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Old 4th March 2009, 23:08   #1
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Default Rajasthan through her eyes

My wife has been a lurker Team-BHPian since the time I joined the forum. She spends at least an hour on the forum everyday, if not more. But she has never joined on the forum because I wrote all the travelogues. Recently when she went on a long trip without me, she finally got the chance to write her own story. What follows is her write-up and her photos.
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Rajasthan has always been a dream destination for me. When my uncle & aunt asked me to plan a vacation anywhere in India, I could not think of a better place to take them. Hubby got me a local travel agent’s contact in Jaipur (thanks to Deky! there’s little we can do without BHPians these days). and we quickly had our package in place.

We were all set to fly out on Feb 7th. Come 6th night, something was not right with my little one. He could not move his hand, and was clearly in pain. I did not pack and didn’t think it would be possible for me to go. Early next morning, we took him to an orthopedic, it was a pulled elbow but the doctor said it is common among kids and other than giving him pain killers there was nothing more to be done. Surprisingly the minute we came home, my son was bouncing around and even using his hands very normally. The doctor certainly had a healing touch.

My aunt was relieved when I finally started packing, just an hour before leaving for the airport. Our connection was via Goa, while waiting at Goa airport we got a glimpse of Dr. Abdul Kalam. Such a simple man, his simplicity belies his depth of knowledge. Rest of the journey was uneventful. It was dark by the time we reached Jaipur, we quickly had dinner and hit the bed.

Feb 8th Jaipur
We are ready by 9am and as we drive out of the hotel, I realize there are err, no pink buildings. I mention it to the driver and I get a short history lesson. We are in the new city, only the old city is pink and we are going there right now. Jaipur was founded by Sawai Jai singh, who was quite an architect and town planner himself. It is the first planned city of India, being neatly divided into identical blocks and connected by wide roads and surrounded by high walls and huge gateways.

We arrive in front of Hawa Mahal, the icon of Jaipur. Tourists are not allowed inside, it was only a photo-stop. The building is about a foot wide so there is nothing much on the inside either. As most know it is a gallery built for royal ladies to watch festivals and processions while being unseen.

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Pink buildings

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A gateway

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We proceed to Amber Fort, first glimpse of the fort and I am lost in time, all the fairytales from my childhood came to life right there. A thousand words are not enough

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The fort complex is a beautiful blend of hindu and mughal architecture. Raja Man Singh started the original construction however lot more structures were built by successive rulers over centuries.

Jaleb chowk courtyard

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Mughal garden

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Maids’ dorm, the door leads to Queen’s bedroom. Curiously there is an ancient wheelchair on display nearby. The Queens wore heavy saris or ghagras weighing about 10-15kg and they were decked with jewelry from head to toe. They could barely walk with that much weight, hence the wheelchair.

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Water channel

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Sheesh mahal, the palace of mirrors, it is said that a single candle could light up the entire palace and the palace would seem twinkling as though made of stars.

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Rajasthan through her eyes-p1000577.jpg

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Summer palace, those domes are hollow and used to be filled with water during summer

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Latticed balcony for women, overlooking the Durbar-e-aam (hall of public audience)

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A woman’s view

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Some views from the fort

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Cool Passages connecting the buildings

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Old 4th March 2009, 23:24   #2
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Man Singh palace, it is the oldest part of the fort. Raja Man Singh had twelve queens so the palace has twelve identical quarters. The king’s chamber is connected to each of the queen’s chambers by secret passages. This palace is not adorned with mirrors or murals but has that medieval charm.

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A private courtyard, for the king and his queens

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With that we are out of the fort complex, the ruins outside seem interesting enough to explore. Another day, perhaps

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Some traditional craftsmanship of the region

Block printing

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Gem polishing

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Carpet weaving

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Next we had the best food of our entire trip, a Rajasthani thali. Lots of new stuff for me like baati and the delicious churma. For this thali alone I could go back to Jaipur, everything else is a bonus.

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Jal Mahal - Lake Palace of Jaipur, there are four levels below water, only the top floor is visible.

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Jantar Mantar – Sawai Jai Singh set up Jantar Mantar as an astronomical observatory. Few instruments I found interesting.

