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    Rajasthani Culture is different

    by lynnehamman Updated Mar 31, 2009

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    Favorite thing: The Ghoomar dance from Udaipur and Fire dances of Jaisalmer have their own distinct style and portray the cultural heritage of Rajasthan. The music is simple but compelling, and the dances depict personal relationships and daily life, often focused around collecting water from wells. Female dancers twirl while balancing up to 6 pots on their heads. The grace and balance displayed in these whirling dances is breathtaking. The top most pot has a fire burning in it.(It is often called Fire-Dancing)
    Folk music is also a vital part of Rajasthani culture. Folk songs are commonly ballads which relate heroic deeds and love stories. Religious or devotional songs known as bhajans and banis (often accompanied by musical instruments like dholak, sitar and sarangi ) are also part of the repartoire.
    The songs are plaintive, and even if one does not understand the words- the story told through the dance is easy to understand and follow.

    Fondest memory: The Colours, Music and Dancing are so completely different from the other states in India.
    Rajasthani turbans are tied in distinctly different ways, and the colours of the turbans usually are indicative of caste.
    Rajasthani traditional dress for women is usually an ankle length skirt and a short top, known as a choli. A shawl is used to cover the head, both for protection from heat and maintenance of modesty. Rajasthani dresses are in bright-in colours of yellow, orange red and blue. The women are graceful, and they have amazing posture- even in old age.

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    Macaques and langurs

    by toonsarah Written Nov 18, 2015

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    Favorite thing: We are both rather fond of monkeys and enjoy watching their antics, as I believe many people do. It is those “almost human” traits that make them so appealing I reckon. And on this trip we got several good opportunities to watch them in action. There are two species seen in Rajasthan – langurs and macaques. We saw both in various places including macaques near the Amber Fort, and in Bundi (where a troop woke us as they came through the town early in the morning in search of food), and langurs at Chittaurgarh, by the roadside on our way to Udaipur, in Narlai, and again in Bundi (where our guide told us they wait till the macaques have visited the town from their sleeping area on the mountainside and then head down there themselves). We had also seen macaques in Agra – on the city streets, at Itimad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb – even at the railway station!

    The macaques seen here in India are Rhesus Macaques. They are brown or grey, with a medium length tail (usually a little over 20 cm) and a pink face. They live in large troops (up to 200 in number) and their native habitats are grasslands and mountains, but they have become very comfortable living alongside humans and are increasingly moving into urban areas, as we saw. And while we may find them cute and fun to watch, for the locals they pose something of a problem, stealing food and other items too. As they scavenged through the streets of Bundi we saw one local man raise a gun – not to shoot them, or even above their heads, but because they have learned (presumably because some have been shot) to run simply at the sight of a gun.

    India’s langurs are Grey or Hanuman Langurs (the latter name taken from the Hindu god). They are a pale or yellowish grey with a black face and long tails (up to 100 cm and always longer than their body). I found them more attractive than the macaques, with expressive faces and the tail curled rather elegantly. Like the macaques they are increasingly moving away from their natural habitats, which include forests, mountains and grasslands, to more urban environments. I have read that Jodhpur alone has a population of around a million langurs! They are considered sacred in the Hindu religion and are therefore less likely to be regarded as pests like the macaques, although they do regularly steal food and crops.

    Langur, Narlai Langurs, Chittaurgarh Langur, Chittaurgarh Macaques on the hillside in Bundi Macaques in Agra

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    Clothes Iron of Puskar

    by herzog63 Written Jun 28, 2003

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    Favorite thing: As I wandered the streets of Pushkar one afternoon I spotted this Clothes Iron across the street. Hmmmm....Looked like a cool photo opportunity! So I walked across the street focused and snap!! Well not 2 seconds later here comes an irate shop owner demanding payment for the photo!! LOL I couldn't believe it. I had been pressured for payment of people but it was the first time that it had happened for a clothes iron!! We talked back and forth and the guy finally realized that I wasn't going to pay him so he waved me away in disgust!!
    The iron was very cool...It used fire red hot coals to heat it up! I don't think my wife would want one of these for an anniversary gift though!

    Fondest memory: Maybe this should be under warnings and dangers for "Don't take pictures of clothes irons"!!

    Clothes iron
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  • Jaisalmer: organise a camel safari

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 28, 2003

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    Favorite thing: In Jaisalmer, the main activity is organising a camel safari. I never had been on a camel before, neither did I travel that intensively in the desert and I really wanted to experience it.

    The season of 2001/02 was disastrous due to 09/11 and the tensions with Pakistan on the border.

