Rajasthan: Home of Kings
Our travel around Rajastahn was enhanced by our traveling companions. Our group was very small -- besides us, we were joined only by Gill from Ontario, who was a pleasure to travel with, while our trip leader was a wonderful young woman, Kulpreet, who has since become almost a daughter to me.
Gill during Holi at Chanderi.
One day, we were traveling to a king's fishing camp (amazing place), bouncing along a dirt road in a jeep, and I turned to Tom and said, "Isn't today our wedding anniversary?" We'd both forgotten, but when we arrived at the camp, Kulpreet disappeared, as she always did, to make sure our accommodations were good. She was gone for a long time, but came back and announced that our rooms were ready. Our rooms were actually a row of royally outfitted set of tents, but in front of the tents was a row of destroyed-looking rose bushes. When we entered our tent, we discovered that Kulpreet had pulled petals from all the roses and spread them through our room.
Before we headed to Rajasthan, we went to Agra in Uttar Pradesh to see the Taj Mahal. It’s a beautiful testament to one man’s (Shah Jahan) love for his late wife, Mumtaz, and we were lucky to see it at a time when it was not totally covered with tourists. (Think of the mall in Washington DC on July Fourth.) The Taj Mahal is not just one building, but a group, all of which are built of red brick except for Mumtaz’ mausoleum.
Around the main white building are the large gate house, a mosque and another building that had been a guest house. Running just behind is the Yamuna River. I spent time peering at the detailed carvings and semi-precious stone inlays and looking into the additional buildings, and came out to find Tom chatting with an armed guard. Are we surprised? No!
Rajasthan is the largest of the Indian states by land size, lying southwest of Delhi. The name means “Home of the Kings” (rajas), and at independence (1947) the state was made up of about two dozen formerly independent princely states. Not until 1970 did the princes lose all their power. My quick analogy is to medieval Europe, with many small lords owning a castle and the neighboring village, and controlling the lives of the subordinate gentry -- and, especially, the “peasants”. As the Rajasthan lords lost their tax revenue and power, some turned their castles into hotels, and we were able to stay in several to see how things had operated long ago.. We noticed that some lords supported their towns (some had water in homes) – and some lords simply walked away from their responsibilities. In one community, the residents proudly showed us their water system, and in another, we looked down from the castle to see people bathing outdoors, as they probably had for centuries. I took the picture above of this lord's castle from the village level.
Their bathroom and our bathroom.
On the left, you see a small reservoir being built to catch monsoon water. It's being built (by hand) by women who work for 90 days each for a small government salary. At the end of the 90 days, each woman's place is taken by another woman until the pool is finished. On the right, you see our bedroom in a lord's former palace.
Going to work in Jaipur
Dinner at our Hotel Overlooking Udaipur
Our initerary included Jaipur, Udaipur, Ahmedabad, Jaisalmer, Bundi, and Bijaipur – we stayed 1-2 nights in each place, and could have spent much longer.