Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rajasthan rolling - 6 (Jaisalmer)

Got on to the highway for Jaisalmer at 0830. The initial few kilometers of road were bad on NH114 but later on NH56 it was good.

Reached Jaisalmer at 1300 and were guided through to the Desert Boys Guesthouse in the Jaisalmer fort. This is a very traditionally decorated Hotel. 

We chose a room that suited us and after a briefing from the informed owner about the history of Jaisalmer and what to see and do we had our lunch and rested for awhile.
Jaisalmer is named after its founder Raja Jaisal a Rajput king. "Jaisalmer" means "the Hill Fort of Jaisal". Jaisalmer is sometimes called the "Golden City of India" because the yellow sand gives a yellowish-golden tinge to the city and its surrounding area.

In the afternoon we visited the Jaisalmer Palace (adjacent to our guesthouse) which is rather shabby. Not many artefacts in the museum. Only good for panoramic views of the city. After a brief tour we went to the Nathmal ki Haveli and the Patwa Haveli, which were situated just outside the fort. The Nathmal Haveli could be viewed from outside and the lobby while the Patwa haveli was a muesum. It was an amazing experience.

Patwon-ki-Haveli: Guman Chand Patwa (and later by his five sons), a wealthy merchant belonging to powerful Oswal Jain community and banker who had over three hundred trading centres from Afghanistan to China. This ornate five-storey complex took fifty years to complete. This is the largest, the most magnificent, and the most elaborate of Jaisalmer havelis.

Nathmalji-ki-Haveli: Built by a Prime Minister of princely state of Jaisalmer. Its facade is a riot of ornamentation: flowers, birds, elephants, soldiers, a bicycle and even a steam engine.

We got to view a wonderful sunset from the guesthouse sit out.
On our way through the fort we noticed plenty of Italian restaurants! Hence we decided to dine at one that was very close to our guesthouse. There was a huge board announcing its existence but the entrance was through a narrow passageway and had to climb up some steep stairs to reach the roof top. The tourists have not started pouring in as yet and here again we were the only customers! We ordered for Canneloni and Lasagna, both vegetarian as there was only an egg dish which could qualify as non vegitarian. Vegetarians will not have a problem in Rajasthan, as most of the Rajasthan cusine is vegetarian. The food took an hour to make it to the table but was value for money.
The agenda for the next day was a visit to the Jain temple in the morning followed by the Jeep safari to Sam sand dunes for a total Rajasthani experience.
Like all Jain temples this too was beautifully carved. 

This Shitalnathji jain temple was built in 1486.

After the temple visit we moved on to street shopping of puppets and miniature art. 

Before you go shopping it is advisable to ask the Hotel reception what the reasonable price would be for things that you want to buy. Bargaining is a must.
Had lunch at ‘8july’ cafe in the marketplace. It is a multicuisine restaurant and like all restaurants in Rajasthan caters to the European tastes. 

However the personal attention of the owner ensures that you will get the food with an Indian touch if you so desire.
The jeep safari to the sand dunes is a fun trip. 

On the way we stopped at Bada Bag six kms north of Jaisalmer. There are Royal cenotaphs with carved 

images of late Maharawals and their families where each chhatri preserves an inscribed tablet recording the death of Maharawals on which the memorials are raised. The chhatris have been built in a set pattern but in different sizes.  

The next stop was Luderwa16 kms. northwest of Jaisalme. Luderwa is the old capital of Jaisalmer. Now a 

silent city, the only witness to its former splendour are the Jain temple, toran (ornate arch) and artificial divine 

tree (Kalptaru).

Finally we were taken by jeep to a point in the Thar desert where there were camels waiting to take us to 

the sunset point. Once the sun bid goodbye, we were taken to a camp where there was a cultural 

programme of Rajasthan music and dance followed by a buffet of Rajasthani food.

