiful temples were built here, and many statues originally from Mandore now find place in museums and private collections over the world.

The second chapter of Mandore is when Rao Chunda, the twelfth Rathore ruler of Marwar, received Mandore as his dowry and established his own kindgom there. The Rathores lived here for only 2 generations before moving on to Mehrangarh. But they continued to use Mandore. Sometimes as refuge when external invaders drove them out of Mehrangarh. Sometimes to create cenotaphs of deceased rulers.

"Mandore Gardens" is just 9 kms away from Jodhpur. We park our car outside and walk in.

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Lots of trees, lots of monkeys.

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And lots of people taking an evening stroll.

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The gate to Mandore, built during its second phase of glory.

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A history lesson.

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These sheds, just after the gate, probably housed horses.

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Some pics from the second phase of Mandore. We were told this palace was built during Maharaja Ajit Singh's rein.

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But I want to see old Mandore. So we begin the climb to Mandore Fort. The filth on the staircase should have been a sign of things to come.

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The valley below the fort is a jungle, no one lives here now. I keep hoping the actual fort will be in better shape.

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Some warnings.

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A map of the fort.

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Another history lesson.

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And we climb up to the fort. Or what's left of it.

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Everywhere you look, there are only ruins.

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Behind those Chhatris apparently, existed a Brahma temple. Now its in ruins.

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Another temple ruin.

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Yet another.

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This one had some interesting carvings from the period stacked in order. But we were not allowed to enter the complex.

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It was clear that the old Mandore, if anyone cared, had ceased to exist. The Archaeological survey is making a good effort to restore the temples, but there's a limit to how much they can recreate. Not that the public cared anyway. I was there for a good 2 hours, and the only other group I saw was a bunch of college kids walking around.

With a heavy heart we left Mandore. A parting shot. Ek Thamba Mahal, also built during Maharaja Ajit Singh's rein.

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Default Re: A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar

Day 3 - Village safari, rock park, heritage walk through the old Blue City of Jodhpur

We dedicate the day to see the other side of Jodhpur. Not forts and palaces, not royalty, but creations of nature and sons of the soil. The first part of the day is a village safari, the second a walk through the heritage city of Brahmapuri.

As a petrolhead, you know you're in for a good day, when a UAZ 469 turns up as your safari vehicle!

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I am genuinely surprised to see this car. It turns out the owner (and the man who organizes these safaris) is a collector of vintage 4wds. Beside the UAZ, he owns a Land Rover Series 1, a Jeep Kaiser and a Jonga.

The UAZ was originally a permanent 4wd (with a 4H-4L option). He has kept the 4wd components intact and they work here.

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The front manual locking hubs.

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The engine has been replaced with an Isuzu diesel for reasons of economy. Same for the gearbox.

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The speedo is not original, but it works. The other 4 gauges are original, they don't work. Can someone tell me what the 2nd (from left) gauge was used to denote?

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Anyway, so aboard this majestic vehicle, we set off for the village safari. Accompanying us is Yashvardhan Singh Rathore, the owner's (of the homestay we were in) son. Their family are royalty in these parts, so 26 year old Yash is referred to as "Hukum" and his father as "Daata". I like.

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Jodhpur is a small city, so within 10 minutes we hit rural roads.

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For the first 15 minutes we pass through small tribal villages. Nothing much to see except regular cattle, and a small herd of chital that we photograph.

If you are out in Western Rajasthan for the first time, a species of tree called Ganda Babul (Prosopis Juliflora) will come across as the most common sighting. 80 years ago, the then Maharaja Umaid Singh inherited an arid land with sparse vegetation. Very few trees, grossly inadequate green cover to provide monsoons or fodder for the cattle. In his quest for his peoples' welfare, he imported seeds of Prosopis Juliflora, a Mexican plant that was known to grow very fast. Legend is he arranged a helicopter to spray around these seeds all around his kingdom. The plant did grow very fast, providing a cover of green to the desert landscape.

But what the King intended as a welfare measure came as doom for his kingdom. The plant turned out to be an invasive species, secreting an alkali through its roots that destroyed all other natural trees growing in its vicinity. Animals refused to eat it, so it was useless as fodder. Today, while it has spread to every nook and corner of Jodhpur, there are serious efforts to clear this. We will come across some efforts in the next post.

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Then we come to a vantage spot. It is a small pond that contains water through the year. So wild animals and bird sightings are common. RTDC is building an eco-tourism resort here. For now only these garishly pink cottages are ready.

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Some more Chital.

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A massive flock of Demoiselle Crane.

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Mr Nilgai seriously trying to impress/seduce Mrs Nilgai. "Mausam hai Suhana, Dil bhi hai Aashiqana" types!

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A pair of Black Buck. My first sighting of this lovely animal in the wild.

