Rajasthan-II Day 5

As it was the last day of our trip, we thought why not make most out of it. At sunrise we went up on the roof for a fabulous view of Jaisalmer fort and city. Cold winter breeze with hot tea in hand and mighty ‘Sonar Quila’(jaisalmer fort) in front, could the morning be any better?

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After getting ready and having breakfast, we set out to see the only living fort in India – Jaisalmer fort.

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It is the second oldest fort in Rajasthan after Chittor and still has one –fourth of Jaisalmer’s population still living and working inside it. It was amazing to see the fort bustling with activity, a great contrast to other forts that only tell tales of the past. Once inside, we first visited the very famous Jain temple, and we were awestruck with the sheer brilliance of its architecture. It is built similar to Dilwara temple, with each pillar having sculpted figures. Artisans have covered all the stones with beautiful and elegant carvings.

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We said our morning prayers and did a tour of the temple taking in its beauty and calmness.

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After half an hour or so, we came out of the temple to the streets of fort that were filled with shops  of various kinds selling handmade paintings, diaries, jewellery, souvenirs. We bought few souvenirs for friends and home as a reminder of Jaisalmer fort.

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Houses after houses made of yellow sandstone, glowing in bright sunlight like they were made of gold; was the sight that greeted us from the lookout points of the fort. We could now, standing here, truly get why Jaisalmer is called ‘Golden City’. Watching people going about doing there day to day work as we passed through the narrow lanes of the fort, was fascinating.

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After setting the image of mighty Jaisalmer fort, we started our return journey to Jodhpur.

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Next we stopped in Khichan, which comes under Jodhpur district. This place is famous for the sighting of Demoiselle cranes. When we go for bird watching, it usually means through binoculars and you would be lucky if you see 4-5 together, that’s exactly what I expected. But what i saw was something i had never imagined. There on the bank of small lake were thousands of grey coloured cranes just sitting as if waiting for audience. What a sight!!!

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I had never seen so birds together at a time in a single place. Wow just wow!! We bought bird seed and started feeding it to birds; some flew to our side and started pecking on their food.

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It was such a pleasant sight. After an hour of fun and frolic, we resumed our further journey. The last stoppage of our trip was Osianji Jain temple. What can be better way to end a trip than visiting such a divine place? The best feature of this temple is its spire. It’s really unique piece of architecture; its minute carvings, intricate elegant design is just marvellous.

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We prayed in Jain temple and also visited the Sachaya Mata Mandir.

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After the divine Osian, we straight headed to Jodhpur railway station; marking the end of this wonderful 5-day trip that was filled with fun and frolic along with the exploration of the Incredible Rajasthan.

Rajasthan-II Day 4

After watching sunrise fromthe terrace of Renuka hotel, we drove towards Tanot Mata Mandir.

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We started early today as we had to reach Tanot Mata Mandir which is 120km from Jaisalmer city, and very close to Indian Border.The drive throughout till temple is filled with scenic beauty of sand dunes. We could see only Thar Desert all around us. And what a landscape it painted, reminding me of all those movie songs that are shot in desert. The fun started when we started to sing them out loud. On the way we crossed the Indira Gandhi Canal, which is after Ramgarh village. This canal is considered to be the lifeline of people of Rajasthan, especially those living in desert areas. As we neared the temple, we saw many military trucks, jeeps passing by, carrying the army soldiers who stay away from their family to keep us safe and sound with our family. We saluted them and each of them acknowledged it with a humble smile. At around 10.00 am we reached Tanot Mata Temple.

Tanot Mata Mandir
Tanot Mata Mandir

This is the last point where civilians can visit without permission. The temple is known for its significance during Indo-Pak war of 1965. It is said that, India soldiers took refuge in the temple, hundreds of shells/canons fell but couldn’t harm the temple. Inside the Tanot mata temple, we saw some of canons kept on display that fell during the war. After a quick visit, we got busy in getting permission to see Indian border –BP609. It took us 1hr approx to finally get permission, but it was totally worth it, as it’s not every day that you could Indian soldiers standing day-night to guard our borders. When we reached BP609, the soldier there asked for the permission slip, after providing him that we chatted, asking him about the borders, his family and his hometown etc. There was a barbed wire boundary running for miles marking the end of territory. The soldier told us that there is 24hrs electricity at the border, even if there is breakdown in anywhere in india there is still electricity there. After spending some more time at BP609, we headed back to Jaisalmer city visiting Gantewala temple which is some 5km away from Tanot mata temple.

