Our Rajasthan Holidays

Discussion in 'Travel' started by iyerviji, Feb 10, 2008.

  1. iyerviji

    iyerviji IL Hall of Fame

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    I am giving below the write up written by my son in law about his Rajasthan Holidays.

    It was always my dream to visit the desert state of Rajasthan and this got fulfilled this year when my wife and I planned our annual holidays in this wonderful state. Rajasthan is one of the largest states in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region> and boasts of one of the largest number of cities / towns of tourist importance. Jaipur, <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City>, Jaisalmer, <st1:City><st1:place>Udaipur</st1:place></st1:City>, <st1:City><st1:place>Bikaner</st1:place></st1:City>, <st1:City><st1:place>Ajmer</st1:place></st1:City>, Pushkar, Abu all have many interesting things to see. Also there are various wild life sanctuaries as well as bird sanctuaries like Ranthanbore, Bharathpur etc. With paucity of time it was essential to pick and choose the destinations that we wanted to visit without missing out the essence of the state. Hence we narrowed down to only 3 which were <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City>, Jaisalmer and Abu which we thought were representative of entire Rajasthan. Jaipur though is the capital would only bring memories of a city life hence was deliberately omitted it from our list. Our trip was for 9 calendar days and we could have squeezed in a couple more. However the idea was to explore the state in all its essence and not simply view the places as a check list. That was also the reason that we did not join a conducted tour where tourists are typically hearded around and decided to seep into the beauty in our own pace. My travels abroad had taught me to pre-plan and this one was no exception. The guide book of <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region> presented to me by my dear friend Meera was researched and plans made. Ironically this book is foreign authored. The advantage of viewing <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region> through a foreigner’s eye is that it provides intricate details of everything that includes – Accommodation, places to eat & drink, places of tourist attractions, maps of the city/town, local commuting tips, interesting places around etc.

    Our journey commenced from Mumbai on <st1:date Month="1" Day="26" Year="2008">the 26<SUP>th</SUP> of January 2008</st1:date> as if paying homage to the Indian Republic Day when we boarded the Aravalli Express to <st1:Street><st1:address>Abu Road</st1:address></st1:Street>, the nearest rail centre to reach <st1:place><st1:placeType>Mount</st1:placeType><st1:placeName>Abu</st1:placeName></st1:place>. It’s a 12 hour journey but the night train has been conveniently timed reaching you to <st1:Street><st1:address>Abu Road</st1:address></st1:Street> station in the early morning for breakfast. I did not remember the last time I had ever boarded an Indian Railway long distance train thanks to the multitude of air travel options these days and was slightly apprehensive of the journey. However my doubts were put to rest when I noted that the Indian middle class have now migrated to the cheap airlines thus making the Indian railways a much better and less crowded place to travel now. There are frequent buses connecting <st1:Street><st1:address>Abu Road</st1:address></st1:Street> station to <st1:place><st1:placeType>Mount</st1:placeType><st1:placeName>Abu</st1:placeName></st1:place>. <st1:place><st1:placeType>Mount</st1:placeType><st1:placeName>Abu</st1:placeName></st1:place> is the only hill station in Rajasthan and is nestled in the Rajasthan – <st1:place>Gujarat</st1:place> border. During the summer months it is thronged by tourists from both Rajasthan and <st1:place>Gujarat</st1:place>. Tourists don’t spend much time in the uninspiring <st1:Street><st1:address>town of Abu Road</st1:address></st1:Street> station and quickly make their way to <st1:place><st1:placeType>Mount</st1:placeType><st1:placeName>Abu</st1:placeName></st1:place>. Our accommodation was booked in RTDC’s Hotel Shikhar. Strategically located on a cliff the windows of our hotel room gave us a bird’s eye view of entire town. Being an off season at the hill station, there were hardly any people and we got good deals. The town is centred around the <st1:place><st1:placeName>Nakki</st1:placeName><st1:placeType>Lake</st1:placeType></st1:place> where there are boating facilities. The institution of Brahma Kumari’s is headquartered in <st1:place><st1:placeType>Mount</st1:placeType><st1:placeName>Abu</st1:placeName></st1:place>. Other places of interest is the <st1:place><st1:placeName>Aburda</st1:placeName><st1:placeName>Devi</st1:placeName><st1:placeType>Temple</st1:placeType></st1:place>(from which <st1:place><st1:placeType>Mount</st1:placeType><st1:placeName>Abu</st1:placeName></st1:place> got its name) which is a replica of the Vaishnav Devi wherein the presiding deity is within a cave. One needs to climb around 360 steps to get the darshan of the devi. One of the most spell bounding temple monument a couple of kilometers from <st1:place><st1:placeType>Mount</st1:placeType><st1:placeName>Abu</st1:placeName></st1:place> is the <st1:place><st1:placeName>Dilwara</st1:placeName><st1:placeType>Temple</st1:placeType></st1:place>. These are a group of 5 <st1:City><st1:place>Temples</st1:place></st1:City> managed by the Jain Trust. The intricate carvings on marble and stone put even the Taj Mahal to shame. Unlike emperor Shah Jahan who is alleged to have chopped off the hands of the workers who had built Taj Mahal, the kings who had built the <st1:City><st1:place>Temples</st1:place></st1:City> used
    to award the labourers everyday with gold powder equivalent to the marble powder chistled every day patronizing art and sculpture during those years.

