Rajasthan to me as a photographer and an avid art-admirer has always been special. Been fascinated by the colors, the culture, the feel of the whole thing. Had never been there and was quite high on my list of places to visit once.
This post is my little effort to "try" and put the experience in words and I know that words cane never come close to defining the experience of the week-long travails through the beautiful land of Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra.
Have also made a video slideshow at the end of the post...do see it!
Initial plans were for a split tour
Phase A - Do Rajasthan + Delhi with everyone and then send mom n sis back home
Phase B - From Delhi head out towards Leh+Ladakh.
Phase B was squashed soon as we got to know that the roads in Leh would be closed due to heavy snowfall and we would be limiting ourselves pretty much to the City of Leh.
So there it was, switching over to an alternate plan - Rajasthan + Delhi + Agra
Without much ado, we booked the return tickets from Delhi to Bangalore for Dec 26th.
More than a couple of weeks of planning, the excitement levels were way too high. And then something that happened that made me feel bad even before the tour had started
James had to drop out due to some personal family commitments. And there went my very close buddy who would have been with me during the tour, one who I enjoy spending time with, share the same kind of frequency, enjoy shooting with. Plus the fact that he had very recently purchased a 10-12mm wide angle lens in anticipation of this tour made my heart wrench.
Mom and Sis too shared the same sentiment, but we had made the plans and had made several plans. As they say "the show must go on" and with some egging from James we booked the flight tickets of Air Indigo from Bangalore to Jaipur for Dec 18th, 2008.
A lot of planned packing for the anticipated cold weather up north and a couple of suitcases, we were all set. A quick ride to the Bangalore Airport with the Volvo service, we helped ourselves to some sandwiches and cold coffee.
The flight was uneventful (thankfully ;-) )and we landed in Jaipur @ 10:45 PM. One of my friends had arranged for a cab pick-up. On the way to the hotel, we enjoyed some sumptuous dinner with the famous Rajasthani "Daal-baati-Churma".
The late timing and the sparse traffic led to a smooth ride, very very different than the madness we call "Bangalore Traffic"
Retired to bed soon after freshening up for the next day's Jaipur round-up.
The next day started with a drive by the famous "Hawa Mahal", the symmetry and the colors of the building are quite remarkable.
Driving on the roads it was pretty much evident why this was called the "Pink city". It was a nice mix of people going about their normal lives living in old (antique) fortresses which now make for some market places.
Next on was "Amer fort" which is surrounded by a couple of other forts. Must say it is quite grand and the scale and architecture left me in awe.
Photography was one of the primary intentions of this trip, and here I was not knowing which direction to point my lens at :D
Everywhere I saw, I saw color, saw intricate designs, beautiful examples of architecture. Plus hearing about the fort and the tales behind each place was like walking through some surreal setting for me.
Amer fort was so lovely that we lost track of time and had to now rush towards City palace thanks to the early setting winter sun. Stopped over at "Jal Mahal" which is a retiring palace built in the midst of a lake.
At the entrance of City palace were tons of pigeons who would rush towards willing tourists who would feed them.
City palace was quite enchanting with it's collection of weapons, armour and various royal clothing.
Soon it was dark, and although tired, we drove towards "Choki Dhani", a Rajasthani style village resort that was recommended by a lot of my friends. It was quite lovely with good attention to detail, with us being welcomed with drums in the true Rajasthani style.
Folk dances, magic shows, classic music made for a lovely atmosphere. We spent a lot of time resting on the diwans there relishing the music and the occasional "Namkeen".
Tried my hand at archery and darts, striking a few bulls-eye and getting a concession of Rs.5 for every bulls-eye hit.
And then it was time for dinner and the part I had been waiting for - DINNER :D
Here again it was "Daal-baati-churma" time, with some delicious Ghee-dipped rotis.
Filled tummies and tired legs...we settled in for the day.
Next day morning was an early start towards Ajmer. Had some lip-smacking Paranthas and Channa masala. Soon we were in Ajmer to pay a visit to the shrine. The belief system of the people there was quite barrier-shattering. People from all walks of life, of all caste n creed, putting aside any differences of color, stature, religion asking for their prayers to answered by “Khwaja”.
We managed to navigate out of the very congested streets of Ajmer and headed towards Pushkar. Unfortunately the cattle fair had just concluded a week or so earlier. Visited the temple lake and got some black-winged stilts in close range.
A few shots later, we took a small snack-break and checked into a small hotel as our bus to Jaisalmer was at 10 PM later that night. Enjoyed a nice veggie meal with some Shahi Khurma and got into the overnight bus to Jaisalmer. The roads were smooth and we made good ground. But soon we were literally “crawling” as the visibility on the road had dropped quite dramatically!
It was the first time I was seeing fog on such a scale and intensity. To take in more of it, sat in the driver’s cabin We were not able to see any vehicles on the road, leave alone people. The driver was avoiding any parked trucks in the last 10 metres!!
