Khamma ghani !!
Diwali 2021 saw our family of eight travel to Rajasthan. A lot of planning and preparation went into the trip, especially working around six different calendars (4 adults working hectic IT jobs and 2 busy preteen kids). A lot of thought went into the itinerary, whether to go it solo or via a (tourism) partner. Eventually we settled on Strawberi tour of Kesari Travels. We even had to plan for kids' RTPCR tests.
After much deliberation and taking people's health and age limitations into consideration; we finally converged on a plan. There were some hiccups with the flight and tempo traveler booking, but thanks to the perseverance of a couple of members, they were soon ironed out.
The trip covered Mount Abu, Udaipur, Pushkar, Ajmer & Jaipur cities, with a stopover of 1 night at Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
Our guides, throughout the journey, were founts of information. The name 'Rajasthan' literally means "Land of kings" as it was formed in the year 1949 by merging 22 royal kingdoms. It is the largest state in India, in terms of area. The glory of the state is retained by its majestic palaces, forts and monuments. The vibrant culture and rich heritage of this princely state draws innumerable tourists from across the globe every year.
Its major attractions include the ruins of Indus Valley Civilization, the oldest mountain range - Aravalli, a Jain pilgrimage site known as Dilwara Temples, Karni Mata Mandir, Ajmer Sharif dargah, the largest fort in Asia - Chittorgarh, the only hill station of Rajasthan - Mount Abu, Keoladeo National Park (formerly Bharatpur National Park), the Ranthambhore National Park and the Sariska Tiger Reserve.
This princely state hosts various colorful
fairs and festivals which are known for their uniqueness; one of which is the Pushkar fair. Pushkar claims (debatable) to have the only Brahma temple in the world. Another legend associated with this place is that Lord Rama
did the “Pind daan” of his ancestors here during his exile. Since then,
people come here to do the same for their ancestors so that they attain
‘Mukti’ or freedom from the cycle of birth and death. This is why this
place is also called Tirthraj Pushkar. We also offered puja for our ancestors on Diwali (amavasya) day at Pushkar - a truly moving experience!
Some of the things I loved about the places we visited-
- Dilwara temples of Mount Abu (they are older than the Taj Mahal and certainly much more of an architectural wonder)
- Peaceful ambience of Brahmakumari ashram at Mount Abu
- The city palace and lakes of Udaipur
- Chittorgarh fort and its historical significance
- Brahma temple and the holy Pushkar lake (the main deity is the holy water of the lake and not any of the idols)
- Ajmer Sharif dargah (though it was super crowded due to Diwali holidays)
- Amber Fort (Diwan-e-Khaas), Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar at Jaipur
- Malpua & ghevar sweets, pyaaz kachori, Rajasthani thali
- Aesthetically appealing buildings, shopping experience and Diwali lighting in Jaipur
Rehashed school-time history and connected some of the dots
between Lord Rama's lineage, Suryavanshis, Mughal rulers, Krishna's devotee Meerabai
and some of the Rajput royalty viz. Maharana Pratap, Padmavati,
Prithviraj Chauhan, Jodhabai etc.
The desert safari jeep experience, especially the guides' expertise with clicking innovative pictures, was absolutely memorable. The drive through the rose fields, and 'stealing' gooseberries (amlas) from the trees, was exhilarating :) Another experience was that after unsuccessfully hunting for rickshaws post sunset, the eight of us were crammed into a single rickshaw at Fatehsagar lake. As we collectively oohed and aahed at the bumps in the road, it ran out of gas in middle of traffic! We had to split up into two rickshaws eventually.
Historically, the state is divided between kingdoms that were aligned with the Mughals and those that were not. The constant reference to sati and Johar customs was disturbing - told of the plight of women in those times. There is clearly a lot of pain and tragedy suffered by the people and the scars persist even today. Despite being a traditionally patriarchical society, some of the queens left a lasting impression viz. Rani Padmavati, Meerabai and Maharani Gayatri devi. The title 'Sawai' was first given to king Jai Singh by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb as the former displayed 1/4th more intelligence than others. Later on, he proved his wit even in warfare. The Sawais applied their knowledge of astronomy and astrology to warfare. Jantar Mantar is an excellent observatory for astronomy and physics enthusiasts.
Though one typically tends to relate dal-baati-churma, Rajput pride, ghunghat clad women, arid desert climate, camels and colorful, ornamental attire with Rajasthan; there is so much more to this place! Spotted ladies wearing interesting fusion of ethnic & western garments and men sporting attractive Jodhpuri jackets & ear jewelry. The architectural splendor of buildings, paintings and art galleries bear proof to the emphasis on aesthetics in a predominantly warrior populated state. Its also home to many water bodies, verdant, sprawling gardens and a luxurious lifestyle. Loved the rickshaws, double decker buses and multi-laned roads of the various cities. Jaipur airport is quietly impressive.
Our tempo traveler witnessed many games, friendly banter, competitive photography and even some melodrama during the week. We enjoyed home made Diwali snacks, sumptuous Gujarati snacks provided by a friend in Ahmedabad and old hindi songs via the tempo's USB drive. Even managed to steal snippets of quiet contemplation and ME time amidst the constant company.
Only peeves were a decided lack of variety in food / cuisines. Kids were hankering for pizzas and fast food by the end of it. All in all, an extremely satisfactory getaway after the harrowing months of WFH & lockdown. Even the repeated packing and unpacking at various hotels did not faze us :)