September 30, 2010

Green Rajasthan

I’m back from my Rajasthan trip.

The first thing that impressed me most about this trip was the lush greenery throughout the regions I travelled. Of course, abundant rains this year is the main reason for it. After all, Rajasthan is not just about being a Registhan (desert)! Gazing at the lush Aravalli mountains range, especially on misty mornings, was delightful.

My tour included travelling mainly around Jaipur and Ajmer divisions of the State. My second visit to the capital Jaipur, exploring areas in and around Ajmer, spending an evening in Pushkar, a visit to the historical town of Neemrana in the Alwar District, and a day’s excursions to Nathdwara in the Rajsamand district sums it up.

The highlights of my trip are:-

1. A visit to Amer (Amber) Fort that I had missed for want of time during my last trip to Jaipur in 2007. I also got an opportunity to visit the Jaigarh and Nahargarh forts again. Forts do not fail to fascinate me, and Amber Fort is particularly impressive.

2. Staying with, and consequently getting an opportunity for close interaction with, a wonderful Rajput family for quite a few days. Together with some of their family members, I visited 3 different villages in and around Beawar in the Ajmer District: Borwa, Masud and Gudi. Gracious hosts, I could learn more on the true meaning of hospitality from them.

3. Zipping (Zip-lining) with the FlyingFox in Neemrana at its Palace-Fort. That was fun!


Here are a few more of the many photographs of my travels:-

Chaos on a street in Jaipur with protesters intensifying their agitation (photograph shot from a moving vehicle on 14 September 2010)...

Lit up Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds and its so-called 953 jharokhas (small windows)...

The magic of lush green hills and still waters of the Maota Lake...

Passing through a village one late evening in Pushkar...

From posh city homes...

To humble village dwellings....

A view of Neemrana town from the Palace-Fort...

Of course, travels include other interesting activities like a taste of local cuisine and culture, arts and crafts, songs and dances, the Kesariya baalam and sarangi, the "special" badam milk and laughter to follow, and other obvious delights...

The next time I go to Rajasthan, I wish to have a pure Registhan experience.

September 9, 2010

On Travels and Stories

My schedule has been hectic lately. In spite of that, I had begun writing the most important story of Mandu: the love story of Baz Bahadur and Roopmati. To those interested in my posts on Mandu, unfortunately I cannot continue that now because, fortunately I have got another opportunity to travel, thanks to Eid holidays in this part of the world.

So I am setting out on another journey, taking a flight to Jaipur in a few hours and then shall see where the road takes me from there.

Roopmati's Pavilion as seen from Baz Bahadur's Palace

Once back, I hope to complete writing my unfinished story and post it. Until then, ciao!

September 2, 2010

C'est Magnifique


Until I reached Mandu I did not know who Hoshang Shah was. Travel does introduce us to, inter alia, interesting historical figures that we would not have otherwise bothered to find out about, isn’t it?

At the first glance of Hoshang Shah’s Mausoleum in Mandu, the initial thought that crops up is: C'est Magnifique (It's Magnificent).

I do not know much neither about his life and achievements, nor about the circumstances of his death but having read a bit about him, now I know Hoshang Shah is remembered as a warrior with a sympathetic heart and dearly loved by his subjects. It was he who made Mandu one of the most impregnable forts of India. He ruled Malwa for 27 years.

Looking at the gleaming Mausoleum sheathed entirely in white marble, I also think of the Taj Mahal. The work on the Mausoleum was begun by Hoshang Shah himself, who died in 1435, and the work was completed by Mahmoud Khilji in AD 1440. It is probably one of India’s earliest marble structure based on Afghan architecture.

I am not surprised at the claim that Shah Jahan was so impressed by the Mausoleum that he sent a team of his architects to Mandu to study its design before commencing construction of the Taj Mahal. Certainly some inspiration may have been drawn from this Mausoleum. To the uninitiated, the Taj Mahal was completed in and around AD 1648.

I notice the quadrangle on which the Mausoleum is built, and am particularly drawn to its large white dome with smaller cupolas at the corners. The entrance is through a porch.

As expected at Mausoleums, I take off my footwear and step in quietly. The light filtering through its delicately beautiful lattice work gives the place an exquisite effect. The atmosphere is amazingly serene.

Much later, once out, I choose a spot in the calm surroundings at one of the porches supported by decorative colonnades in the western part of the Mausoleum.

The neat garden has many flowering plants. Many jasmine shrubs are in full bloom spreading fragrance around the austere place.

Dark clouds begin to roll across the blue sky, its edges folded in silver.

As the rain is about to pour down, I prepare to leave the Hoshang Shah’s Mausoleum to explore another monument in the vicinity. Glancing back one last time, I think: Death not only ends life; to some, it also bestows upon it a beautiful completeness.

Mandu can be reached by road from Indore via Dhar, and the nearest airport is in Indore (100 kms). The nearest railheads are Indore and Ratlam (120 km).