Published: July 25th 2006May 10th 2005
...Expecting marbled Island palaces floating like mirages on placid blue waters. We arrived in the yellow cool of morning after an 18hr trip up from Mumbai to Udaipur, the city of Lakes, to find the mirrored oasis of Lake Pichola was no more. The lovelorn palaces sat stranded in a barren dusty wasteland thirsting for the return of the tranquil neutralising waters that are the very essence of Udaipurs majesty. The ambience of desire was palpable - as though every building, mountain, man and beast longed for the return of the cities lifeblood with such intensity; suspending the city in state of glorious melancholic yearning.
Udaipur is a victim of its own beauty. Local mismanagement and the undoubted and the ever increasing popularity of Udaipur has put such a strain on its most valuable commodity - the fickle visitor in search of packaged romance is now passing it by in ever increasing numbers - ironically hastening the return of Udaipurs mystical beauty and once again the marauding masses.
So ineffective were Brad and I in our tourist duties - that on our first day in Udaipur we missed the opening of the yearly Mewar festival. Fortunately the festival continued for
a further two days; welcoming the advent of spring, with local women gathering in their best clothes to dress images of Isar and Gangaur and carry them in a ceremonial procession through different parts of the city. Culminating in various cultural displays of singing and dancing.
Happy with our first taste of Rajasthan we continued onto the blue city of Jodphur…
Away from marauding tribes, feuding neighbours and foreign invaders, Supplanted atop sheer rock walls rising menacingly to the sky, Mehrangah (magnificent) fort In the middle of the barren desert landscape of Jodphur, is a poignant relic of this once feudal land. Mehrangah fort bellows the kind of dominance over its surroundings I am yet to see from any fortress in the world. In the days before carpet bombs and lazer-guided missiles, this place must have been impenetrable. Its not hard to see why they picked this location…building it would have been another prospect entirely.
More than the fortress however, Jodphur (apart from the pants) is probably most famous for it’s sky blue lego land houses scattered around the base of the fort.
So anyway, that’s the cultural bit out the way… to be honest, it took Brad
and I three days to motivate ourselves to take the rickshaw the kilometer or so to the forts base! Besides, from our very own, very blue and rather gay ‘Cozy Guest House’ we could admire the city from the confines of our rooftop restaurant as backpackers doing India in a month, complaining incessantly about the heat and general hassles, would come and go at such speed it felt as though we were in a state of suspended animation.
Plus, let’s just say the sexual orientation of the staff at our guest house gave Brad a feeling of what it’s like as a western women traveling in India;-)
Then one day the manager came to my room rather flustered after reading some of my random ramblings I’d left on his desktop, convinced I was working for a guide book. Of course I denied this insult, though he wasn’t convinced - so we milked it for what it was worth - and the manager set as up in very nice room so as we could watch the football with lashings of buttered toast and Vegemite (vegemite is an inferior, yet equally scrumptious, Australian Marmite wannabe).
Continuing in a straight line, and
therefore skipping Jaisalmer and the ubiquitous camel safari that would almost certainly entail, we headed for Pushkar…
White-washed dhamshalas encircle Pushkar Lake, with ghats leading down to the sacred waters, said to have materialized when Brahman dropped a lotus flower here. Hindus come here to bathe and be cleansed in a scene reminiscent of those on the sacred Ganges in Varanasi (minus the cremations).
Beyond this bastion of undeniable spiritual tranquility, devout Hinduism collides head-on with 21st Century hippie ‘culture’ - where hourdes of tai dyed, red eyed, vegetarian, Bob Marley aficionados amass to sample a taste of true spirituality in futile rehabilitation from their increasingly superficial material worlds of origin.
Our room in Pushkar was sublime; with a balcony overlooking the lake, allowing us to sit back and watch the timeless daily rituals unfold before our eyes - only returning to the Che Guevara-chillum-convention beyond, to replenish our supply of smokes and buy our tickets outta-there!
The looks, smells and feel of the middle East abound in Rajasthan, yet oddly there are women everywhere, dressed in an array of colourful saris - adding an undeniably unique dimension... and despite receiving the bulk of India’s foreign visitors;
Rajasthan still somehow manages to retains it's very real historic and exotic appeal.
But mostly for me, Rajasthan epitomizes the sheer variety of India’s many different states, their religions, cultures and languages. After my second visit to India I’m now beginning to realize I’ve still hardly scratched the surface, and yet can conclude that the term ‘India’ should be seen in the same context as 'Europe' - it is a continent and not a country…In fact … India could yet be more diverse than Europe itself?!
There are more photos below