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Published: March 3rd 2016
We breakfast in the palace in a large open jharoka overlooking the fort below and the town beyond. The view is wonderful and the food excellent, but the over-attentiveness of the staff is irritating beyond belief. They have obviously been taught they should use the customer’s name and do so to ludicrous excess. ‘Can I pour you some coffee, Mr Thomas? Would you like milk in that, Mr Thomas? Is there anything else I can get you, Mr Thomas?’ Soon followed by ‘How has your day been, Mr Thomas?’ Well, it’s only 8.30am and I have spent the last half hour waiting for my porridge and fending off your solicitous attention....
We decide to forego a visit to Udaipur that we have seen it before. Too hot, too crowded, feeling lazy..... Instead, we go for a walk in the village that sits beneath the palace. At 9.00 it is still a nice temperature, and we amble down narrow streets, greeted with a welcoming hello by many of the people we pass. They match our photos with appraising states, but it’s all good natured. We see a group of women mixing cement and carrying blocks of stone on their heads to
build a well while a man supervises. Eventually we reach the Jain temples which the guidebook tells us is worth visiting. It is, but not for the reasons the guidebook suggests. A new temple is being built, on the site of the ruins of the old one. We wander in, relieved that we don’t have to go barefoot as the place is still a building site. The main columns of the building are in place, and an impressive domed roof. The scaffolding is made of felled saplings tied together with thick twine. It bends slightly under the weight of the workers, who include women in saris hard at work on the roof. Not much concern for health and safety here. Straight ahead of us is a man with a small circular saw, cutting horizontal lines into a partly shaped block of stone. He has no safety goggles and is wearing flip flops. Once the horizontal cuts are complete, he takes a chisel and prises downwards, removing a layer of thickness from the slab, once layer at a time. The craftsmanship is impressive, but nowhere as detailed as some of the much older Jain temples we have seen.
through the village, and stop to buy some biscuits for future long journeys. The first stall does not have any plain biscuits but suggests we try his neighbour’s stall. He has none, but the first man scoots ahead of us to a third stall where a suitable pack is triumphantly produced, for the princely sum of five rupees (or five pence). By now it’s getting hot, so we adjourn to the hotel, in search of a shady spot to read our books. The few other visitors we see are all busy catching the rays, but like true Thomases we cover up and hug the shade.
Late afternoon and we set off to the Eklingji temples when we are told the locals visit and the tourists do not. This turns out to be true. We leave our cameras in the car, as there are security guards everywhere to ensure no photos and no defacing the temple. As we enter past a row of women selling garlands of flowers and baskets of temple offerings, we both comment on how much it reminds us of a temple we visited on our first trip to India five years ago. Then we realise that’s
because it IS the same temple! It was the royal temple, and has an impressive silver screen separating worshippers from the inner sanctum, and beautiful if heavily eroded carvings. We follow the worshippers round, to the sound of a solitary drummer.
Next stop is the Nagda temples. As we drive past a lake, Sara remembers we have also visited these. Confusingly, we stop in front a new temple in the course of construction. There seems to be no bar to visitors wandering around the site, so we pick our way round the newly carved sections of stone waiting their turn to be attached to the brick built framework. We watch in mixed admiration and trepidation as a team of workers use a very basic winch to raise a huge stone beam about 12 foot long by two foot high and wide, then manoeuvre it into position onto a small trolley that runs along a short section of rails. We gasp anxiously as one man ducks under the beam to rearrange the planks on the trolley, but he gets out in time before the beam is placed onto the planks, ready to be moved twenty yards further along.
We are now very confused about where the old temples are, or were. We drive on a bit further, and see the top of one temple almost submerged in the lake, and then finally reach the beautiful, intricately carved small sandstone temples that Sara remembered. It’s a perfect time of day to see them – nobody else there and much cooler now it’s 6.00pm in the evening.
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