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And a Black capped Kingisher, a comparatively rare sighting, which flies away before I can take a decent photo.

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We next stop at a shepherd's house. We are told impressive stories about their tenacity to survive in these harsh lands, and shown around. Maybe impressive to foreigners, nothing much I don't know about.

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The shepherd's wife is busy in her daily chores, and rightfully pays us no attention.

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Some more fauna we spot on the way. A Black Drongo.

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A Chestnut-headed Bee Eater

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And a magnificent, young Black Buck.

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What follows is a series of visits to craftsmen. First we are taken to a potter where they teach us the art of pottery on the traditional potter's wheel. My wife, who learned this in our last Rajasthan visit, does a good job of fashioning a cup.

Then we go to a man making block-printed fabric. The prices being asked for seem exorbitant, so we don't buy anything.

One interesting point. Rural women in Rajasthan wear Ghagra patterns that mirror their husband's profession. The blue-black pattern you see on top is worn by Shepherd women. The red is the exclusive pattern of Bishnois. And the blue below it is worn by farmer women.

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Next up, a carpet-weaver's house. These carpets are better known as durrees.

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This guy carefully explains how different threads are used in the loom to weave together patterns, and how it takes 7-10 days to make one full size durree.

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The craft work is intricate and nice to watch. But again the prices are exorbitant, so we move on without buying anything.

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Our next stop, and for me the most interesting. We visit a Bishnoi household.

A word about the Bishnois. The tribe was founded by Guru Jambeshwar more than 500 years ago, who gave them 29 principles to live with. Hence Bish (20) and Noi (9). The most important of these was to protect the environment you live in. Protect animals and trees with your life, as your ancestors are reborn in these forms.

This curious principle makes Bishnois avid eco-conservationists. There have been several incidents where Bishnois have gone to crazy lengths to protect animals and trees. The craziest being in 1730, when 363 Bishnois gave up their life (in Khejarli village near Jodhpur) to prevent the King's men cutting any trees!

While I certainly didn't want to go up-in-arms against a Bishnoi, what I wanted to check out was their traditional way of welcoming guests with the "Opium" ceremony. Read on.

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The Bishnoi hut.

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The traditional welcome thali. The black granules are opium, the tubes obviously to smoke. Of the smaller "katoras" one holds Ker Sangri and one holds Bajra. The others I don't recollect.

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The Pagri he will make you wear, and the Opium machine which he will use to concoct your welcome, err, drink!

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Hukum Predatorwheelz with Hukum Yashvardhan Singh Rathore.

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Our Bishnoi host grinds the opium granules into dust, and soaks them in water.

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The concoction is poured in these pouches to filter.

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(Continued)

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Default Re: A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar

Day 3 (Continued)

The opium machine has a miniature "mandir" on top. Our host rings the bell to awaken the Gods.

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Offers them the first drop.

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Takes the next swig.

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And offers a few drops to Dharti mata.

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Sadly, after this elaborate ceremony, his guests refuse to take any of the concoction. What? Its the middle of the day for crying out loud! Instead, we politely take a tiny bite out of a small opium ball that is offered to us. Then, after a token donation to our host, we are on our way.

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A small railway station we cross on our way back. I just can't resist taking photos of trains.

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The Village Safari done, we barely have time to have lunch before it is time to rush for the second part of our trip.

Rao Jodha Rock Park, and the Old City walk

[Before we start, a little introduction about our tour and tour guide]

The Rao Jodha Rock Park was an initiative of Maharaja Gaj Singh II's trust. A massive area of rocky land, about 70 hectares around the fort and Brahmapuri lay vacant, overrun with human waste and the infamous Ganda Babul. In 2006 the trust created the park in this land, both as a beautification effort and to showcase the many varieties of rock, soil and plants that grow in Western Rajasthan. Currently the park has 2 trained Geologists as guides, and there is a nominal entry fee. One of them, called Denzel, accompanied us.

If all that didn't interest you, one scene of the movie "The Dark Knight Rises", where Christian Bale climbs out of the pit with Mehrangarh fort in the background, was shot in this park.

Our guide for the evening was not really a guide by profession. The city walk has not yet become so popular that you have professional guides vying for your money. Instead we were shown around by Mr Govind Singh Bhati, husband to a dear friend, event organizer by profession, and an executive producer of Jodhpur RIFF (Rajasthan International Film Festival). Having spent most of his life in Jodhpur, he comes with a deep understanding of the city and its people. We were lucky to have him in Jodhpur while we were there.

Now coming back to the narrative. This is the gate to the park, a stone's throw from the Mehrangarh entry.

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The miniscule front office.

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This is volcanic rock, from the times when India as a piece of land broke away from supercontinent Gondwanaland (thank you, Denzel) and attached itself to the Asian continent. Molten lava solidified to form this kind of wavy rock.