Gantewala Mandir
Gantewala Mandir

At Ramgarh we stopped for lunch in a small dhabba. Though the place was small, the food was delicious especially sev-tomato curry (a rajasthani speciality).  Once in the city, we went to our room for a quick freshen up and headed to the much awaited Sam Sand Dunes. When we reached there we saw the vast Thar Desert inviting us towards itself with open arms.

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There was lots of hustle-bustle going on of tourists coming and going, the camel owners calling out to entice tourists to hire their camels or cart, still there was a sense of serenity that provided me tranquillity, beckoning me to explore more of this sea of sand.

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Since there were 8 of us, we hired a camel cart as it sounded more economical than individual camels. The cart took us around the sand dunes; we were too mesmerized to speak for first few minutes and then came the pic spree, where we just couldn’t stop clicking. The cart fellow was a jolly guy chatting with us, telling desert stories.

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He also showed us seashells, which one can sometimes find in this desert, telling us that once a vast sea existed in the place where we stood now and because of climatic changes on earth, the sea formed the mighty Himalayas leaving a immeasurable and magnificent Thar desert behind. We got down at a spot with sand dunes and enjoyed ourselves playing with the fine sand, letting it loose from our hands, making different poses for camera and watching the sun set to our hearts content.The sunset was a pretty sight, changing colour of sand from bright afternoon yellow to setting sun orange to almost gone red to pure calm white.

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When it started to get dark and cold, we decided to head back to hotel renuka. It was around 7-7.30pm when we reached back to our room. All of us were too tired to go out for dinner; hence we ordered food in the room itself. Also we had heard that a shop owned by a Mr. Bhatia sells amazing laddoos, and as we were thinking of going out to get them, the hotel caretaker offered to get them for us. We were delighted to hear this and asked him to arrange laddoos. Thus at dinner, the caretaker came with our ordered food and the delicious laddoos. We had a merry time; chatting, laughing and enjoying the tasty food.  After dinner, we went up on the terrace that provided a great view of Jaisalmer fort. We stood there watching the fort glow with the night lighting and enjoying the cold weather.

 

view of Jaisalmer fort
view of Jaisalmer fort

Later around 11.00 pm we retired to our respective rooms.

Rajasthan-II Day 3

Our today’s destination was to reach the Golden city – Jaisalemer. We woke up by 6 am & get ready by 730 am. We checked out & after breakfast we started for Jaisalmer by road in a taxi that we had already booked. The drive was 4-4.5 hrs & one can see difference in scenery from lil to almost nil vegetation, also from blue to
golden houses.

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We reached Jaisalmer at 1200 hrs & checked into our hotel called Renuka. Once we had settled our luggage to our rooms, we went to have lunch in nearby Jain Dharamshala.

After lunch. We straightaway started the sightseeing of the city. Our first stop was Tazia tower & Badal Palace.

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It’s a small complex, which has a museum. The entrance doors, passages, walls, windows & staircases have such great work, that we just kept looking at it. The designs are unique & very royal. The museum has only few things, but the silver chair, the royal bed were really worth a watch. After seeing the tazia tower we left for haveli’s.DSC_0374

After forts & palaces, the next things that adds the grandness of ‘Royal Rajasthan’ is it’s haveli’s. Jaisalmer’s havelis are quite famous, especially Nathmalji’s & Patwa’s haveli.

We first visited Nathmalji ki haveli. It is beautifully built & the engravings were wonderful.

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But it is only to be looked at from outside. The owner doesn’t permit people inside for a tour. Next & the best haveli was Patwaon-ki-haveli. It is the kind that strikes your mind when you first hear a Rajasthan Haveli.

