Royal indulgence.12, May, 2015, by Seema Bhatnagar
Rajasthan is a state in northern part of India, flaunts a royal past of Rajput dynasty. There have been umpteen numbers of warriors and heroes from this royal land. Almost every city of Rajasthan has a shining glory behind it, be it Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner or Udaipur. It has been a place of wars and battles between Rajputs and Mughals. The forts and palaces are the living proofs of richness and grandeur of great dynasties.
View of Udaipur city from top of City Palace.
The colourfulness in clothes, richness in traditional jewellery, food, paintings, art of hena designs on hands are few things which make Rajasthan unique and compelling to be visited.
Udaipur, one of the cities of Rajasthan is often called the "Venice of the East", and is also nicknamed the "Lake City" or "City of Lakes". Lake Pichola, Fateh Sagar Lake, Udai Sagar and Swaroop Sagar in this city are considered the most beautiful lakes in the country. Rana Sriji Arvind Singh Mewar who is a living 76th custodian (not the ruler), is still maintaining the heritage and priced possessions of his predecessors.
We landed from Khajuraho on 18th March, 2015 evening at Delhi airport. With intent to utilise the whole day, I booked early morning flight to Udaipur from Delhi, so instead of coming to home we stayed at airport lounge. My home is almost 1 hour commuting from airport so it didn't make sense to spend few hours rushing back and forth. It was a good experience of staying at a premium lounge. My friend had a card which offers a stay in lounge with entry of one guest free. For sleeping, it was a couch in a dimly lit room, facility of shower along with quality toiletries. We had a good night sleep though there was a commotion around as people were coming and going at reception. Our flight was at 5:30 am on 19 March 2015, so we checked out at 4:00 am and did check in for flight, with some time left in hand, we quickly finished meditation on the noisy airport. It was a different experience of doing meditation in the noisy area, for few moments all the noise simply vanished and everything felt calm and peaceful.
This was my first experience of early morning flight; mostly I took late evenings or night flights. It gave me an opportunity to see the sunrise very closely. It felt as if I have entered the home of Lord Sun to see its preparation of reaching to earth….wow….what a breathtaking view it was, the colors were changing one by one and it was difficult to take my eyes away from it and I was constantly clicking pics like a child who has seen Sun for the first time. It was like a great welcome for Sun, the bestower of life on earth. For others it was a business as usual but for me nothing less than a wonderful unfolding of marvel in front of my eyes. Was constantly thinking if plane reaches an inch closer to it so that I can take more close-up clicks. Check out the pic which I clicked with my mobile camera.
Delhi at dawn. See the colourful horizon behind.
Sunrise in Delhi.
It was a short 1 hour 30 minutes flight, after landing at Udaipur around 7 am, our pick-up was ready outside and straight away we started our 2 hours 30 minutes journey towards Kumbhalgarh.
Historically, Kumbhalgarh is a birthplace of Maharna Pratap a glorious and valorous warrior of Rajput (Sisodia clan) dynasty who fought with Mughals to his last breath to keep them away from Mewar area.
The wall of a Kumbhalgarh fort is the second largest wall in the world, after the "Great Wall of China" and is known as the "Great Wall of India". The giant doors, majestic walls, balconies and typical jharoka (patterned windows) of Rajasthan style were visible throughout the fort narrating the glories of past. In 2013, Kumbhalgarh was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kumbhalgarh Fort. The great walls of India.
Since it was around 100 km from Udaipur so I planned it that way so that we can utilise early morning to avoid heat. After reaching there we saw a big caravan of cars and vanity vans lined up there leaving hardly any space for parking. Saw some girls full in heavy make-up ready to dance. Our driver told us that there is a shooting of some Bollywood movie going on. Some part of the fort was completely cordoned off for this purpose, so visitors were not allowed to enter that section. There was a full security with bouncers standing on strategic points so that nobody can dare to enter that section. The famous Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor was there for a shooting of one song for a movie "Ram ratan dhan payo.". I was literally feeling pity for those girls who were decked up in heavy makeup and gaudy dresses in scorching heat...oh that was nothing less than a torture.