    And, to be honest, with such large numbers of troops in Jaisalmer, an ever continuing flow of vehicles and tanks driving through the Rajasthani desert towards the border, and the never ending noise of the military planes above the area, made the region a bit less attractive indeed.
    But I didn’t believe there was a war upcoming, and didn’t feel unsafe for a single second!

    Mieerh brought me tea, rum en cigarettes and of course he soon brought up the camel trek. He told me that next day a nice Norwegian girl and a French couple took off for 6 days in the desert, and that they were looking for others. I was charmed with that idea and negotiated the price at Rs. 3000 ($65) all in, including 2 bottles of rum and a chicken (to be bought locally). Exhausted after the long journey I agreed. Moreover he had been recommended by a friend from Pushkar!

    He accompanied me to a money changer, so that I couldn’t be approached by other organisers and it was hardly acceptable to him that I “only” wanted to pay 80% in advance.

    Now that the deal was made, Mieerh was suddenly not that friendly anymore. I wondered where the Norwegian girl was, but Mieerh said she was having diner with the French couple and would come late. But also the next morning there was no Norwegian, and no French. I was dropped some 30 km west of Jaisalmer, and the only living creatures there were 2 camels and a local “camelboy”.

    And however Mieerh assured me that the others were only 1 hour in front, I knew I would be alone with the camel boy for 6 days in the desert. Tricked by another Indian bastard. It cost me a few hours to get used to the idea, but I realised that I had to make the best out of it.

    trying to get used to the camel
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  • Camel safari: something about the daily routine

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 28, 2003

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    Favorite thing: About every day we got into an addictive routine:

    1. At sunrise: preparing breakfast, doing dishes, saddling and packing the camels;

    2. Riding for about 3 hours;

    3. Unloading the camels, preparing lunch, doing dishes, saddle and pack the camels;

    4. Riding for about 2,5 hours;

    5. Before sunset: unloading the camels, preparing supper, doing dishes and making up sleeping spot (open air);

    Lep always consulted me what I wished to eat, but the choice was, of course, limited.

    The common menu was:
    Breakfast: Indian tea (Chai), followed by toast with jam, porridge and fruit (banana or orange)
    Lunch: Chai, instant noodles with fresh vegetables or lentils and herbs, together with chapatti (Indian flat bread);
    Supper: Chai, rice with fresh vegetables or lentils and herbs (richer than lunch), and chapatti;

    Since he cooked on a small fire, he first made tea, then noodles or rice, then the sauce and vegetables and finally the chapatti. The meals were fantastic, a great job!

    Without exception, he waited with eating until I had enough. When he finished his meal, he cleaned the dishes using the fine desert sand, that was miraculously suitable for that job in a environment that water is very scarce.

    All in all, Lep was busy from sunrise to sunset and I couldn’t be angry with him that he wasn’t interested in having a good time together.
    For him this trip was no more than a job. He did all the work and I only had to rest, ride the camel, eat and enjoy the serenity of the desert.

    Lep preparing a tasty dish
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  • Camel safari: no chappatti, no chay!

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 31, 2003

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    Favorite thing: My guide annex camelboy Lep was not very talkative.

    I tried to make a bit of conversation, but he always replied with "yes", "no" or "nothing". This attitude didn’t change much during the next 5 days.

    Lep was a 22-year old man from a nearby settlement, who worked for the camel owner. Despite his age he was very experienced and carried out his tough job perfectly. But I realised soon that I shouldn’t expect too much more than that.

    Instead I found it much more satisfying to enjoy the slow and monotonous movements of the camel and the ultimate silence in which I almost reached some state of trance.

    We passed Lep’s home village, picturesque mud houses in mushroom shape. Sometimes the people also use stones of nearby ancient ruined settlements.
    The turbaned men in their sarongs sang cheerfully “No chapatti , No chay”.

    village people
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    Our tour of Rajasthan

    by toonsarah Written Nov 18, 2015

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    Favorite thing: We originally planned on doing a group tour in India - not because we prefer travelling with a group (though we have enjoyed a few such tours in the past) but because my parents' frail health makes booking not too far in advance a priority and therefore organising a tailor-made tour somewhat harder. But when we contacted TransIndus about their "Rajasthan: Land of Kings" tour, which seemed to visit a good selection of major sights but also the off path places that interested us just as much, we were told that no one else had booked that tour for our chosen dates and that for an additional £125 per person we could do it as a private tour. We wouldn't have a guide to accompany us throughout, but would travel in a car between all the places on the route and have a guide in each. That seemed a good deal to us so we booked the tour and also a suggested extension to take in Ranthambore for (hopefully) some tiger-spotting.