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The entrance pathway, sculpted out of the same volcanic rock.

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A display of the different kinds of rock found in Western Rajasthan. To a layman's eyes, the most attractive would be Yellow Sandstone (front left, bottom) found in Jaisalmer and the Mica Rock (front right, bottom).

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Some more volcanic rock.

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Mooltani Mitti is derived from this kind of rock, extremely rich in natural minerals.

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And this is fossil rock. From the time before the continental drift, when Western Rajasthan was a sea bed!

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I'm not boring you anymore with geology. We continue our walk and come down a level.

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To a path which was originally an aqueduct , to bring water into the fort from Kaylana Lake.

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And finally come up on a bastion wall which marked one end of the fort. Mehrangarh fort bathed in the evening sun, a photograph to treasure. This is also where the Dark Knight Rises scene was shot.

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To give you better perspective, this is where we are standing. Govind narrating a story and Denzel looking on.

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A parapet on the wall, used originally to station sentries.

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We come out on to what looks like an open amphitheater. This is where one event in RIFF takes place, Govind tells us. Folk Singers (with voices that do not require microphones) performing in moonlight with the fort in the background. I must be here this time!

Again, a photo for posterity's sake.

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A small lake built by the creator of the fort, for quenching the thirst of the laborers. This is outside the fort walls.

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We use this small gate to get into the fort walls.

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Some cormorants and cranes enjoying the evening sun.

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And this is the main lake of the fort. Rani Sar. 2 things to notice here. The bastion (in the left of your pic) housed the remains of a Persian water wheel. In fact it was one of 3 water wheels (built one level below the other) which could take water right up to the top of the fort.

Secondly, the pillars at the bottom of the bastion hide a passageway which the ladies of the fort used to come to it.

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Some locals enjoying a chat. Brahmapur is right behind those walls.

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A small chhatri for the gods, seen a lot in religious places in UP.

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This inconspicuous looking gate takes you out of the fort and into Brahmapuri. We later learn it is called Fateh Pol, built by Ajit Singh in 1707 to commemorate his victory over the Mughals.

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And immediately, the world around you takes on a bright shade of blue! Indigo, actually.

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For the uninitiated, painting houses with Indigo was considered good for 2 aspects. It reflected heat and kept the interiors cool. It was also considered a mosquito repellant.

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We bid the fort Good bye and immerse ourselves into the blue city.

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(continued)

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Default Re: A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar

Day 3 (Continued)

Remove the 2 wheelers, and this lane would have looked the same as it was 100 years ago.

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Black fellow in a sea of blue.

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A 100 years ago, when the kings lived in Mehrangarh, the rich traders lived in Brahmapuri. This ancient step well (called Chand Baori, fed by water from the Rani Sar) was used by their women. Now it is submerged in filth. No rescue attempts are forthcoming, either from the trust or the municipality, sighs Govind.

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A typical small house you would expect to find here. This one is about 70 years old.

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An old trader's mansion. Now all (but one) member of the family live in Delhi. The remaining resident member didn't care to go with the blue theme.

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A portrait where time stood still.

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Would have been another, if you take out the 2 wheelers.

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Another Trader's Haveli. This one too is a rebel as far as the colour scheme is concerned.

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This strange structure, in the middle of a chowk, is a community diya. During celebrations, resident women light it up with small diyas so the whole chowk becomes lit.

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SBI is truly everywhere. The last place I expected to see an ATM.

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This Jaali window needed restoration more than it needed a coat of paint, no?

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It is well into the evening now. We have had a long day, and our foot muscles are fighting a battle with our camera batteries to see who gives up first. Govind takes us into his friend's house for a cup of tea. A Panditji.

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For want of horizontal space, most houses in Brahmapuri have grown vertically. See this pic carefully. I am standing on the terrace. Right above me is another terrace and 2 rooms. Above that (see the external staircase) is yet another terrace!

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We climb to the top, and capture Mehrangarh in the moonlight. Yes that is the moon.

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The king lords over his subjects.

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We resume walking. Gangshyam Ji ka Mandir, an impressive Krishna temple built by Maharaja Ajit Singh in the 18th century. The idol, Gangshyamji was brought to Jodhpur in the 16th century by a queen of the then ruler, Rao Ganga (hence the name). It resided in the fort for 2 centuries before the temple was built in Brahmapuri.

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The Sojati Pol gate. Once the entry into walled city. Legend has it that the gate would be closed every night, and water and refreshments would be provided to travellers waiting outside waiting for the gate to open.

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Finally, after 4 hours of walking and taking in pieces of history, we do what we do best. Shop, and eat! A store selling locally made Ittar. Beside the usual (Kewra, Musk etc) they did stock some interesting local flavours.

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First we visit the shop on the left for Jodhpur special Gulab Jamuns. Very different from what you get in rest of India. Lightly fried and almost no sugar syrup. Refreshing.