A sundial

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Notice the graduated markings, it’s similar to present day clock and Jaipur local time can be read directly (Add 41mins to get IST).

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This instrument was used to track the movement of the sun in the Northern Hemisphere (Uttarayan), there is an identical one behind it for Dhakshinayan.

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The below instrument , Jai Prakash Yantra, was used to track planetary movements. This was used for making janam kundalis (birth charts) as well.

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Later we visited City Palace which is next door to Jantar Mantar. The textile gallery was interesting but photography was not allowed. There was a huge, and I mean HUGE kurtha on display. It belonged to Sawai Madho Singh who was over 7 feet tall, had a four feet wide chest and weighed 250kg. And if our guide is to be believed he had 120 wives/concubines. Ouch!

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And there is “ Gangajali”, world’s largest silver vessel which Sawai Madho Singh the second used to carry gangajal during his visit to England.

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This palace pales in comparison to others we saw later on, so I won’t post more pictures here. Tomorrow we leave for Mandawa.
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Old 4th March 2009, 23:48   #3
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Feb 9th Mandawa – Bikaner

“Aap Mandawa kyon ja rahe hai? bilkul gaon hai, koi tourist nahi jata udhar”. That was our driver. I had read something somewhere but could not recall at that moment. Anyway, after confirming that it would add only 30-40km extra to our Bikaner route, we decided to go and find out.

We bought some fruits on the way at Chomu, this fruit is called “bear” by locals. It looks like ripe dates, even has a similar seed and is equally delicious. I was assured it was not dates; it doesn’t even grow on palm trees. The only other thing I found out was that I was equally allergic to “bear”. Nevertheless, it’s a lovely fruit; the more fortunate should certainly try it.

True to the warning, Mandawa was absolutely a village

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We ask around and reach Mandawa Fort Palace, a world apart from its surroundings. Presently this is a heritage hotel.

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Frescos! That’s the reason we are here. The walls are so animated, I had no idea where to begin

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We had lunch there and resumed our drive to Bikaner. For a while we were on internal roads, driving through Fathehpur

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Soon we were back on the highway, the roads being fantastic we reached Bikaner in no time at all. We checked into Banwar Niwas, better known as Rampuria haveli. The interiors are lovely, reminiscent of an era gone by.

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They even had a vintage Buick outside.

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Around 6.30 in the evening we set off on a slow drive around town. The old town of Bikaner is a labyrinth of narrow roads, most houses and shops are right at the edge of the street. From my window seat in the car, I could see people gathered around in their living rooms, women chatting, laughing, men playing a game of dice, some family owned shops closing up and whole families sitting together counting their day’s earnings. It was surreal watching a slice of their daily lives while I remained invisible to them on the dark street inside a tavera.

Rasgulla? The driver stopped and asked if we wanted rasgullas, it is famous here. Allright, I get down to buy some. I had to walk a little to the shop, the stench in the air is unbearable, I see open sewers all around, even rats at the dark edges of the street. Wish I hadn’t stepped out of the car, a minute ago I had a different view of the place and now it was tempered by stark reality.

Feb 10th Bikaner-Sam Dunes

It was a rainy morning in Bikaner. We dragged ourselves out of bed with some effort; it was 10am when we finally checked out of Banwar Niwas. The rain stopped by the time we were reached the fort and there was a pleasant chill in the air. Another marvelous fort awaited us.

Junhagad fort complex

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Murals showing the arrival of railways to Bikaner, think it is showing the train as the ship of the desert.

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Karan Mahal. This section was closed off, could only see the gold paintings on the ceiling.

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A courtyard

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Old 5th March 2009, 00:16   #4
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Silver doors

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Doors painted in vegetable colours

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Badal Mahal

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The magnificent Anup mahal

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Encrusted with gemstones

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The enameled ceiling

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Barracks, stables

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That’s us

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Swing where Lord Krishna was worshipped

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King’s dining room

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King’s bedroom

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The ceiling

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The window

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A hall

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Another hall with 40 feet high wooden ceiling

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Weapons! you should have been there Sharath.

