16-day trip to India – Rajasthan
An itinerary that included a visit to the city of Mumbai, Udaipur, Ranakpur, Mount Abu, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Mandawa, Jaipur, Ellora, Ajanta.
The impact with India was really traumatic.
In fact, we arrived at Bombay airport around midnight, and along the almost 40 kilometers to get to the city centre, we saw people sleeping lying on the ground along the side of the road or on the sidewalks.
At the best, they had a cloth that covered their faces (to defend themselves from the bites of mice).
Bombay: Gate of India and Elephanta Island
On the other hand, the next morning, from the hotel room we admired the splendor of the Gulf . Moreover, just below us, we could see -majestic and imposing -the famous Gateway of India.
We made a panoramic tour of the city and of the Elephanta Island, which is famous for four temples carved into the rock and dedicated to Shiva. It is splendid its big image, almost 6-meter high, which has three distinct faces, one on each side. It is a pity that the beauty of the colours is reduced by the darkness of the cave.
Udaipur: Pichola lake, Lake Palace, Maharama Karang Singh, City Palace, the city and the market
The next day we flew to Udaipur, a beautiful town on the lake Pichola. In the centre of the lake it is positioned our hotel, “The Lake Palace”, which is considered one of the most beautiful and romantic hotel of all over India. The rooms are wonderful, the whole complex is nice and it is decorated with marbles and stucco, gardens and fountains
In the western part of the lake we visited the old Royal Palace, Maharama Karang Singh.
Then we visited the town with its beautiful Jain temples. But the biggest attraction was the visit to the vegetable market.
Rajasthan: from Udaipur to Johdpur visiting Mont Abu and the Jain temple of Ranakpur
The next day we began the visit of Rajasthan. The roads were quite damaged, but the impact with nature, with the population, with the sites and the monuments counterbalanced the inconvenience caused by the climate, the food and the air conditioning which often did not work both in the bus and in the hotels.
Along the way we met herds of camels, we faced some fords not easy to overcome, we saw women (never men) who were working on the maintenance of roads and vultures busy eating the remains of a cow.
We arrived in Abu Mont to visit Jain temples of unusual beauty, but impossible to photograph.
We slept in Mont Abu and left at dawn the next morning.
We visited the Jain temple of Ranakpur, considered one of the most beautiful in India, situated at the foothills of the Aravalli. Its beauty is originated by the splendor of marbles and by the grandeur of the complex.
The temple has two floors and the roof. The complex consists of thirty rooms embellished with nearly 1.500 columns, all finely decorated with engravings, all different one from the other, of extraordinary beauty.
In the evening we arrived at Johdpur.
Jodhpur (the blue city): Palace of the Maharaja (Umaid Bhawan Palace), the palace fortress and women with typical costumes
We stayed in the majestic palace of the Maharaja (Umaid Bhawan Palace), converted into an hotel , built in 1930. It is one of the largest and most beautiful private houses in the world. It is a dwelling with 350 rooms, billiard-room, eight kitchens, a cinema for 300 people. Only the ground floor is used as a Hotel.
The city of Jodhpur, also known as the “blue city”, being blue the predominant colour of its houses, is the second city of Rajasthan for the number of inhabitants.
We visited the historical part, on a spur of rock, still inhabited especially by artisans.
They carry on various activities: from lacquered bracelets to colourful cotton fabrics, from leather works (quite famous the leather flasks) to those of marble and ivory. And also painted wooden objects , silver bracelets and the famous puppets of Jodhpur. The fortress, which dates back to 1450, has beautiful rooms furnished with antique furnishings, as, for example, the Maharaja ‘s bedroom.
In the old town we met beautiful women dressed in their colourful costumes embellished with jewelry of great beauty.
From Johdpur to Jaisalmer: Fort Pokaram and, in Jaisalmer: Temple, city, Royal Cenotaphs, eunuchs
We left to Jaisalmer early in the morning because we planned to cross the desert. The day’s journey was even more difficult due to a mechanical accident occurred to our bus. This episode allowed us to stay in Fort Pokaran and spend a few hours among the villagers. It was curious to see the bus loaded up to capacity; among the people there were three beautiful faces, resembling one another. They couldn’t be but mother, daughter and granddaughter .
Jaisalmer is known as the Stronghold of the desert whose origins date back to 1150. Until 50 years ago it could only be reached by camel, there wasn’t electricity nor water supply.
Not only we suffered from a terrible heat during the day but also during the night (we spent three nights without air conditioning).
We arrived in Jaisalmer after crossing a vast expanse of ocher sand only interrupted by a long strip of street asphalt, often covered with sand.
Even more beautiful is the view, far away in the distance, of the ramparts which are the most spectacular part of the city. We visited the fortified town and we were fascinated by the beauty of the Gate of Wind which introduced us to the square where in the past the kings watched performances. Nowadays there are only beautiful and colourful puppets offered for sale to tourists.