The difference in crowd between the 2 shops also tells its own story.

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Then Govind's favorite local eatery for the best of Jodhpur snacks.

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Mawa Kachori, a Jodhpuri speciality. Deep fried kachori with sweets and sugar syrup as filling.

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Jodhpuri onion kachori, better than anything you get in Delhi.

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We also had Makhania Lassi, a thick yellow lassi fragrant with pista and dry fruits. I could swear I had taken a pic, which I can't find now.

So finally we bid goodbye to Govind and come back to our homestay. Tomorrow, we leave for Bikaner.

Indrashan Homestay

It would be unfair to conclude the Jodhpur chapter without a reference to Indrashan, where we stayed. The wonderful hospitality extended by Mr Chandrashekhar Singh Raoti's family, Mrs Singh's amazing cooking (the best home food I've ever had, seriously!) and the chats over the bonfire. Yes, every evening they would have a bonfire lit in the central courtyard, where all the guests would sit around and discuss their day's events. Then the evening would conclude with another round of Mrs Singh's food. Thank you, bhpian AKP, for referring me to this place.

Us with the Singhs, in the pic below.

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On the last night we had an interesting visitor. A couple from US, the husband looked vaguely familiar. We struck up a conversation, and came to know the husband was a musician. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Interesting to meet a musician. So what kind of musician are you? Do you play bands? Or are you a studio musician?

Him: Well, I'm a bassist. I'm a founding member of a band called Jane's Addiction. We started the Lollapalooza festival, if you've heard of it. Currently I'm a touring bassist for Nine Inch Nails.

I was like. It took me a while to realize I was chatting with the Great Mr Eric Avery.

In case you haven't heard of him, here's the wiki link.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Avery

Of course we just had to have a photo with the man.

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The smiles tell their own story. In this pic, his lovely wife Annabelle and Mrs Singh.

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That concludes our Jodhpur chapter folks. Tomorrow, we set off to Bikaner.

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Default Re: A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar

Day 4 - Drive to Bikaner visiting Ossian and Deshnoke.

The next morning we're up early, and ready to leave after a hearty breakfast. Another family is going for the village trip. And the tour organizer is taking them out in a Land Rover Series I!

"Papa, nice jeep na?" says the boy. "Yes beta, but what an old jeep" says the father. Oh, the pain, the pain.

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We're out of the city before it gets crowded.

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The same road via Mandore goes to Bikaner.

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But our first stop for the day is Osian. For which we have to take a detour just after crossing city limits.

Why Osian? - Simply, the temples. Osian has been called the "Khajuraho of Rajasthan" for its temples. The Gurjara Pratihara dynasty (that I mentioned in the Mandore post) turned Osian into a major religious center. Of particular interest to me were the Jain temples from the 8th to 11th centuries, which I was told had sculptures of the highest standard. There are also some Hindu temples, particularly the Sachiya Mata temple.

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And on to SH61.

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In Rajasthan, even State Highways are such fantastic pieces of tarmac.

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A toll of Rs 25 if you're going to Osian, Rs 40 to Phalodi. A toll we gladly pay to enjoy this road.

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An after a breezy drive for just over an hour, we are at Osian. This is Osian chowk. The straight road goes to Phalodi, the right road where we came from. One has to park at the chowk and walk into the town.

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The initial road just after the chowk. All you see here are shops selling puja items, and lots and lots of beggars.

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A cute fellow minding his own business.

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The walk is about 500 metres.

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Before we reach this chowk. More shops, and more beggars.

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The entrance to our first destination, The Sachiya Mata temple.

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A flight of steps, through sculpted arches.

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The Sachiya Mata temple was established in the 8th century AD, though the current structure was mostly built in the 12th century. While that is acceptable, I could not stand the superstructure of iron bars (colored sky blue) that has been built around the complex! Completely spoils the appearance of the temple.

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There's your Darshan of Sachiya Mata.

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Not quite the quality of sculptures I had come to expect.

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Some more temples built around the main temple.

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And the Chandi Mata Mandir and Amba Mata Mandir, in the same complex.

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Overall, not quite what I had expected. Once we get out, we ask around for the Jain temples. People point us to a deserted lane.

5 minutes into the walk, we are accosted by a group of village women. Not children, not disabled beggars, but a group of 6-7 adult village women. They pester us, walking along, yelling at different frequencies, pulling at our bags, demanding that we pay them some money. And there's no apparent reason why they're asking for it. Just the fact that we are in a religious place and should lighten our purses!

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This irritation goes on an on till someone shows us the gate to the Jain temple.

Now we're inside the Dharamshala. And its a different world from the chaotic Hindu pilgrimage we were in earlier.

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The Dharmashala is a modern structure, built outside the 11th century Mahavira temple. This is the pathway.