Reached Jaisalmer with some solid cold amidst high security (due to the proximity to the Pakistan border). The temperature was at 4-5 degrees and the fog was so thick we could barely see peoples face(s) across the road on the silhouetted figurines.
Arvind from DesertBoys was there to welcome us and took us to our room. It was inside the fort and was quite a sight.
Entering the sandstone fort and all the people still living within it was exciting.
Soon we checked into the room which was very tastefully decorated to keep with the royal feel of it. Once we freshened up, we treated ourselves to some hot Alu-parathas and headed out to explore the fort area. Visted the “Raja ka mahal” and enjoyed the stories behind each of the areas inside. Made for some good photo opportunities.
Evening time….we headed towards “Birla Mandir” with it’s unique architecture and then to the Cenotaphs. Seeing this one has to believe that people here just do not use anything other than stone. Not even bricks!! Instead they prefer sandstone cut to the required size(s).
With chilly winds and a setting sun, travelling on well-laid roads, we reached “Sam”, a popular desert section. We reached the desert dunes on Camel back. Was enjoying the ride and talking to the guys. They depend completely on tourism for their survival. Reaching the dunes was both exciting and letting down. Excited…to see the desert and rolling in the sand. Let down…to see the number of tourists around.
The setting sun and the desert gave me an opportunity to take some photographs which I had long dreamt of.
Next on the “menu” was a musical show with folk-artists performing. Was nice to sit under the stars, a bonfire going and listening to some authentic Rajasthani music.
Returned back to the room, freshened up and tucked into bed. Kept waking up to the sound of jets taking off for their sorties (Jaisalmer is a IAF base).
Next day morning woke up real late thanks to the cold and tired bodies. Did some more sight-seeing with “Patwon ki Haveli” and some shopping.
We had our train to Delhi @ 3 PM. Reached the station only to find that the train was running late by 3 hours. Waiting in the cold..took some candid shots. The sunset hues did color the sky in a riot of colors.
The train arrived full 5 hours late, which meant we would reach Delhi delayed. Most of the train journey went sleeping. Reached Delhi next day afternoon and settled in the room @ Karol Bagh.
The main item in Delhi was shopping..and off we went to Gaffar market for some shopping. Had some sumptuous Kulfi and some Chaat for a break. Had been more than a week since I had some non-veg and was longing for it. Searched and found a good restaurant for dinner.
We booked a cab for Agra and back. Started at 6:30 AM for Agra. Stopped over at a Dhaba for some breakfast and relished the food. The driver took us to a place called “Sikandra” where most of the royal family is laid to rest. The gardens here were lush n green and had some good amount of spotted deer and peacocks. Also spotted a few black bucks which was a first for me.
Soon we were stuck in heavy Agra traffic and made our way to the mighty Taj. Entry of fuel-driven vehicles is banned for a radius of 1KM around the Taj. Battery-driven auto-rickshaws have a field day here with the huge number of tourists.
The security at the entrance was pretty tight with not even a bottle of water or any food items being allowed inside. This is a wise move since plastic bottles and food items are the most common sources of waste in public places.
Seeing the Taj for the first time was simply breath-taking!! The scale, the magnificence of the monument is something that words cannot describe and is best experienced. Had to literally force my jaw shut (it was gape open ).
Took in the aura and then took a lot of shots of this truly amazing symbol of love.
Shopped a bit for some leather bags/shoes and moved onto Fatehpur-Sikri. Fatehpur is said to have been constructed when Akbar was blessed with a baby boy. Sikri was the royal palace.
The architecture here was a remarkable fusion of Moghul style with little modifications to depict love towards other religions. Akbar is said to have had 3 wives…one of each religion.
The next 2 days in Delhi was spent in Shopping around in Chandni chowk and other places. Visited a few of my aquarist friends (Tarun, Tirth and Arnav) and had an opportunity to visit their houses and see their tanks.
At Tirth's place with Tarun (with the camera in hand) -
Arnav's very beautiful tank with brilliant fish in awesome health!
Never seen rainbows that size :)
Cannot thank Tarun enough for booking the hotel and taking me around Delhi, thanks mate :)
It was Dec 26th…the day we were to start our journey back to homebase (Bangalore). But there was a small twist in the tale….the railway tickets we had booked were not confirmed yet. The tickets had reached one RAC and two waiting list (WL-1 and WL-2). Running around a bit, we managed to make the other Waiting list tickets to RAC. Thankfully the long-journey ensured we had berths and speaking to the TT, we got our berths confirmed.
The train journey was nice with the train passing through some beautiful country-side. A full 42 hours later, we arrived at Bangalore Cantonment, took the cab back home. And that concluded a wonderful and memorable trip that was so filled with new experiences almost everyday.
Had taken a LOT of photographs which had to be sorted and re-sorted. You can have a look at some of the uploaded photographs here - http://picasaweb.google.com/hayath.m/RajasthanDelhiAgraDec2008
Also made a small slideshow of a few shots with some music to go along
Do not miss this :)
Till the next ride…..