Jharoka at Kumbhalgarh Fort.
I was trying to have a look at the shooting crew from opposite end of the fort which was quite far from the actual place of shooting, to my surprise, quickly one bouncer approached me and asked to get aside as I was coming in their camera frame. I cooperated and moved aside without any protest, felt a bit bad because we paid for the entry ticket for the whole compound and not the restricted entry. Nevertheless, we continued our walk on the other side and climbed to the peak of fort, the actual place of birth of Maharana Pratap.
Birth place of Maharana Pratap at Kumbhalgarh Fort.
It was really tiring walking straight for three hours in scorching heat, so we relaxed a bit and had a typical Rajasthan style lunch in one of the good quality restaurants at Kumbhalgarh. Rajasthanian food make maximum use of gram flour in dishes because climate of desert does not favour cultivation of green vegetables.
By the evening we are absolutely burned-out and checked in our hotel, Trident (a five stars property by Oberois). I booked it for its traditional interiors and proximity to places of interest. Our room was lake facing, so it was really soothing to senses viewing calm water from window as the first thing in morning. We enjoyed our comfortable and peaceful stay. I liked their initiative of going easy on nature, they have placed a card in bathroom to invite guests for participating in their initiatives.
They suggested to keep towels on rail if not to be changed and putting a card on a bed if linens needn’t be changed. Well, personally, I am not so fussy about these things, I prefer to carry and use my quick dry towel than using provided ones, for linens, anyway they gave a fresh ones on the arrival so a reuse of 2-3 times should not be an issue at all. Since I am nature friendly person, so saving natural resources is always on my mind. My friend also agreed for participating in this initiative. I am glad we have done our part, at least few litres of water we must have saved and therefore minimized our carbon footprints on mother earth.
Room in Hotel Trident.
Next day we did local sightseeing and visited City Palace which took us around 3 hours, as it is quite a big one. It is a museum exhibiting history of Mewar dynasty. The silver horse cart, silver kitchenware and swings, bedroom fitted with mirrors for kings and queen are some of the highlights.
There was a display of sword, armour, spear, shield of Maharana Pratap, a valorous son of India. Our guide shared an amazing piece of information about Maharana Pratap.
Statue of Maharana Pratap at City Palace.
His height : 7 ft 5 inch
Weight of his armour: 72 kg
Weight of his shoes: 5 kg
Weight of his spear: 80 kg
Weight of his two swords: 50 kg (each 25 kg)
The total weight comes out as 207 kg. Just incredible…can you imagine walking with 10kg weight for even few steps? This piece of information is sufficient enough to conclude how mighty and brave warrior he was.
Armour of Maharana Pratap.
It would remain incomplete if I do not mention his horse Chetak who sacrificed his life to save master's life. He jumped over the cliff to save his masters life. He was an Arabian pedigreed horse, especially chosen by Maharana Pratap.
Maharana Pratap memorial.
Rooms with mirrors and glasses at City Palace, used by royal members as bedroom.
Silver cradle at City Palace.
Music room at City Palace.
Cannon at City Palace.
Typical Rajasthan style fresco at City Palace.
We went for shopping to buy some gifts for kids and elders back home. For self, I bought some traditional Rajasthan jewellery, and a colourful cloth material, dyed using famous Bandhani art of Rajasthan. Bandhani is an art in which pulse grains are tied with threads on a cloth and then dipped in vegetable dyes of different colors. Just look at minuteness of work. Check out pic.
Bandhani suite material.
In the evening, we visited Sahelion kee baari (Garden of female friends), which used to be a place for queens to visit in the evening to enjoy music and dance and to feel respite from heat of Udaipur.
Fountain from elephant’s mouth.
It is full of fountains, which are centrally controlled. Our guide told us about the uniqueness of the fountain which is coming out of elephant’s mouth. I asked him about the design of how the water is coming out from the mouth as I could not see any joint in it. He explained that it is a mystery how water is flowing in a single cut stone out of which this elephant is made. I was amazed to look at design and concept.