Had a great time and headed back to the hotel.
Next stop would be Bikaner!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rajasthan rolling - 5 (Jodhpur)

The rains had rested and it was a clear sky with a few scattered clouds. This meant that the day temperature would be in its 30s so we had a heavy breakfast and set out maneuvering through the narrow streets populated by cattle and people and other 2/3/4 vehicles, to the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort.

“Mehrangarh Fort stands a hundred feet in splendour on a perpendicular cliff, four hundred feet above the sky line of Jodhpur. Burnished red sand stone, imposing, invincible and yet with a strange haunting beauty that beckons . Much has been written about the Citadel of the Sun, for truly, it is one of the most impressive in all Rajasthan. So colossal are its proportions that Rudyard Kipling called it “ the work of giants”. Today, it is acknowledged as the finest living example of a Hindu fortress.
Jodha’s fortress was 'Chao Burja' – a fort with four Bastions. The extremities of the original fortress fall within the limit of the second gate today. Of Jodha’s time itself, very little remains, the fort expanded beyond his outer gates within fifty years of his death but the spot where this gate stood is known as “ Rao Jodhaji Ka Falsa” ( Jodha’s outer limit of the boundary). In its Janampatri the fort is named Chintamani, after the Mythological gem worn by lord Ram which supposedly frees the owner of all worldly worry. Chintamani gave way to Mordhwaj, the flag of the peocock, presumably because the forts outer parameter suggests the fan like tail of a dancing peacock, It is at some point after this that the name Mehrangarh began to appear in chronicles and poems. “Mehr” is a Rajasthani word for the sun and it is not at all unlikely that the Suryavanshi Rathores would name their first citadel in their mythological ancestor’s honour.”
Above sourced from

It is immense in every sense of the word.
Within the fort, several brilliantly crafted and decorated palaces are found. 
Moti Mahal - The Pearl Palace
Built by Raja Sur Singh (1595–1619), the Moti Mahal is the largest of the Mehrangarh Museum's period rooms. Sur Singh's Moti Mahal has five alcoves leading onto hidden balconies; it is believed they were built for his five queens to listen in on court proceeding.

Sheesha Mahal - The Hall Of Mirrors
It is a fine example of a typical Rajput Sheesh Mahal. The mirror-work includes large, regular pieces, rather than an intricate mosaic of tiny fragments; another thing is the superimposition over the mirror-work of brightly painted religious figures made in plaster.

Phool Mahal - The Palace Of Flowers
The Phool Mahal was created by Maharaja Abhaya Singh (1724–1749). The grandest of Mehrangarh's period rooms the Phool Mahal was in all likelihood a private and exclusive chamber of pleasure; dancing girls once swooned in exhaustion here under a ceiling rich in gold filigree.

Takhat Vilas - Maharaja Takhat Singh's Chamber
Built and lived in by Maharaja Takhat Singh (1843–1873), Jodhpur's last ruler to reside in the Mehrangarh Fort, Takhat Vilas is an interesting blend of styles, most traditional, but some, like the glass balls on the 

ceiling, testifying to the modern age which arrived with the British.
They have an excellent museum there.

This museum houses an exquisite collection of palanquins, howdahs, royal cradles, miniatures, musical 

instruments, costumes and furniture. 

The ramparts of the fort are home to not only several excellently preserved old cannon (including the famous 

Kilkila) but also offer a breath-taking view of the city.

After soaking in the magnificence we moved down to Jaswant Thada a memorial to the King and other 

family members of the royal family. This too is very impressive and well maintained.
It was time for lunch so returned to the hotel, had lunch and then drove to the fabulous Umaid Bhavan which

 is divided into 3 parts – 1) Hotel 2) Museum and 3) The residence of the Royal family.

Took a guided tour of the museum replete with history and then checked out the vintage car collection of the

Maharajah. Unfortunately all the vintage cars were behind glass walls and had to photograph holding the 

camera close tothe glass to avoid any refelction resulting in only close ups.
For dinner we wanted to gorge on some typical Rajasthani street food which apparently was available in the

precincts of Ghantaghar (clock tower). There is a bustling market there.

