Sunday, April 21, 2013

Kumbalgarth and Ranakpur

After spending 3 days in Udaipur, we set off on a drive to Jodhpur.  This went through really rural and remote areas of Rajasthan where it seemed life hadn't changed for centuries (we saw people using animal power to draw up water and power mills for example).  A couple of hours out of Udaipur we stopped at the hill fort of Kumbalgarth.

Kumbalgarth is high up on a hillside, surrounded by  15 foot thick walls that run for 36 kms around the fort.  You enter it through 7 fortified gateways.  The fort complex is in a very remote place, and from the top are views of the Aravalli Range and the sand dunes of the Thar Desert.  The fort was built in the 15th century, and only fell once as a result of a shortage of drinking water.  There are over 300 temples within the fort, most of them Jain temples.

After spending the morning at Kumbalgarth, we spent the afternoon at the Jain Temple complex of Ranakpur, known as being the most spectacular of all Jain temples.

The temple is made of marble and inside are 1444 pillars all carved.  Every pillar is different!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

People Watching in Rajasthan

Rajasthan - the land of turbans of many different varieties - and full of wonderful and interesting people

These sadhus (holy men) were at the Jagdish Temple in Udaipur

Musicians at the Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

A musician at the Mandore Gardens, Jodhpur

At the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur

At the Umaid Bhawan Palace

The market place in Jodhpur - selling spices

In the Blue City, Jodhpur

Holi - the Festival of Colours

Holi is a spring festival that is celebrated as a festival of colours.  It originated as a Hindu festival, but now it seems everyone celebrates it!  It's the start of spring, a festival that celebrates a new season with good harvests and fertile land.    It's also a way of enjoying spring's new colours and putting an end to winter.  It's a moveable festival as it occurs at the time of the full moon.

On the eve of Holi bonfires are lit to signify the end of winter.  The following day Holi is celebrated by throwing scented powder at each other.  There's a lot of squirting of water too!  These powders are traditionally made out of neem (Indian lilac), kumkum (made out of saffron and turmeric), haldi (turmeric), bael, (Bengal quince) and other medicinal ayurvedic herbs.  Today however a lot of synthetic colours are used.

It's traditional to wear white - which is then covered in powder - here's our shirts after playing Holi - I don't think this will wash out entirely, but will instead form a sort of tie-dye pattern.

Udaipur - City of Lakes

Udaipur is the "City of Lakes", sometimes also referred to as the "Venice of the East".  It has also been dubbed the most romantic place in India, with Lake Pichola and the purple hills rising up around it on all sides.  Udaipur is also famous for its palaces, temples and havelis (mansions).  We flew into Udaipur the evening that Rachel arrived for her Easter break, and spent the first evening wandering around the streets and eventually having dinner at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the City Palace.

The following day we set off for the City Palace in the morning.  This is Rajastha's largest palace - actually a conglomeration of 11separate palaces - full of balconies, towers and cupolas.  The palace was started in the 16th century on a hilltop with a panoramic view of the city and surroundings.  Parts of the palace are still owned and lived in by the Maharana (king), the rest is a museum where you can see mirror-work, marble-work, murals, wall paintings and so on.  There is a great view of the lake and other palaces.  

After walking through the many rooms of the palace we walked down to the lake and took a boat trip on Pichola Lake.  This is an artificial lake created in the 14th century and since then small islands in the lake have been developed with palaces and temples on them.  Around the lake are ghats (steps where people bathe and wash their clothes).

The boat trip stopped at the Jag Mandir, this is a palace built on an island in the lake and is also called the Lake Garden Palace.  This was also constructed in the 16th century and today partly functions as a hotel.

Other places we visited on our first day in Udaipur were the Bagore-ki-Haveli (mansion) which has 100 rooms and has recently been partially restored and now houses displays of daily life, turbans and puppets.  We also visited the Jagdish Temple, right in the middle of Rajasthan.

Our first day in Udaipur also happened to be my birthday.  We went out to another lovely rooftop restaurant at the Jagat Niwas Palace.  The views of the sunset were superb!

The following day was Holi, so after our meal we went back to the main square outside the Jagdish Temple to join in the celebrations.  It was very crowded and not very safe - with a huge tree surrounded by firecrackers which were set off as the celebrations started.  We didn't stay long in these crowds.

We "played Holi" on our last day, followed by another lovely rooftop restaurant with amazing view (though not as nice a sunset as the previous day).  We ate at the highest rooftop restaurant in Udaipur.

My memories of Udaipur are mostly of the rooftop views - both of the surrounding mountains and lakes, and of the peeks into the ordinary lives of the people.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rachel's Rajasthan

Rachel came to India for Easter, and during the time she was here we spent almost a week in Rajasthan.  We flew to Udaipur and spent 3 days there, then travelled to Jodhpur via Kumbalgarth and Ranakpur.  Rachel takes great photos, so I'm publishing some of them on the blog.

Women and Children

Windows and Doors


 Daily Life