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It is huge & beautiful both inside & outside. From the main gate, the small street leads to the haveli passing through gully market, where people are selling artificial jewellery, hand made calander, posters, idols of gods & godess, little puppets to decorate houses & lots of other stuff like that.

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The haveli is empty as in nobody resides there now, but is well preserved by the govt. of India. The structure is still sturdy, nobody can say that it was constructed in 1800’s. it is actually a cluster of 5 smaller havelis. This yellow sandstone architecture is marvelous in every way. The carvings on windows & arches is unique & amazing. It keeps you wishing that I wish to owned such a haveli. We spent an hr or so, exploring the nook & corner of haveli, clicking pics, imagining ourselves as royalaties, having fun. The terrace of haveli provides a great view of the life around it. The late after noon sunrays adding to its beauty, making it shine like its made of gold.

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After having our fill of the Patwaon-ki-haveli, we went to Gadi Sagar lake.

We went for a boat ride in the lake & saw the sun set while boating. It was wonderful. The golden view of sun then turning orange, then red, it’s reflection in the lake was just a perfect way to end the day. So pleasant & peaceful.

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After the ride, we roamed a little on the bank, then went to see puppet show, organized by Desert culture center. It was an awesome show. It was funny, entertaining, a total must watch!!

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Later after having dinner, we went back to our hotel & retired for the night.

Rajasthan-II Day 2

Next morning we woke up to a foggy day. We first visited the Jain temple near the dharamshala. It was a splendid way to start the day. After breakfast we went to Mehrangarh fort. The fort is situated on a hill spreading over an area of 5km, it has a grand view and looks over the ‘sun city’ aka Jodhpur as a guardian.

Mehrangarh Fort
Mehrangarh Fort

 

As we entered the fort, we spotted some souvenir shops and also cafe with a regal look. To hear the interesting stories about the fort, we hired a local guide to show us around the fort.

As we moved further inside the fort we were amazed by its sturdy structure and beautiful delicate carvings.  Each window, arch, stone is intricately engraved, showing off the great talent of the artisans of their period.

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Inside were various royalties on display such as dresses of kings, swords, guns, scripts but the thing that stood out and caught my attention was the palanquins for the queens and carriages of kings that were used by them for travelling. They were beautiful, some gold some silver, covered in rich silk were of different shapes and sizes.

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Next were the weapons used during battles, the armour of soldiers – each of which has a story of its own to tell!

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There was this beautiful jewelry box of queen made of ivory.

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The minute ivory work – carving, the velvet lining in the case was just wonderful. Well, that’s one of the perk of being a queen!! Anyway moving on.. We roamed around the fort seeing the various things of museum, until we reached the Sheesh Mahal and that made our feet halt automatically. DSC_0088The shining mirrors painted in vivid colors, gold painted pillars, shining due to sunlight, etched a permanent image in our minds.

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sheesh mahal

We just stood there marvelling the artwork and clicking pics of Sheesh Mahal. After that, we moved to the very end of the fort where the canons were kept as though they are ready to go off any time if anyone so much as dare to look at their suncity –Jodhpur with evil eyes.

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At the far end, there is Chamunda Mata Temple who was the deity that Rao Jodha of Jodhpur worshipped. After praying to mata, we went over to canons for closer look and also to see the spectacular view of Jodhpur city. Here, we found out why The ‘Sun city’ is also called ‘Blue city’.

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It is so because most of the houses are painted in colour blue. The sight from the top wall was amazing, the cold breeze, the sun playing hide n seek with clouds, made it all the more perfect.

After the fort, we visited Jaswant Thada, which is nearby the fort complex. It is a cenotaph (an empty tomb) of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II and since it is built in white marble, it is referred to as The Taj Mahal of Marwar.

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Jaswant thada is peaceful and beautiful. The splendid work on marble left us in awe. There were hundreds of pigeons flying about making picture perfect. We loafed in the complex, sitting on various steps posing differently for each picture. It was refreshing. And the view of Mehrangarh fort was literally a cherry on top.

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Full fort can be viewed from here. The fort standing on the hill in its full glory was just superb, beyond description.

Next we went to Umaid Bhawan Palace, which is still a residence of present king and a part of it is converted into hotel.