Had Mirchi bada (huge fried stuffed chilly), shahi samosa, Mava Kachori (sweet) and washed it down with 

Makhaniya Lassi. This filled us and was our dinner. 

While roaming around the area we found a unique restaurant (Nirvana cafe) sharing premises with the Teejamata mandir! We dropped in the cafe for a coffee. We were the only customers there! The prices were very reasonable and though we just had coffee we have heard that they serve value for money food too.
Tired and sleepy we headed back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep as we had to move on to Jaisalmer next morning.         

Rajasthan rolling - 4
Rajasthan rolling - 3
Rajasthan rolling - 2
Rajasthan rolling - 1

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rajasthan rolling - 4 (Haldighati, Kumbalgarh & Ranakpur)

Checked out of the Hotel by 07.15am as had a few places on our itinerary to visit on our way to Jodhpur. The 1st was the Eklinji temple (Darshan timings:0415-0645, 1030-1330, 1715-1945) which was closed when we reached so we went onwards to Nathdwar only to see that the darshan time (Mangla 0530, Shringar 0715, Gwal 0915, Rajbhog 1130-1215, Utthan 1530, Bhog 1630, Aarti 1700, Shyan 1830) was an hour later and there were long queues for that (Got the Darshan timings later)  hence we moved on to

Haldighati where we saw the memorial for Maharan Pratap and another one for his horse Chetak.

 A few metres away from the memorials is a beautiful museum of Maharana Pratap’s life – worth a visit.

It is maintained by a private individual. There is a cool restaurant there where we had some hot samosas and Parathas washed down by a hot cuppa.

The birthplace of Maharana Pratap - Kumbalgarh fort was next.

The fortifications of the fort extend to the length of 36 kilometers. It is stated to be the second longest wall in the world, the first being ''the Great Wall of China''.

Kumbhalgarh (also called Kumbhalmer or Kumbalgarh) is a Mewar fortress in the Rajsamand District of Rajasthan state in western India. It was built during the course of the 15th century by Rana Kumbha and his dynasty who were Sisodia descendents.

 Ranakpur temple complex was the last place to visit before reaching Jodhpur. Saw some amazing

craftsmanship on display there. Remember, if you are wearing shorts you are requested to hire pyjamas from there prior to entering the temple premises. The entry fee is only for cameras. No charges for visitors.
This renowned Jain temple at Ranakpur is dedicated to Adinatha the first Jain Tirthankar (enlightened human) of our time cycle.

Light colored marble has been used for the construction of this grand temple which occupies an area of approximately 60 x 62 meters.

The temple, with its distinctive domes, shikhara, turrets and cupolas rises majestically from the slope of a hill.

Over 1444 marble pillars, carved in exquisite detail, support the temple. The pillars are all differently carved and no two pillars are the same. It is also said that it is impossible to count the pillars. Also all the statues face one or the other statue.

The temple is designed as chaumukha—with four faces. The construction of the temple and quadrupled image symbolize the Tirthankara's conquest of the four cardinal directions and hence the cosmos.
The dating of this temple is controversial but it is largely considered to be anywhere between the late 14th to mid-15th centuries.
Inspired by a dream of a celestial vehicle, Dhanna Shah, a Porwad, is said to have commissioned it, under the patronage of Rana Kumbha, then ruler of Mewar.
The architect who oversaw the project is said to have been named Deepaka.
The road from Ranakpur to Jodhpur via NH14 & NH65 was pockmarked with potholes. Bad. Distance of 171kms.
Reached Jee Ri Haveli at 9.30pm, tired but happy, after covering a distance of 307kms from Udaipur.
Had a quick dinner on the roof top restaurant and crashed out.

Rajasthan rolling -3
Rajasthan rolling -2
Rajasthan rolling -1