Footprints in the sand

Travel tales

Footprints in the sand

I had long dreamt of myself as a Rajput princess draped in ‘bandhej’ and wearing ‘Jadau’ and ‘Meenakari’ jewellery. A five-day trip to Jaipur brought me closer to this dream! The ‘Pink City’ had always been on the list of places that I wanted to see. So when my aunt, who was going there on a holiday, invited me and my mother to join her, we just jumped at the opportunity.

It was winter and we had been warned that it was going to be biting cold. When we landed, it was no surprise that we were greeted by chilly winds. We checked into Bissau Palace Hotel, which was built in 1920. On the first day, we visited the famed City Palace, passing the Chand Pol (the Western gate). A palace complex with four large courtyards, the City Palace was the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur and a portion of it still is a residence to the royals. It has an amalgamation of Rajput, Mughal and European architecture and is built with marble and sandstone. The interiors consist of paintings and murals reflecting the culture of Rajasthan.

The ‘Mubarak Mahal’, which was once a reception centre, is now a textile museum. My favourite was the ‘Pitam Niwas Chowk’, which is an inner courtyard. It has four entrances representing the four seasons and each doorway is decorated intricately. The ‘Diwan-E-Khas’, which used to be a private hall, now houses two large silver urns which according to the Guinness Book of Records are the world’s largest sterling silver objects.

The Jantar Mantar is a stone’s throw from here. We were left amazed by the ingenious devices built about 200 years back to track planetary positions, predict eclipses and measure time accurately. We then walked past the Hawa Mahal and had a traditional Marwari meal of ‘dal bati churma’, ‘missi roti’, ‘gatte ki sabji’ and thick ‘lassi’. Later, we went shopping in the old city. We ended the day watching the sun set from Nahargarh Fort, which is situated on the edge of the Aravalli Hills.

The next day, we went to Amber. On the way, we caught a glimpse of the Jal Mahal, which is situated in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake. Throughout the short drive, we saw peacocks prancing around, unfazed by the cars. Though I have travelled quite a bit, I haven’t come across a fort as marvellous as the one in Amber. The entire town is nestled in the Aravalli Hills.

Another fascinating structure was the Sheesh Mahal, which is studded with thousands of mirrors. The guide told us that at night the mirrored ceiling looks like a sky full of stars in the presence of oil lamps. The interiors are adorned with inlay work, marble lattice work and murals.  On returning, we spent the evening shopping in Sanganer, the block-printing and blue-pottery centre of Jaipur. We stumbled upon a factory and the workers were kind enough to explain to us how blue pottery is made.

The next morning, we proceeded to Sariska National Park. Braving the early morning chill, we went on a safari and after two hours in the national park, we returned dejected and frozen as we were unable to spot a tiger. But on the brighter side, we did see herds of spotted deer, barking deer, langurs, peacocks, wild boar and the famed nilgai. Later in the day, we visited the Siliserh Lake which is surrounded by the Aravalli Hills.

From there, we went to the Bhangarh Fort, considered as one of India’s most haunted sites. We walked around the desolate town soaking in the legends of the place and admiring the temples within the fort, that are architecturally notable. As the sun set on the last day, we quietly walked out of the ruins with a chill running down our spine.

When we returned to Bengaluru, I felt as though I had woken up from a dream. Now that I have caught a glimpse of Rajasthan, I definitely want to go back for more.


(The author can be reached at rijutha.jaganathan@gmail.com)

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