Mar 18, 2013

Running across Rajasthan: Part 3 - Jodhpur-Nathdwara

Rajasthan had already mesmerised us with just two destinations, and we were now eager to visit the rest.

A quick recap:
Two girls. One trip to Rajasthan. All self-planned, self-booked, self-struggled. Challenges, learning, experiences right from planning to actually finding our way around and more - I am telling them here on the blog, because I think future travellers can always do with a little more help and information.

I covered some useful websites, our itinerary and Jaipur here: http://haemlet.blogspot.in/2013/02/running-across-rajasthan.html

After that I wrote about Jaisalmer - MY favourite destination in Rajasthan, here: 

http://haemlet.blogspot.in/2013/02/running-across-rajasthan-jaisalmer.html

Now, I move to the next leg of our trip - Jodhpur and Nathdwara. I am covering both in one post, because we hardly spent any time in these places. That time nonetheless, was well spent.



JODHPUR



The blue city was technically just a stop-over for us, on the way out from Jaisalmer. We were to catch a bus to Nathdwara at 2 pm the day we reached. Hence, we had not booked any hotel, any transport, or anything whatsoever that would help us in the city. Add to that, our train from Jaisalmer that was supposed to reach at 6 am reached EARLY at 5.30 am! (yes, Indian railways, I kid you not!)

This meant that we were pretty much finding our way in the dark, lugging our bags around, trying to find a hotel for the half day we were there. Everything around the station is over-priced, shady and well... bad.

Where to stay
After a lot of running around, I realised I had carried a print of a list of hostels from www.hostelworld.com, just in case. Well, this was the 'in case'. I looked up the name of the area and we landed there. It looked a little dingy in the dark, but we woke up a caretaker at one of the hostels (Shivam Guest House), bargained for a room, got it for half a day at Rs. 250, and were all set to plop!

The area was MAKRANA MOHALLA, which we realised after we woke up, was right below the fort, within walking distance. It is a backpacker area, so if you are looking for something a little more comfortable, then you may have to look elsewhere. The rooms are small, and just sufficient.

Sightseeing, shopping, food
Half a day is not much time, but it is just enough to see the Mehrangarh Fort - and that is a sure must-visit! For those who may not have heard yet, this fort was one of the locations in the latest Batman movie - The Dark Knight Rises.

We were in the heart of the 'blue city' and walked up the narrow bylanes, with the blue-painted houses to the fort. The fort is hardly 10 minutes uphill from Makrana Mohalla.

The blue houses in the bylanes on the way to the fort
As you stop to catch your breath on the way up, the panoramic view will hold you there for a little longer. 
The view on the way up
We spot the fort standing tall

The fort itself is, to use a cliched word, magnificent. I loved it the moment I walked past the high walls with the holes that were once made by cannonballs.

The holes made by cannonballs
Local musicians perform in the arches along the way. 


The fort is vast, with relics from the past - weapons that had seen the wars of yore, studded in precious stones and carved to symbolize legends and beliefs. Clothes that adorned the royalty of the time. Palanquins of all kinds and shapes and sizes, for everyone from the king to the baby princess and the elderly of the kingdom.


The architecture of the fort is intricate, with latticework, stonework and cornices adorned in the most elegant manner. The various rooms have intelligent systems that would keep them cool in Jodhpur's hot and humid climate, from 'khus' (poppy seed) curtains, to a water sprinkler systems, stone walls and more.


The fort's grandest room would have to be in the 'Palace of Flowers' (Phool Mahal). It is a chamber built by Maharaja Abhay Singh (1724-49). The ceiling has gold filigree and mirror work and the walls are painted to depict the various moods of Indian classical Ragas, along with mythological scenes. Stained glass windows, delicate filigree work, ornateness reflecting from every surface - I was left in awe. 


The view from the top of the fort is again something that must not be missed. You can see the blue city surrounding the fort area, and the Umaid Bhavan Palace in the distance. Unfortunately, we did not get to visit that, but if you have time, it is surely worth a trip.

View from the top


We were very excited when we spotted a man tying his 'pagdi' (turban). Did you know it takes two people to tie the turban that is draped from a long piece of colourful cloth? The two men even posed for us after they were done!




We had such little time here that shopping was out of the question. But we did spot these pretty artifacts on the way to the fort.



We had lunch at this home-turned-restaurant (it was actually a house, and they put up tables on the terrace). The lady of the house made a fresh meal for us of dal, rice, chapati and a local vegetable, that was scrumptous. The best part, the smile on her face as she was feeding us, and watching us enjoy the food.

Next, we took a bus from Jodhpur to Nathdwara. These are private buses that you can get from the bus stop in the city - any rickshaw driver will know where that is. The buses are decently comfy, and the journey is about 3-4 hours. This is the bus to Udaipur, and we got off on the way. There are no trains on this route, so road travel would be your best option.

NATHDWARA

Nathdwara is a small temple town close to Udaipur. 

Where to stay?
In the town, there are many small hotels you can stay at. The temple also has an official website, that arranges for accomodation and you can book online about 12 days in advance: http://www.nathdwaratemple.org/

Sightseeing, shopping and food
Shrinathji, the deity of the temple is a 7 year old incarnation of Lord Krishna. The temple was built in the 1700s, and is quite an attraction in itself, with it's large silver doors and the marble courtyards. I grew up with tales of the various aspects of the temple, from the drum-beaters at the large gate who announce the opening of the doors for 'darshan' (this temple has specific timings), to the story of how the idol was brought here, and the tale of how a Mughar Emperor being Muslim wasn't allowed INSIDE the temple, and hence a special window was created for him from the courtyard that allowed him to directly worship the idol.

But I must warn those of you who plan to visit - the temple is known for it's crowds and throngs. As soon as the gates open (about 6 times in a day), the horde rushes in and you will be dragged along. 

The temple is at it's most colourful during festivals like Holi and Janmashtami, as powder colours are strewn about, and flower garlands adorn the temple premises.

Apart from the temple, this little town is also very well known for the art of 'pichwai paintings'. These are  paintings on cloth of scenes from the life of Lord Krishna, usually used as wall hangings. Often, pure gold colour is used in some of the paintings, but these days, it is tough to gauge. 

Pichwai paintings (courtesy Google images)

Nathdwara also is known for its textiles. You can buy tie and die from here, for a reasonable price.

As for food, the town has a 'khau galli'. A MUST TRY are fried purple yams that are a speciality in this region. Laced with cumin and other powdered spices, these yams will tingle your taste buds. You can try the ' unlimited thali' at one of the local restaurants. This will give you an assortment of Gujarati food items, to your fill, and tall glasses of buttermilk to wash it all down.

My learning
  • Try the local food, chat up the locals, ask them for suggestions.
  • Carry a camera, and every once in a while, stop and enjoy the view.
  • Find out about the routes and accessibility before you travel, so that you know your options even if you are going unplanned.
  • If you have not booked a hotel, just carry a print out of possibilities as a back up. That saved us!
Coming up - our last stop - Udaipur, The City of Lakes, that is just an hour away, and easily accessible through frequent buses or even cabs. Hop on!

P.S.: A reminder that these pictures are my copyright. No stealing. No copy pasting. Give credit, link back to my blog, respect my rights. Capiche?

1 comment:

Sushant Kumar said...

You can buy Nathdwara Paintings here:

http://hereyougo.co.in/paintings/traditional/nathdwara-paintings.html