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To be continued...
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Old 5th March 2009, 03:49   #5
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Excellent pics. Please keep them coming.

I have only been to Jaipur, on a trip from Delhi. I believe that it is impossible to cover Rajasthan in a single trip. It takes atleast 2-3 separate trips to experience Rajasthan. Such a magnificient place!!
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Old 5th March 2009, 04:01   #6
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Excellent pics..Those walls and court yards are so beautiful!
Waiting for the next part!
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Old 5th March 2009, 12:22   #7
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A great travelogue with excellant snaps. Waiting for more...!
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Old 5th March 2009, 13:02   #8
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Aye aye we hear you Mrs.Sharath , nice to know you have a penchant for writing and travel like Sharath. I wont comment on the photography part coz am sure the man himself is quite capable of giving you the best tips.
Honestly there are some real good compositions on the list of pics posted here.

I have never visited Rajasthan , time to pack and do something on the same lines.
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Old 5th March 2009, 13:10   #9
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Lovely pictures. Rajasthan is a must see for those who appreciate architecture and history.

Those who wish to see some more pictures may want to check out

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/shifti...age-india.html (Architectural Heritage of India)

Mandawa is one of three main towns (Nawalgarh and Jhunjhunu being the other two ) in the Shekhawati region (which lies between Jaipur and Bikaner) that have many old havelis adorned with paintings on the exterior. It has often been referred to as the world's largest open air art gallery.

Last edited by DKG : 5th March 2009 at 13:13.
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Old 5th March 2009, 13:14   #10
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Very interesting pictures.

Those courtyards and the interiors is so historical, seeing them almost makes you go back into that era. Did you do this trip by road? If yes, any pictures of enroute, would be interesting to see if you crossed any deserts, plains etc to get the general hang-up of its road scenary.

I loved that huge silver jar. In this hot summer, they should allow visitors to take a dip in that when filled with water. Just kidding..LOL
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Old 5th March 2009, 13:42   #11
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Now I am feeling home sick
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Old 5th March 2009, 13:54   #12
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Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
We arrive in front of Hawa Mahal, the icon of Jaipur. Tourists are not allowed inside, it was only a photo-stop.

We proceed to Amber Fort, first glimpse of the fort and I am lost in time, all the fairytales from my childhood came to life right there.
Since when? I have been 'inside' the Hawa Mahal atleast twice. Once in 1994-5 and once in 2004 or 5 (I think). I think I went inside on my 1992-93 trip as well but I cant remember that far back.

The last time they were doing some repair work. BTW Hawa Mahal is just a facade there is not much to see inside execpt you can climb up to the various windows and see the street from there.

On any trip to Amber fort you have be very careful the elephant owners dont take you for a ride. On our first trip we bought a return ticket only to find out that the elephant we came on has vanished and will not be available on the way down. We had to climb down on foot which was scary as other elephants would walk past you. On the second trip (94-95) we were more careful (we had my God parents with us) and took the name of the elephant driver as well as the number of the elephant and even promised the driver a baksheesh if he was there in 1 hour to take us back. I did not want to subject my then 75 year old god parents to the scary walk back.

Unfortunately my photos are on film (we used a Hassie 500 C/M) and left in LA.
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Old 5th March 2009, 14:01   #13
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Lovely report and mindblowing pictures. I will probably recommend this thread to anyone wanting to visit Rajasthan.

And I am one of them.
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Old 5th March 2009, 14:45   #14
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Hello Mrs. Samurai,

Rajasthan holds a very special place in my heart. I was born in Jaipur and my mother was a Rajasthani. I still have family in various cities around Rajasthan.
I've been there, everywhere in Rajasthan - many, many times, both as a child and adult and think that this is truly a beautiful and special place.

You are lucky to have enjoyed it. Thank you for reviving some wonderful memories. Some of the pictures are really nice.

Last edited by Sam Kapasi : 5th March 2009 at 14:47.
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Old 5th March 2009, 15:14   #15
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Very interesting Mrs. Samurai. I can relate to the thali comment. We had Rajasthani food in our office on 25th Feb, brought in a cook from Rajasthan. It was one of the most wonderful food that i have had which does not involve meat. Nice pictures too.
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