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Though the palace is well built, there is nothing unique or great about it.

We saw the vintage car collection held on display in outside corridors of the palace. By the time we were done with Umaid Bhawan, it was lunch time. We went to Gypsy reataurant which is famous for its Rajasthani Thali though they also serve other Indian snacks too. The thali had numerous varieties of dishes, I didn’t know the names of half of them, but each and every dish was authentic rajasthani and quite delicious. It was the best Rajasthani food we had ever had. After lunch we visited Guda Bishnoi village and Guda Lake. This village is famous for sightings of black buck. Eventhough we couldn’t get a closer look, we were lucky enough to see few of black bucks. Such beautiful creatures I don’t understand why some people hunt them?

Guda lake is known for migrating birds, however we didn’t see many of them.

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Then at around 5pm we returned back to dharamshala and rested for an hour. At 6pm we went to Jodhpur market for shopping. Market is decent, especially providing great variety of rajasthani jootis. My cousin and I bought a pair each. Having spend a fun time in the market, we went near clock tower where there is famous shop called ‘Shahi Samosa’ famous for its samosa chat. We had tasty samosa chat and hot mirchi(green chilli) pakoras. For desert, we went to a place right next to clock tower. They serve the best rabri and makhani lassi in town.  After having filled our stomachs upto the brim, we returned back to our room as slept as soon as we hit bed. 

Rajasthan-II Day 1

Day 1

When you explore or visit Rajasthan and you don’t visit THAR desert, it’s like you visit Kashmir and you don’t see Dal lake or you visit goa and don’t go to a beach.. So, we decided to make a trip to Jaisalmer via Jodhpur.

Jodhpur is around 370km from rawatabhata (that‘s our starting point), hence the best option to reach Jodhpur is to go by train. Thus, we started at 10am in the morning from home to reach station well before time, to be on the safer side. We were at station at 11.30am and waited in the waiting room till 12.25pm, that’s when Ranthambore express (our train) arrives. We boarded the train and after adjusting luggage we had lunch that we had brought from home.

 The train journey was fun as my cousins were also travelling with us. At Jaipur railway station, we called up the dharamshala, which we had already pre-booked, and confirmed our booking and informed him that we will be reaching after 10pm.

At 10.15pm we got off at Jodhpur station and reached the dharamshala by walking as it is only some 200-300m from the station. Then after checking in, we finalized the plan for next day and slept at 11pm as soon as hit the pillow being tired from train journey.

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Situated on a steep hill, Mehrangarh fort is one of the largest forts in India. The beauty and the grandeur of numerous palaces in the fort narrate a saga of hard sandstones yielding to the chisels of skilled Jodhpuri sculptures. Mehrangarh Fort, spreading over 5 km on a perpendicular hill and looking down 125 meters, presents a majestic view on city horizon.

It was built on advice of a saint in 1459 to establish an impregnable head-quarter.This Fort is one of the best in India with its exquisitely latticed windows, carved panels, elaborately adorned windows and walls of Moti Mahal, Phool Mahal, Sheesh Mahal. A collection of musical instruments, palanquins, royal costumes, furniture and the cannons on the fort’s ramparts are well preserved.

Khichan, near Jodhpur

Khichan is a village in the Jodhpur district of the Indian state of Rajasthan that in recent years has established a tradition of feeding wild birds, including Demoiselle Cranes that winter here every year. Up to 3,000 kilograms (6,600 lb) of bird seed are consumed every day by the feeding birds. Khichan village now hosts over 20,000 Demoiselle Cranes from as early as August each year to as late as March of the following year. The village, which has become popular among bird watchers, achieved international recognition when it was featured in Birding World magazine in an article titled, “Khichan – the Demoiselle Crane village.”

Khichan the desert village in Phalodi tehsil is 150 km west of Jodhpur city. The nearest town is Phalodi, which is 3.4 km away. Phalodi is a railway station on the Broad Gauge line and connects all important towns in Rajasthan. Phalodi Railway station lies on the Broad Gauge line of the Delhi- Jaisalmer and Bikaner – Jaisalmer train route. There are three trains from Jodhpur and three from Jaisalmer. A direct train also runs from Delhi. Jodhpur is the nearest airport and from there the village is well connected by road (139 km). Bikaner(156 km. towards north),Nagaur (145 km in east) and Jaisalmer (165 km in west) are also connected to the village. The Pakistan Border is about 100 km away. National Highway No.15 skirts towards Phalodi.