    The full itinerary covered:
    Delhi - 2 nights
    Agra - 1 night
    Jaipur - 2 nights
    Khimsar (a village with a heritage hotel in an old fort) - 1 night
    Jaisalmer - 2 nights
    Dechu (a chance to stay in a desert camp) - 1 night
    Jodhpur (we didn't stay here but visited for the day en route between Dechu and Narlai)
    Narlai (another village with a heritage hotel) - 2 nights
    Udaipur - 2 nights
    Bundi (a small town where we stayed in a lovely old haveli) - 1 night
    Ranthambore - 2 nights
    And back to Delhi - 1 night

    The journey from Delhi to Agra, and the return to Delhi from Ranthambore, were by train. For the rest of the trip we had the same car and driver, the wonderful Mehar, who looked after us so well. Everything ran very smoothly. At the major destinations we were met by a rep from the local tour office, who welcomed us to the hotel and confirmed plans for sightseeing etc. In the smaller places (Khimsar, Narlai and the desert camp) we looked after ourselves, which of course we are quite capable of doing, and either explored on our own (Khimsar) or took optional excursions provided by the hotel (Narlai).

    The guides were generally very good, with some exceptionally so, including in Agra where our guide Sourav proposed changing the TransIndus programme so we saw Taj Mahal earlier in the day before it got quite as crowded as it does later, and took us to a great spot on the far side of the river to see it at sunset, which wasn't on the programme. Similarly in Jaipur our guide added a walk in the spice market when we expressed an interest. The only place where we were less impressed by our guide was in Jodhpur - he messed Mehar around by making him pick him up at a hotel rather than meet us at the fort, so we lost time; he didn't allow us the time for photos that others had done; and was rude to other (Indian) tourists, pushing them out of the way so we could see things when we would much rather have taken our turn.

    For the most part we were equally pleased with the hotels, which were mostly of a very high standard. Narlai was our favourite - I loved the fact that it hadn't been over-restored, and it had a great pool for relaxing as well as interesting activities and excellent food in its rooftop restaurant. I would like to have stayed an extra night there. We also loved the desert camp at Samsara, and Bundi Vilas Haveli. We liked the Tiger Den Resort in Ranthambore the least, and were also not so impressed by the Lalit in Udaipur, which looks impressive but lacks the facilities you might expect from such a grand hotel such as a pool and bar.

    These are minor quibbles however, and I wouldn't hesitate in recommending TransIndus in general, and this tour in particular.

    Fatehpur Sikri Jaisalmer Thar Desert Udaipur Ranthambore
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  • Camel Safari: something about camels

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 31, 2003

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    Favorite thing: Camels are fairly relaxed and slow animals, that are much more easy to steer and ride than horses.

    Unlike during my horsetrek in Kyrgyzstan, I didn’t suffer from saddle soreness at all; I only felt the muscles a bit in the beginning.

    One of the 2 (male) camels was in his yearly mating quarter; As soon as a female was around he started producing impressive gargling noises and he wagged his tail strongly between his legs.

    My camel boy annex guide Lep said he already had been bitten by an angry and helpless camel before and that I had to be careful. So I rode the other one, that instantly hardly wanted to listen to me.

    It took quite a while before I managed the local command for “sit down”. But the reins were fastened through the nostrils, so I learned fast to make him listen in the end!

    A less attractive feature of the camels is that they are extremely flatulent. They produce gigantic farts and the smell made me almost faint. But you know that, when you hear the thundering noise, you have to hold in your breath for 20 seconds!

    Experienced camel driver :-)
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  • Camel safari: something about water

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 31, 2003

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    Favorite thing: In this desert area are very few water sources, which are irregularly fed by pipelines from town. At these places it was always very crowded and lively.

    People from nearby settlements came to fill up their water bags, and also huge numbers of camels, cows, sheep and goats –that usually hang around more fertile area’s- cover large distances for their daily drink.

    Of course our camels had to drink as well (daily or once in 2 days) and Lep took that into account when planning our route. For me this always was some kind of highlight.

    As there was an opportunity to visit the villages, I could observe desert life closely and mingle with the friendly people.

    Kids approached me and took me to their parents houses, where I had to take their pictures and where they offered local products like opium, desert wine or crafts products.

    at the drink water place
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  • Camel safari: something about the work

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 31, 2003

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    Favorite thing: During the camel safari, a lot of work has to be done, but it always irritated Lep if I wanted to assist him.

    I was allowed to help with collecting wood, though, a 2 times daily job. Then he could already start with preparing tea.