Next day we started our journey for Mount Abu and reached there after 3 hours by road journey. We checked into hotel by afternoon and by evening went for watching sunset at a famous sunset point. Since there was a little height for reaching to sunset point so there was an arrangement of handcart pulled by men and women. Initially we avoided but later we decided to have one just for the sake of experience and with a humble thought of helping them in making livelihood. We paid 100 bucks for both of us. Oh… it was a lovely experience riding in a cart going on a slope, it was a funny ride of 10 minutes.
Handcart at Mount Abu. Puller is in a typical Rajasthan style dress.
We were expecting a little colder temperature at Mount Abu but it was the same heat what was there at Udaipur. Next day, our last day of trip we visited Dilwara Jain temples, Brahmakumaris ashram and Guru Shikhar temple.
Dilwara temples offers some glimpses of Khajuraho temples. These are dedicated to Jain revered saints like Adinath, Parsvnath and Mahaveer. The carving is all done in white marble while in Khajuraho it is sandstone. After tasting the workmanship of Khajuraho temples I found it a bit average, of course it has its own beauty and workmanship but the degree of intricacy and liveliness is far more at Khajuraho. If somebody visits this place without visiting Khajuraho then for him the experience would be unique and memorable. Photography was prohibited in the temples so could not click any picture.
Brahmakumaris is a big spiritual organisation run by women. They have a strong presence at Mount Abu, it is their headquarter. They have built a big ashram, a peace park and a museum displaying models of how to understand and practice spiritually in life. They have a dedicated team of man and women all claded in pure white. They address each other as brother and sister.
Personally, I feel, they are doing an awesome job by giving spiritual knowledge to common man both in English and Hindi and that is a reason why it is so popular in Northern region of India.
Guru Shikar is a Hindu temple signifying Dattatreya, who is an embodiment of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. It is the highest point in Aravalli hills of Rajasthan and it has an original footprint of Guru Dattatreya. We climbed approximately 300 steps to reach to the original cave where footprints are kept and worshipped every day. An interesting incident happen there which is really noteworthy, it was Ch’s birthday so we decided to make some donation, she opted to go for donation for food and the monk asked me about my choice, since I love cows and feel pity on their plight so was thinking to donate under this head, but just to make it simple I casually said include my donation also for food or ann. He quickly pointed out why don't you opt for donation for cows that is what you are thinking. I was amazed for a moment and quickly agreed to what he said. I was amazed how he read my mind. Realizing the fact that he was a practising yogi and with hard practice or sadhna no wonder he developed a power of reading minds of others, that's why it is said in yogic culture that you should not, rather cannot hide anything from your Guru.
Guru Shikhar cave where foot prints are kept.
Many recent incidents in my life are making me to realise that whatever I am wishing strongly gets manifested very quickly. I don't know what it is but for sure it is like as if somebody is reading my mind.
I noticed few mountain caves around Guru Shikhar, a living proof of how yogis practise inside these caves. No…no …don’t take me wrong, I was not tempted to go into any one of them to try meditation but yes it was something I saw for the first time. I was wondering, how yogis used to protect themselves from wild animals. Our guide was telling that even these days sometimes lion or bears come towards these caves. Imagine, nobody would even come to know if anything goes wrong with any yogi, how much courage and strong will power they must have to pursue their sadhna (practice). Check out picture below.
Cave near Guru Shikhar.
By the evening we completed all sightseeing of Mount Abu and wrapped up our trip to board train (Rajdhani Express) for a nightlong journey. I like to sleep on a perched seat where there is less of commotion, so I made reservation accordingly. Reached Delhi in the morning around 7 am. It was almost after 12 years that I travelled for a nightlong journey in an Indian train.
Throughout the trip I never ever missed my daily meditation though I cut it short sometimes but never skipped it doesn't matter whether it is an airport, hotel or a garden of whatever. I felt, our two days were short to cover all the tourist places of Udaipur, it should have been at least three days, excluding day of arrival and departure.
Overall it had been another wonderful journey filled with spiritual experience and and opportunity to feel the royal touch of Rajasthan.