The road's alright and the toll is high. But the destination can bowl you over. And I am not talking about the oft visited Jaipur. There is so much more to Rajasthan. Jaipur is just the gateway and does not prepare you for the countless havelis and forts you will find staring at you out of nowhere. Once again I hit the road to one of my ever favourite destination- Rajasthan- a place I ancestrally hail from and a land I feel a soul-strong connection with. Here starts the whirlwind journey I plan to stretch out longer over the years.
Jaipur has never been my favourite Rajasthani city but since it fell on our way to the picturesque Jodhpur, we decided we might as well troop our way through the Amber Fort. Everything at the Pink City’s fort is under renovation and appears quite in disarray as of now. Though no heritage conservation expert myself I quite did not like the paint shades being brushed up on the entry areas of the fort and it just did not look authentic enough. The ‘Sheesh Mahal’ is decidedly looking better though and they plan to charge people exorbitantly for a peek into the mirrored walls of the famed royal boudoir after the renovation is completed, the informed guide at Amber told us.
Highly recommended a look into the Rajput style air conditioning system of those days and the existence of a palace for every season- winter palace which got enough sun, the summer palace with smartly crafted stone tunnel based air cooling systems and ‘jaalidaar; windows drawing in the saffron laced cooling aroma wafting from the Kesar Garden beneath and a monsoon palace with ‘Sawan ka jhoolas’ and a mirror on top so the queen could catch herself in the mirror as she enjoyed the swings. Do take a photograph of the woman’s only section with small ‘jharokhas’ for the ladies to watch their husbands got to war. And then there are the queen size bed like ‘Kadhais’/vessels to cook for the army. Don’t miss the huge canon visible near the fort walls- reminds me of W B Yeats poetic fascination with the Tower.
I quite like Jal Mahal just along the road down from Amber. The romantic sunken palace. Untouchably scenic.
Then there is Chowki Dhani- an ethnic Rajasthani village created by artifice some 15 kms off Jaipur. Verdict- great for NRIs and not bad for Indians also. With Jaadugar and Kathputli shows its back to childhood capers along the streets. Then there are some good folk dancers as well who have a keen eye for foreign visitors and. Camel rides, elephant rides are all there besides the beloved Jyotishi ji (Astrologer). But what’s the best is the food. The Rajasthani thali served in just the right ambience, seating on mats, pattals or dried leaf plates, bajre ki khichdi, daal, besan ki sabzi and pyaz ki subzi, makke/jau/wheat rotis and jalebis- quite a mouthful. I missed bajre ki rotis thoughL. Overall quite a likeable experience.
P.S.- Nice stop over on the Delhi-Jaipur route- Moti Mahal somewhere along NH 8. Fresh food. Great pakoras