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And the moment we enter, we are in world of magnificent sculptures.

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The main temple.

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With its lovely sculpted gate, built out of red sandstone like the rest of the complex.

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If you notice carefully, the base of the pillar holds statues of snakes. Something I've not seen in other Jain temples.

A little bit of trivia I came across regarding this. It seems the Gurjara Pratihara ruler, Nagabhata, defeated a contingent of Naga people and succesfully converted them to Jainism. Hence we was conferred the title "Nagabhata" meaning conqueror of Nagas. However the conquered Nagas did not give up their serpent worship completely. Thus the pillars of this temple, when sculpted, carried the Naga signature.

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Seems like an unfinished pillar (at the top). But what quality of sculptures!

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Every Jain temple complex has smaller temples dedicated to the other Tirthankaras.

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(continued)

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Old 3rd February 2015, 18:36   #9
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Default Re: A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar

Day 4 (Continued)

The omnipresent (at all Jain temples) Thakshak statue.

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Some more beautiful carvings.

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Within the main temple. Notice the work on each pillar. We were not allowed to take pics of the main idol.

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After spending some time here, we are informed there are more Jain temples on the hillock close by. We take a different route. Osian looks more a Ghost town, with buildings like these that seem to have seen a lot of TLC one upon a time.

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But we are not lucky enough. Soon we are accosted by a bigger, different group of village women with the same kind of demands. The incessant begging gets on our nerves, and we decide to leave. The beggars accompany us till our car, until we lock the doors and scoot.

Sorry readers, I could not bring you the complete Osian report. But sorry Osian as well. The authorities should seriously do something about curbing this menace, or you will lose what meager tourist traffic you already have!

This local road connects us back to the Jodhpur-Bikaner highway. Patchy in places.

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Smooth in others.

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And we're back on the highway.

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After Nagaur, the Bikaner highway is seeing multiple repairs. Even stretches where one side of the tarmac is completely done off.

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Our progress slows down.

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The vegetation around us gets sparse.

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At 5 PM, we reach the gates of the Karni Mata temple.

Karni Mata Temple

Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur, had multiple wives like any king of the time. Nauranga Devi, one of his wives, had bore him the sons Bika and Bida. Another wife, Jasmadeji of Bundi, bore him Suja and Satal. As the sons grew, Bika's reputation for bravery and wisdom spread far and wide. Rao Jodha was a farsighted man. Though he wanted Suja to become king, he knew distancing Bika would soon ensure internal conflict for the throne of Jodhpur.

So he summoned Bika, and asked him to conquer new lands and carve out a fiefdom for himself. Bika had been told by his friends that to the north of Jodhpur lay a territory called Janglu. So named for the inhospitable terrain. The erstwhile Sankhla rulers of Janglu had deserted the place, and all that remained were small tribes, easy to conquer. So with his brother Bida, a couple of his uncles, 100 horses and 500 soldiers, the young prince set out to conquer Janglu.

After miles of traversing terrain, they arrived at the small village of Deshnoke. Bika's reputation had preceded him, and the villagers came to visit. They informed him that Meha Charan, one of the villagers had a daughter called Karniji. She was blessed with supernatural powers and she could foresee the future. In fact they considered her a reincarnation of Goddess Durga. Karniji was brought before Bika, who begged her to foretell his future. She prophesied that Bika would found a kingdom greater than his father's. That he would have the unique distinction (among Rajputs) to be crowned a King while his father was still alive. And that he and his descendants would rule for 500 years.

[References - The Maharajas of Bikaner by Rajyashree Kumari Bikaner]

While I will cover this in greater detail in the later posts, suffice to say everything she had prophesied came true. Karni Mata was given the recognition of the "Kuldevi" of the Bikaner dynasty, and every event in the royal family would involve a visit to her temple.

So you see, like Rao Bika way back when, it was essential that I discovered Karni Mata before I discovered Bikaner.

The entrance to Karni Mata temple. Not as chaotic as other, busier Hindu pilgrimages.

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Inside the temple courtyard.

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Orderly queues leading to the statue of Karni Mata.

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It was considered that when the disciples of Karni Mata died, they would be reborn as "Kaba"s - rats. Which is why this is the only temple complex in the world where rats coexist with humans, and are considered holy.

Rats are everywhere. Playing in groups.

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Hiding behind pillars.

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Cuddling up in corners (that's one big rat!)

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Drinking milk off containers, kept for them by the bhakts.

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Nibbling prasad off the floor.

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Or off a Bhakt's lap, who watches them eating in the same way a father watches his newborn.

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And just when we think the crowd is endless, it magically parts and Karni Mata gives us darshan.

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We seek her blessings and come out. The temple trust is doing a fair bit of work. This is the gau-shala.

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The office complex.

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The dharamshala.

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A museum.