Charitra Chudamani Madhur Vyakhyani 1008 Param Pujya Shree Uttamchandji (Uttam muniji) Maharaj Saheb belonging to the Sthanakvasi sect of Jainism is born in this village. He is Gucchadhipati of Samrath Gutch, one of the sampradays of Sthanakvasi sect.

Some years ago, a section of local people of Khichan (Mainly: Late Prithvirajji Malu, Late Kishan Lalji Malu, Late Ganeshmalji Malu and Late Ratan Lalji Malu) led by a bird lover belonging to the community of the Marwaris of the village started offering grains to birds every morning. This attracted a large number of Demoiselle Cranes (Anthropoides virgo), locally called ‘kurjas’, to the town. These are found in 47 countries and are the smallest and the second most abundant of the world’s crane species. The breeding grounds of these birds are reported to be from the plains and steppes of Eurasia and Mongolia. During migration, which is long and arduous (many are reported to perish due to hunger, fatigue and attack by predators), the cranes fly with their head and neck straight and their feet and legs straight behind them and attain heights of 4,875-7,925 m (16,000-26,000 ft). They weigh about 2–3 kg with a height of 89 cm and wing width of 155 –180 cm. Essentially grassland birds, the cranes have plain bluish gray plumage and are omnivores. They mainly feed on plant materials, insects, peanuts, beans and other cereal grains, and small animals. But the villagers in this Thar Desert town adore them for their apparent vegetarian eating habits and for the practice of monogamy. What started initially as a few dozen visiting birds has now become a major migration with over 9000 cranes visiting the village year after year, during the period of August to March, and the number is reported to be increasing. This is attributed to the organised and natural feeding done by the village community, twice a day during the birds entire sojourn to the town in the months of August to March, with November to February being the peak season.

The Cranes fly into specially created rectangular enclosures of 50x60m, at the edge of the village, called locally as chugga ghars, where they have a breakfast session which lasts for about 90 minutes. They are fed in groups, one after the other. Their flights, in the setting of the conventional mansions (some of them are heritage buildings being converted to tourist lodges) of the village, present brilliant photo-ops for the large number of tourists who flock to the village for bird watching. After feeding, the Cranes, in large congregations, are seen at some of the water bodies (ponds) and sand dunes to the north of Khichan. Peacocks are the other dominant birds seen around the Cranes.

The Cranes fly in different directions in small family flocks, in a disciplined order led by the female, followed closely by two young ones with the male forming the rear guard. Again, during mid day, they assemble for a drink, followed by an occasional bath, and a second feed. Acrobatic exhibition of mutual affection between couples is also seen. They roost in far away agriculture fields and return to the same water bodies next day, early in the morning.

All cranes engage in dancing, which includes various behaviors such as bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing, and wing flapping. Dancing can occur at any age and is commonly associated with courtship, however, it is generally believed to be a normal part of motor development for cranes and can serve to thwart aggression, relieve tension, and strengthen the pair bond.

Jaswant Thada, Jodhpur

Close to the fort complex, lies Jaswant Thada. This 19th century royal cenotaph built in white marble in commemoration of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II and three other cenotaphs, stand nearby. The cenotaph of Maharaja Jaswant Singh holds the rare portraits of the rulers and Maharajas of Jodhpur. A visit inside the cenotaphs, with some villagers of the region, would bring forward the reverence they still hold for their brave kings.

Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur

The romantic looking Umaid Bhawan Palace was actually built with the purpose of giving employment to the people of Jodhpur during a long drawn famine. The royal family of Jodhpur still lives in a part of the palace. Another part of the palace houses a well-maintained museum, displaying an amazing array of items belonging to the Maharaja and the royal family – weapons, antiques & fascinating clocks, crockery and trophies.

My travelling experience

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