We visited the Temple, a neighborhood with beautiful houses, the area of the Royal Cenotaphs and we finished our visit watching a show of eunuchs.
From Jaisalmer to Bikaner: in Deshnok visiting Temple Karniji (called “Temple of Mice”), in Bikaner Fort Junagaoh
We left before dawn for a long transfer which led us up to Bikaner.
Along the way we made a stop in a place which, for truckers in India, is the equivalent to one of our motel.
As a matter of fact it was a hovel where there was the possibility of finding water and something to eat, whereas the beds were outside in the forecourt.
We stopped to visit the temple of Deshnok Karniji, where rats live under protection . It is the kingdom of mice that…run undisturbed throughout the temple wandering without being disturbed among the legs of the faithful who offer them sweets, milk and other delicacies. It is an experience that must be done, but with all the necessary precautions: high socks (it is compulsory to take off the shoes).
Outside, we were surrounded by a group of children. We felt a particular fondness for an old man wearing a pair of glasses quite worn.
In Bikaner we visited the beautiful Junagaoh Fort, dating back to the early 1600s.
The queens, whose husbands had died in a battle, killed themselves to express their extreme participation. This act was immortalized by reproducing, on the wall in front of the main gate of the fort, the bloody imprint of their hands.
The numerous rooms of the fort are beautifully decorated. A special mention must be done for the bedroom of the Maharaja: it has mirrors placed in the ceiling so that, from all possible angles, he could see potential enemies who wanted to break into the palace.
Haveli (nice houses): Mandawa and Fatehpur in Shekhavati area
Mandawa is a town located in the area of Shekhavati, full of “havelis” , beautiful houses that were owned by wealthy merchants. Before arriving we stopped at Fatehpur, a beautiful city also rich in “havelis”, all of incomparable beauty. Nowadays these “havelis” have been abandoned by their owners who have chosen to leave a provincial life for a “more important” life in New Delhi, the capital.
A special mention to the last visited “haveli”, where the owner, after a trip to Venice, wanted to immortalize the city with frescoes representing the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge.
We had dinner and slept at the Fort of Mandawa. Before dinner, a charming man with long moustache, accompanied by a rhythmic music of drums , danced with two torches in his hands.
Rajasthan: village fair and Palace of the Maharaja of Samod
Jeannette, our guide, before arriving in Jaipur, surprised us with two unplanned stops.
The first one was made in a village fair, the second one was to visit the Palace of the Maharaja of Samod.
In the palace of Samod, now transformed into a Hotel, we visited a number of beautiful rooms decorated with inlaid mirrors and richly decorated with murals.
Jaipur: Palace of Winds, Amber Fort, local characters, City Palace and wedding
Jaipur is also called the “pink city” for the predominant colour of its houses. It is the capital of Rajasthan.
The city dates back to 1727 and was built with modern conceptions, in fact it has a reticulated planimetry with wide tree-lined avenues. There are numerous bazaars and markets organized according to the many and different craft activities.
The most fascinating palace is the Hawa Mahal (commonly called “Palace of Winds”) built in 1799 and is an eight-storey building whose façade, in pink sandstone, is characterized by nearly a thousand niches and windows, all finely decorated with intricate latticework. It was used as an observation post for the royal ladies who could watch the city life without being seen.
Near the city of Jaipur, on a hill, stands the Amber Palace (1592) which is a fortress with a solemn and austere façade whereas the interior is sumptuous, elegant and refined.
Tourists are brought up on the steep ramparts on the backs of elephants which have beautifully painted trunks.
The entrance terrace is beautiful and scenic, it is of a blinding white and enriched by a row of columns with capitals shaped as elephants. The walls and ceiling are finely mirror crafted whereas beautiful inlaid windows open onto the lake below.
The City Palace, still the residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur, is a huge palace complex with numerous courtyards, two museums and an armoury. The most famous courtyard is Pritam Niwas Chowk, commonly known as the Peacock Courtyard.
The four doors are wonderful: they are finely decorated and represent the four seasons.
In our beautiful and luxurious hotel (the Jai Mahal Palace Hotel) we saw a gorgeous wedding ceremony. The groom arrived on a finely harnessed horseback. The newly-weds sat down and received the wedding presents, above all necklaces made with high value bank notes.
Central India: archaeological site of Ellora
Ellora is famous for its rocky architecture where excavations on the rock transformed numerous caves of the area into temples. The temples date back to the period between the fifth and tenth century.
Central India: archaeological site of Ajanta
To reach Ajanta we crossed a beautiful countryside and we were attracted by the local population who was going to the river to fetch water. The site of Ajanta is located in a valley remained untouched until about a hundred years ago when the caves were accidentally rediscovered. It was a place of hermitage for Buddhist monks; they dug to the caves to paint them with very well-preserved frescoes even if they date back to the first and second century BC.
Rajasthan: persons met along the journey