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It is close to sunset now. We complete the last stretch of our Journey, getting into Bikaner.

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A typical street scene that could be from any small city of India.

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And we are at the entrance of our hotel, the Basant Vihar Palace. A new day beckons tomorrow.

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Old 5th February 2015, 08:57   #10
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Default Re: A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar

Day 5 - Junagadh fort, Gajner, Camel Research centre.

Inspired by Karni Mata's words, Rao Bika set about establishing a permanent base near Deshnoke, and spreading the frontiers of his sovereignty. Janglu (or Jangladesh), as his friends had predicted, was without a stable ruler and in the control of nomadic tribes. He defeated the Bhatis upto the Jaisalmer frontier, the Mohil Rajputs upto much of the Jaipur frontier, and the various scattered Godara Jats along the northeast, east and southeast frontiers. Rajyashree Kumari Bikaner writes that under Rao Bika, the frontiers of the Bikaner kingdom spread up to Bhatinda along the Punjab boundary in the north, to Fatehpur near Jaipur in the southeast, to Bahawalpur (in present day Pakistan in the northwest), up to Jaisalmer in the southwest and upto the parental state of Jodhpur in the south. At the end of this reign the kingdom of Bikaner consisted of 3000 villages and an area of approximately 40,000 square miles.

The foundation of the city of Bikaner was laid in 1488. The land on which Bikaner stands belonged to a Godara Jat called Ner. He willingly conceded the land, without any remuneration, on condition that his name be linked in perpetuity to the newly formed state. Hence Bika-Ner.


A fresh morning, and a look at our faithful steed resting in the hotel grounds.

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It was to be Argento's rest day today. At the Jodhpur homestay we had befriended a lady from Netherlands, Lia Van Opheusden. She was seeing India alone, and since landing in Delhi 20 days ago, she had rented a car and travelled to Varanasi, Mathura, Agra and Uttarakhand, before entering Rajasthan and visiting Jodhpur. Coincidentally, she travelled to Bikaner the same day we did, and put up at the same hotel. So it was in Lia's car, and company, that we did the day's sightseeing.

Bikaner cannot be completed in a day. Unfortunately our itinerary meant we just had a day at our disposal, and both the ladies gave me a free hand in setting up the day's plan. So in my true style, I took them fort-hopping first.

The Junagarh Fort

Though Rao Bika laid the foundations of a great kingdom, it was not until the sixth Maharaja, Raja Rai Singh, that the foundations of their seat of power was laid. Originally called the Chintamani Fort, Junagarh was founded in 1586 and completed in 1594. Legend has it that Raja Rai Singh was out one day and came upon a group of shepherds involved in an animated conversation. They told him the previous night an ewe had given birth to a lamb at this spot, and a pack of wolves had surrounded it thinking it would be an easy meal. The mother alone, continued to protect her child through the night, until the wolves gave up and left. Thinking this was a good omen, Raja Rai Singh decided to set up the foundations of the fort here.

[Source - The Maharajas of Bikaner by Rajyashree Kumari Bikaner]

Historical references also say that the Junagarh fort has never been conquered. I'm not sure why. I found this a complete land fort, not having a geological advantage (eg. Mehrangarh built atop a hill), a surrounding moat or any kind of fortification. For me, it looked like a giant stone haveli.

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One enters through this gate, called the Suraj Pol.

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The disused wing of the fort used as parking.

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The mandatory history lesson.

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The price of the entry ticket includes a guide. The latter are trust employees. A red sandstone facade to photograph while we wait.

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For a Monday, the fort was fairly crowded.

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Let me also state that Junagarh is also the most beautifully decorated and preserved fort I have visited.

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The design of this particular building, along with the murals (depicting different forms of transport) looks more like an ancient Bengali thakurbari than a Rajasthan fort.

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Slightly contrasting colors.

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We stand at the central courtyard, which houses a white marble fountain.

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Mural work on the ceiling of the Phool Mahal.

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And its flooring.

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The original door to the Phool Mahal (built of solid silver). Now obviously taken off and kept in a protected display.

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Maintaining such pristine white marble (and its art work) must be an expensive job!

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One of the (intricately painted) doors of the Phool Mahal.

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Like other Rajasthan forts, there are ample weapons on display. The right most sword belongs to prince Padam Singh, son to the ninth Maharaja, Raja Karan Singh.


Padam Singh is immortal in Bikaner history due to his physical prowess and acts of bravery. He is said to have held the same respect among his subjects as Richard the Lionheart. An excerpt from Rajayashree Singh Bikaner's book, which concerns this particular sword.

"Prince Padam Singh, seven years younger to Maharaja Anup Singh, was regarded as the bravest man of his time and had become a legendary hero of Bikaner. Everyone treated him with due deference for fear of provoking his wrath. He was credited as being physically the strongest of all the brothers...