    We moved on to Jaisalmer from <st1:place><st1:placeType>Mount</st1:placeType><st1:placeName>Abu</st1:placeName></st1:place> by bus. <st1:place><st1:placeType>Mount</st1:placeType><st1:placeName>Abu</st1:placeName></st1:place> is at the base of the mighty Aravallis which almost divide the state longitudinally into two. The left half is almost barren because of the Great Indian Thar Desert. The area to the right of the Aravallis is more fertile thanks to the Chambal river which is the largest river in Rajasthan. Jaisalmer on the other hand in the westernmost town (more a large village) in Rajasthan. Its located in <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>’s Great Thar Desert. The <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region><st1:country-region><st1:place>Pakistan</st1:place></st1:country-region> border is still about 120 kms from Jaisalmer. The distance between Abu and Jaisalmer is little over 450 kms and our RSRTC bus took close to 10 hours to reach. This is one of the most memorable journeys and we were in for a visual treat of rural Rajasthan. At Jaisalmer we lived at RTDC’s hotel Moomal. As legend has it, Moomal was one of the most beautiful ladies in Rajasthan who died with Mahendra her lover a la Romeo & Juliet. One of the folk songs here describe the beauty of Moomal’s face, eyes, lips etc. However contrary to its name our Moomal hotel was as typical of any RTDC hotel. Barren except for a few strewn furniture, a double bed and a colour TV. However since we were using our room as a mere bed space this was the least in priority. Being a border town, Jaosalmer has a sizable presence of the Indian armed forces. There is a military base here. Jaislamer is also referred to as the golden city because of the golden glows from its sand stone havelis and houses during the evenings. The small town also has the distinction of the largest number of foreign tourists in <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>. Not surprising hence that the small town has eateries serving the tastes of western tourists along with traditional Rajasthani food and sells the digital camera cells, memory sticks, has facilities for cutting CDs of digital photos and many internet cafes. Embroidery and camel leather goods are famous in Jaisalmer.
    While in Jaisalmer, we went on the Desert Safari conducted by one of the reputed local travel companies. The suggestion came from the Jaisalmer Tourist Reception Centre. It was really fun which consisted of camel ride on the sand dunes off Kuhri village the last habited village in the Thar Desert to the west of Jaisalmer followed by traditional Rajasthan folk dance – Kalbelia folk dance, traditional folk music, camp fire and dinner. Our camel driver was an excellent guy whose name was Chain Singh and his camel whose name he said was Salman Khan was much more well behaved than its Bollywood name sake. The sand dunes of the Thar brought back memories of some of my favourite Indian movies Lamhe and Rudali both of which had been set in the Rajasthan deserts which had motivated me to come to Rajasthan. Getting lost in the narrow gullies and allies of Jaisalmer is both fun and easy. However the town itself is so small that even if you get lost you soon come to a familiar landmark and you get back on your path. Other interesting places we went to in Jaisalmer included the Jaisalmer fort palace, Gadsisar lake and the famous Rajasthani puppet show at the Jaisalmer Desert Culture Centre. The puppet show was really mind blowing very well done by the team of N.K. Sharma accompanied by local folk songs introducing each and every subject enumerated by the puppets