    Also when (un-)saddling and (un-)packing the camels he demanded my help. This is an extensive and accurate job, that is repeated 2 times a day. It’s really a craft to distribute the load correctly over the camels. If the job’s done not well, the camels feel very uncomfortable and they’re not nice to ride on.

    And we brought a lot into the desert. A big bag of fodder for the camels, food for us enough for 6 days, 2 small tanks of water, numerous blankets, 24 bottles of drinking water and my own backpack.

    And everywhere we stopped locals came around. They know from experience that tourists bring a lot of delicacies.

    Lep was very generous. He knew it was a good idea to be friends with the locals around the camp sites and moreover we had more than enough!

    locals around for a chat
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  • Camel safari: sleep under the stars

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 28, 2003

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    Favorite thing: During the second night, just after we were asleep, our dog woke me up with a lot of noise.

    This dog followed us all the time and defended it’s territory heroically. Suddenly a man stood besides my sleeping bag, who started arguing heavily with Lep.

    The man left and Lep told me; “this man is crazy, he will come back soon”! It frightened me a bit. It were so vulnerable here, sleeping in the sand!

    The stranger came back at sunrise and turned out to be, besides curious, aiming at no more than a share in our breakfast!

    We always slept in the dunes, under the amazingly star filled sky. After some nights I could even recognise them and calculate the actual time!

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  • Camel safari: absolute silence

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 31, 2003

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    Favorite thing: The third day Lep proposed to make a short roundtrip and stay the whole afternoon around some beautiful dunes.

    He told me that we couldn’t complete our itinerary, since the area where we were up to had been seized by Indian troops and it’s inhabitants were evacuated. Lep was scared.

    I wasn’t very happy with that but had not much choice. Lying under a bush that afternoon, I experienced something mystical: Absolute silence for hours! Absence of all sound. I doubted that I felt this ever before in my life.

    Later that day we encountered a small caravan with 2 tourists, the only time in 5 days that we met other foreigners.

    tranquillity
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  • Camel safari: most unlikely place to find a coke

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 31, 2003

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    Favorite thing: The forth day, after hours of barren, deserted land, we passed suddenly a small shelter where apparently a man lived.

    A bigger surprise was even that he had a plastic bag with sodas on offer! Although he didn’t succeeded in keeping them cold, I bought 2 cola from him, stimulating local economy :-)!

    In the evening we had company again, this time an old shepherd, who was attracted by the fire.
    He was also glad with my bottle of rum (and I as well, finally someone to drink with, and soon he drank enough to fall down asleep in our camp.

    Next morning, when I woke up, he had already disappeared.

    desert trader
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  • Camel safari: looking for a chicken all day

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 28, 2003

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    Favorite thing: The fifth day we searched most of the day for a chicken.

    That’s what I had negotiated with Mieerh! But according to Lep it was not that easy to find one. He had already informed at the village the day before, but no chickens there!

    Chickens are not common in the desert and are only eaten at very special occasions!
    Eventually we obtained one at an abandoned settlement where only one family still lived.

    After lunch he skilfully slaughtered the animal and when he wanted to halt in the vicinity of a group of houses that evening, I refused staying there. While the kids already came out to beg, I felt so much ashamed of the chicken (locals only eat chicken at very rare occasions, like weddings), and there would never be enough for all.

    The 6th day I was fed up with the solitude and I told Lep that I wanted be back in Jaisalmer before lunch, something that he approved heartily. Of course he expected a tip. He already had enquired after my fleece, but instead I gave him Rs. 300 ($7), a very nice extra for him and his family!

    finally we found a chicken
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    The faces of Rajasthan

    by toonsarah Written Nov 18, 2015

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    Favorite thing: Anyone who has visited some of my other VT pages will know that I enjoy street photography and shooting candid pictures of the local people. Unlike many places we have visited, I found everywhere in Rajasthan that even if people spotted my camera they seemed happy to let me continue to snap away, only occasionally indicating that I should refrain from taking their photo. And many were happy, even keen, to pose for photos, like the woman in traditional dress in my main photo here whom we met in Narlai. In fact all of these photos were taken with the subject’s permission apart from the second one, which was snatched on the streets of Jodhpur.

    We were also often approached with requests to appear in other people’s photos. We posed with young school boys in Chittaurgargh, a family in Jaipur, another family in a restaurant car park (see photo five - they all piled out of their minibus to pose with me!), fellow tourists in the Sahelion Ki Bari gardens in Udaipur and at Fatehpur Sikri. Mehar joked that we were becoming more famous than a Bollywood star!

    In Narlai In Jodhpur In Narlai Amber Fort Restaurant car park near Pokhran
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