Our Rajasthan Holiday

Holiday tourism is a great stress buster. It is especially so when one leaves it a little unplanned and is mentally prepared for some surprises and excitements. Our recent vacation to Rajasthan falls into this category in several respects. To start with,we were not exactly sure where we were going to go until a week before we actually left Mumbai. We kept going back and forth mentally between Hill stations in Himalayas on the one hand and a much drier place like Rajasthan. Finally we decided on Rajasthan as we were advised not to venture into Nainital or any other hill station where the rains could potentially spoil a holiday. Having decided on Rajasthan,we didn’t yet make up our mind as to the actual destinations for our visit. Therefore,we made only 2 train bookings – one from Mumbai to Jaipur and the return journey from Udaipur to Mumbai with a gap of 8 days. This meant that we were totally free to decide our programme within Rajasthan for the entire 8 days. We were toying with a couple of options like:
Jaipur – Pushkar – Jaisalmer-Udaipur & back or alternatively,Jaipur -Pushkar-Udaipur – Mount Abu. The thought of going to Jaisalmer to watch the famous sand dunes was very exciting and kept us motivated even before the trip started,although we were repeatedly warned of temperatures as high as 45deg.C.
We finally left Mumbai on a Saturday night (by train) for Jaipur keeping all our options open. As we got up on the following morning,we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the train would be passing through Abu station by about 10am,which is hardly an hour’s drive away from the well known hill station Mount Abu.We quickly decided to break our journey at Mount Abu and got off the train. Since it was not a planned halt,we had to explore on our own for a hotel room. Having settled for a budget hotel,we started exploring Mount Abu instantly. The weather was great – cloudy and chilly with occasional showers,typical of any hill station. We climbed and walked around some of the nice ‘view’ points even as it was drizzling and threatening to get us all wet. The foggy atmosphere added grandeur to the view as one looked into the valleys down below. We returned as it was getting dark and were ready for a hot cup of tea,which was readily served by a waiting chaiwala.
On the following day we went around various tourist places,including the famous Brahmakumaris’ world headquarters. As expected,we were treated(?)to a brief lecture on their philosophy by the local staff. This was followed by a visit to an excellent rose garden nearby,maintained by Brhmakumaris. However,here we were in for an(unpleasant)surprise as we were virtually held captive by the staff who forced us to listen to their lecture before we entered the garden. Many including us meekly protested as we felt it was not in good taste. It appears that it is this kind of aggressive preaching that has put off many local residents of Mount Abu from this cult,although their philosophy of life is otherwise practical and impressive.

Yet another great place worth visiting in Mount Abu is the famous Dilwara temple. The temple’s intricate architecture, made out of marble stones,is simply astounding for its detail,fineness and beauty.
The following day we left Mount Abu for Jaipur by an overnight ‘luxury bus'(with sleeper berths). I didn’t find anything luxurious about it,though,as we were jolted out of our sleep every now and then at a regular (and unpredictable) frequency. We reached Jaipur early in the morning and were in for a surprise as the hotel booked through internet gave a completly misleading picture. We had to compromise on ambience and location as our main focus was to see the pink city,which we did for two full days. Hawa Mahal & the Amber Fort were the two main attractions. Then we drove to Pushkar which boasts of the only temple for Brahmaji. We also visited a Vaishnavite shrine nearby and returned to Jaipur.
Very interestingly,our driver was well informed about the various pujas one is supposed to perform at Pushkar,although he was a muslim. He was a simple minded and a somewhat naive guy who had to completely depend upon his clients for calculating the fare at the end of the trip. When I tried to motivate him to learn some basic arithmatic,he retorted saying if he could learn arithmatic why would he be still driving a taxi for tourists!
And what a cultural contrast this driver provided to the Mumbai tourist taxiwalas with his genuine respect for the elderly.(throughout the tour he was addressing me as “bapuji” – a highly respectable term for the elderly. One is not used to being addressed in such terms in a highly businesslike city city like Mumbai).

We left Jaipur and reached Udaipur by train on the fifth day morning,having decided to skip Jaisalmer.
Udaipur is a city with a completely different flavour altogether – it is man made,beautiful and simply grand. The city was built around the old palaces and forts with man made lakes,which are interconnected. (Unfortunately,there is not much water in many lakes). One famous fort Kumbalgadh, near Udaipur boasts of a wall construction similar to the great wall of china,although,perhaps,not as long.
Talk to anyone in the city and you will hear a lecture on Maharanapratap Singh – whether it is the tourist taxi wala or the hotelier or a shopkeeper. Maharana is as famous as Shivaji in Maharashtra. He was one king who defied Akbar and refused to accept defeat and is well known for the famous battle of Haldighat(a suburb at the outskirts of Udaipur). There are palaces,forts,gardens and several memorials named after him.
We also visited a very famous Jain temple at a place called Raunakpur which is about 90km away from Udaipur. This temple reminded us of Dilwara temple at Mount Abu.
Following day was essentially spent in visiting the famous pilgrim centre – Nathdwara – to have darshan of SRINATHJI and that marked the end of our sightseeing.
We had one full day left for shopping which we did with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm.
Throughout the trip,there was uncertainty about food and hunting for good native food certainly did provide a lot of suspense and fun although at times very frustrating. Funnily,at each place,we explored and explored for good and decent restaurants and found something of value and taste only towards the end of our stay in each place!

The trip to Raunakpur was also full of uncertainties. Initially,it was sunny,then as our car raced through the beautiful ghat roads,there were continuous sharp showers and it took more time than we budgeted. This meant that we missed our scheduled ‘free jain lunch’ provided at the temple. As that was the only place for food in the midst of a virtual jungle,we had to skip our lunch almost. That was when something very unexpected happened. Our driver took the blame upon himself for our missed lunch and made a detour for several kilometers to find an alternative place to get us food. Finally,we found a roadside dhaba which provided very clean,simple,and hot chappatis,sabji and dal. This was in keeping with the spirit with which we undertook the tour – that is do not plan too much in advance – take things as they come – be prepared for surprises – do not complain -accept everything without feeling frustrated. Needless to say,we had lots of arguments,debates,points,counter-points etc throughout the trip,which I suppose we all enjoyed.

Published in: on July 24, 2010 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment  

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