The most famous incident of Padam Singh's valour involved his younger brother, Prince Mohan Singh. It was said that Mohan Singh was highly favored by the brother in law of Aurangzeb, Prince Muazzam, which led to some jealousy in his camp, particularly from Mohammad Shah Mir. The two Bikaner princes were with Aurangzeb in Aurangabad at the time when this incident came to pass. Mir, together with a comrade who was a local kotwal, deliberately provoked a quarrel by stealing a pet deer belonging to Mohan Singh. One Mughal slashed Mohan Singh's face, while another fatally stabbed him from behind. Padam Singh heard the uproar and leaving the hukka rushed to the scene. Finding his younger brother lying apparently with only a slight wound to his face, he exclaimed "What? You, a stout Rajput down from a wound like that?". Mohan Singh replied "The mortal wound is in my back, and the murderers live, though I die". Padam Singh then drew his sword and tracked down the two culprits to the Durbar Chamber where Aurangzeb sat. Seeing the anger of the Rajput prince, all the courtiers fled. It is claimed that Aurangzeb too swiftly left the hall. Padam Singh then ran his sword through one murderer, and discovered the other hiding behind a stone pillar. With a mighty roar he struck a ferocious blow, which not only cut the assassin in two but also splintered a chip of the stone pillar. The sword and the chip from the pillar are both on display at the Bikaner fort. Then picking up his dying brother in his arms he marched out of the Durbar hall, and not one person present dared to stop him; even Aurangzeb let the incident pass without any punitive action.


That's the sword. Awestruck enough?

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Beautiful Gold and Vermillion work on the walls of the Anup Mahal. Also a single Persian carpet covering the entire floor, matching the mural work done on the walls.

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Blue and white clouds on the walls of the Badal Mahal, depicting an arid region's incessant plight for rain.

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We come out onto a central courtyard on the second floor.

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From where you can view the palace grounds.

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And the erstwhile Bikaner jail. Rajyashree Bikaner writes that all inmates here were taught the art of carpet making, and in old days the exquisite camel hair carpets made by jail inmates commanded a premium.

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Some more beautiful murals of the Gaj Mandir.

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And the Dungar Niwas.

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Live restoration work going on in our presence.

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(Continued)

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Default Re: A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar

One last pic of the Dungar Mahal.

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Interesting capture, no?

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The last part of the visit is a huge display hall, which contains several articles and photographs used by Maharaja Ganga Singh, the most famous of the Bikaner rulers.

Maharaja Ganga Singh was a stalwart, and brief mention must be made of his achievements.

1. He founded the Bikaner Camel Corps, which (after independence) was absorbed into the BSF. Today, we are the only country after Egypt to have an armed camel unit.

2. He founded the Gang Canal, bringing water into arid Rajasthan from the Sutlej in Punjab. This prevented famines and ensured greenery and stability in his state.

3. In the first world war, Maharaja Ganga Singh along with his camel corps fought with the allied forces in Egypt. Due to his valor, he was made an honorary General in the British army.

4. When the first world war ended, the treaty of Versailles was attended by one member of each participating country. Unknown to many, Maharaj Ganga Singh was given the honor of representing colonial India in signing that treaty.


A display of some weapons, including Maharaj Ganga Singh's hunting rifle.

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World war and royal uniforms, used by Ganga Singh and his son Sadul Singh, who both held honorary positions in the British empire.

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A picture of the treaty of Versailles. In the very centre, standing next to the pillar, is Maharaj Ganga Singh.

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A Haviland aircraft, brought back by Maharaj Ganga Singh after the first world war, and given pride of place in the display.

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We spent some more time in the Junagarh fort compound. There is a museum containing the royal family's personal belongings, though I didn't find anything interesting to photograph. Also a nice cafe.

Our next stop was the Hunting Lodge of the Bikaner Royal Family at Gajner.

Gajner Hunting Lodge

The Gajner Hunting Lodge (should be called Palace) is at a distance of 32 kms from the city of Bikaner. We made swift progress, as it is right on the highway which connects to Jaisalmer.

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Built around a magnificent lake, the palace was as well known for its availability of shikar, as a place entertaining foreign dignitaries during Maharaj Ganga Singh's time. The Imperial Sandgrouse, a migratory bird which flies from Siberia to India during winter, was the main attraction, besides local Sandgrouse and Cranes. This led to the British coining a saying "Bikaner by the grace of Grouse".

Currently it is a heritage hotel maintained by the HRH group. And what a magnificent hotel!

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I was awestruck by the dimensions and the beauty of what the Maharaja considered a hunting "lodge".

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They laid out the red carpet for us.

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An open seating area.

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The original verandah by the lake, now the Hotel's main restaurant. We had lunch here.

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The palace as seen from the restaurant.

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The lake.