    Our last destination was <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City>. <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City> is around 300 kilometers from Jaisalmer and is one of the three corners of <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>’s golden triangle (the other two being Jaipur & Jaisalmer). Our journey lasted 5 hours in the RSRTC bus. <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City> is usually viewed by
    tourists as a transit stop between Jaisalmer and Jaipur and most do not spend more than a day here. But it is a shame to rush through this town because apart from the famous fort it has much to offer. <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City> gained prominence from 1459 A.D when Rao Jodha built the impregnable Meherangar fort and moved the capital of Marwar from Mandore to <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City>. Meherangar today bears a silent testimony of the bloody wars between the proud Rajputs and the Moughals over centuries between the 14<SUP>th</SUP> century and the 19<SUP>th</SUP> century. Various Rajaput Maharajahs were coroneted in <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City> at Meherangar. At its close in 1818, <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City> passed on to the Marathas first and then to the English. The fort had protected the Rajputs from Muslim invaders like Akbar, Shah Jahan and Aurangazeb. The Muslim were particularly interested in the fort because of its strategic location. Even today life in <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City> revolves around the fort which is the most important tourist location here. Now the palaces there in are converted to museums. There is the Phool Mahal, Moti Mahal and a full blown Raj Darbar. At one end of the fort is Jaswant Thada a memorial and a cenotaph in marble laid out in the honour of Raja Jaswant Singh one of the rulers of Marwar. One of the walls of the fort bears the handprints of the queens of Raja Mansingh. After he was killed in a battle, his 6 wives committed Sati by emoluting themselves in his pyre in true Rajput culture defying the law against Sati passed by the British in the late 18<SUP>th</SUP> century. The city of <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City> is divided into two. The old city has narrow winding streets leading to the fort bordered by small shops selling everything from cakes to computers. Some of the streets and bylanes are so narrow that only one person can go at a time vying for space with goats and chickens. Unlike the Jaisalmer
    fort which is now inhabited by lots of littering public who have now built their homes within the fort, the <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City> fort is uninhabited and still all artifacts well maintained. The cobbled streets within seemed to tell stories of bloody wars fought therein in earlier centuries. From the top of the fort one gets a view of the entire surrounding landscape and the nearby villages. The <st1:City><st1:place>new city</st1:place></st1:City> has been mostly built after independence and is towards the <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City> station and consists of other areas outside the fort that have been recently developed. Other interesting things to do in <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City> includes going on a Village Safari. The suggestion ofcourse came from the Tourist Information Centre on the <st1:Street><st1:address>High Court Road</st1:address></st1:Street>. Again very memorable for us, the safari undertaken typically in open jeeps took us to nearby villages and exposed us to the rural life of Rajasthan. On the way we saw heards of antelopes, the endangered black bucks, Indian fox and lots of peacocks. We also got a glimpse of pot making, carpet making on handlooms, jari work and dye printing on fabrics. We were pleasantly surprised that the village artisans spoke in English and to their credit because on inquiry we found that the schools in the villages don’t teach English at all. These artisans have learnt the foreign language to cater to the demands of the western tourists who visit these villages during the safari. <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City> is famous for its Baandhini type of dress materials as well as <st1:City><st1:place>Jodhpur</st1:place></st1:City> Mojdi shoes and chappals

    Rajasthan is synonymous with Royalty. Meheman Nawazi is personified and people are very kind and helpful. We will remember our trip to Rajasthan for a long long time


  2. sapnabharath

    sapnabharath New IL'ite

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    Dear viji,
    That was a lovely travelogue to read. Rajasthan has been on my wish list since a while too - i've never been to able to choose or omit any of these interesting spots whilst planning; as each of them (i.e. udaipur, jodhpur, mount abu etc..) have eternal memories tagged along.

    thanks for all your tips, suggestions and choice of hotels - i will revisit this space when i am in the planning stage.


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