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I have plans to make an exclusive weekend visit only to Gajner. Most of the weekend will be spent relaxing on these benches by the lake, reading or sleeping.

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Some cranes and cormorants. Also a pelican!

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You have a choice of solar boats or pedal powered boats.

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The gardens.

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While I have a lot more photos of Gajner, for the sake of the travelogue I will shift to our last visit in the day.

The National Research Centre for Camels, Bikaner.

Camels are an integral part of Rajasthan life. These hardy animals substitute normal cattle, and are a source of milk, hair, hide as well as transport for rural Rajasthan. The NRC is a unique initiative and a must visit for any Bikaner tourist.

The view once you enter NRC.

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Peanut Grass, staple fodder for camels.

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It is breeding season, and male and female camels have been kept in separate enclosures. This is the male enclosure. Behind the wall is the female enclosure, and you can see some males trying to get a peek of the beauties on the other side.

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This cute fellow came over to make friends with me, but our guide warned the animals are not to be touched in any way.

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This is the female enclosure. Going by the number of camels near the wall, clearly the women are a lot more interested in the men .

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This is the stud enclosure, holding award-winning stud camels. Villagers pay to mate their female camels with these studs, so the offsprings can be sold for a higher price. Wah wah, you studs .

We learn there are 4 types of camels. Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Mewar and Kachhi. I will desist from explaining each type. Suffice to say that the studs (L to R) in the pic below are Jaisalmer, Mewar and Kachhi types.

For more details on camel types read this page.

http://nrccamel.res.in/camelbreed.php

A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar-dsc03912.jpg

2 Bikaneri studs.

A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar-dsc03913.jpg

Next stop is an enclosure holding pregnant camels and new mothers.

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An 8 day old Camel calf. Welcome to the world, young fella.

A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar-dsc03914.jpg

The shopping centre in NRC sells a lot of stuff including camel hide items, jewellery made out of camel bone (pictured) and camel hair carpets.

They also have a dairy which sells camel milk products. We had camel milk kulfi. Pretty much like normal kulfi, except camel milk is a little salty. Lia, who in 20 days in India never had a kulfi, loved it!

A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar-img_20150105_172212_hdr.jpg

In the night I went out for a walk alone in the station area. Discovered the small Haldirams shop on station road, from which they set up their national empire.

A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar-img_20150105_201514_hdr.jpg

Also Chhotu Motu Joshi, selling some of the best sweets and savories. Needless to say, dinner consisted of Bikaneri snacks.

A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar-img_20150105_201828_hdr.jpg

That ended our Bikaner trip. Tomorrow we leave for Jaisalmer, the last leg of this trip.

(Before I close the Bikaner chapter, an interesting anecdote I must share. Karni Mata had prophesied that Bika would found a kingdom greater than his father's. That he would have the unique distinction (among Rajputs) to be crowned a King while his father was still alive. And that he and his descendants would rule for 500 years. The first 2 prophesies came true very soon. The Kingdom of Bikaner did surpass the kingdom of Jodhpur in absolute size. Rao Jodha also worked out an arrangement with his son that Bika would stay content with the kingdom he had founded, and leave the Jodhpur throne for Suja. So Bika was crowned the King of Bikaner in 1488 while his father was alive.

In 1988, Dr Karni Singh, the last recognized ruler of Bikaner passed away. The concept of princely states had long been done away with in democratic India, and his sole surviving son was never recognized as king. He passed away soon after, leaving the throne of Bikaner with no male successor. Thus in a way, Karni Mata's third prediction came true, as the Bikaner dynasty lasted from 1488 to 1988, exactly 500 years)

Last edited by predatorwheelz : 7th February 2015 at 12:35.
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Old 8th February 2015, 21:11   #12
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Thread moved from Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 8th February 2015, 23:36   #13
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Great travelogue Aniket Da. The pictures are nice too.

I had plans for Jaisalmeer in last December but due to some personal reason had to cancel the trip. The cancelled trip was scheduled to go by flight. After reading your travelogue now i feel, thank god it got canceled! Now i will plan a road trip to Rajasthan covering other places too !

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Old 9th February 2015, 12:05   #14
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Default Re: A week's drive through Rajasthan Part II - The desert wind blows over Marwar

That is a very elaborate travelogue. Thanks for the sharing. The palaces, forts, structures, etc. all ooze royalty.

Recently, had the fortune to visit Jodhpur and Udaipur and man was I impressed!

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This elderly gentleman is an employee of the trust. For the last 18 years, his job has been to pose with a hookah at the Shringar Chowk courtyard...
So let me get this straight, this person just posed with a hookah for the past 18 years of his life? Damn!
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Old 9th February 2015, 12:35   #15
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Can someone tell me what the 2nd (from left) gauge was used to denote?
Oil pressure probably. The unit is KgF/sq. cm indicated in the Russian language:

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