For as long as I can remember, Rajasthan was on my list of places to visit. I’m not entirely sure why the forts and palaces of this desert region called to me. I’d read the book The Far Pavilions by MM Kaye and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t due to that as quite frankly, I thought it was crap.
There are two things that stand out now in my mind when thinking back to our trip –
1) The food – let me start by saying I adore Indian food, I consume it on a regular basis, so having a whole region of new delicious dishes to try was amazing. I proved to myself, I really can eat Indian food for 3 meals a day for 3 weeks and not get fed up with it. The stuffed paratha and yogurt or spicy vegetable patties were to die for – and that was just breakfast. But I digress…
2) The colour – although Rajasthan itself is a desert region, colour is the one thing that remains with me. The sandy desert, the red of the Agra fort, the white of the Taj Mahal, the blue of Jodphur, the vibrant haveli paintings, the rainbow of colours of the saris and the vegetables in the markets.
The red fort at Agra is a 16th century, Unesco World Heritage site, built by Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan was the Mughal emperor who is primarily known for builting the Taj Mahal for his wife. The current fort was built on the site of a much earlier 11th century fort. Within the 2.5km long fort wall are a number of palaces, mosques and audience halls. Like many other buildings throughout Rajasthan, the clearly Persian influenced stone carving is apparent.
As for the Taj Mahal, typically the photos are from a disance showing the reflecting pool with the gleaming white domed building in the distance. What is surprising is that up close, the building is actually an array of creams and soft pastel shades. Its spectacularly beautiful with the stone carvings and stone inlays which you simply can’t see from a distance.
The beautiful saris worn by the women are vibrant. Even wearing the brightest of clothing, my western dress fails to compare to the colour of these incredible hues. While many Indian women do wear western clothing, particularly in the cities, it was so nice to see the more traditional saris being worn by so many.
From what we were told, both Hindu and Muslim women wear the sari and both religions at times use part of the fabric to cover the head (but not the face) but the decoration on the fabric usually indicates which religion a woman is. Regardless, I was entranced by the colours of these beautiful garments.
Festivals and processions seemed to be a regular occurance, or maybe we were just lucky to see so many? These girls were dazzling in their array of bright colours. I’ve no idea what this particular procession was for but we couldn’t help but stop and watch this colourful sight.
We were lucky enough to bare witness to an evening wedding procession. The prince was riding the elephant to the palace for the wedding ceremony to the local princess. The elephant was decorated with elaborate paint job portraying a tiger on its face.
With the wedding procession, there were marching style bands, horses, camels and people in their finest costumes. But for us, the painted elephant was definitely the highlight of the happy occassion.
Even travelling by road through Rajasthan is colourful, when you have these beautifully painted trucks everywhere. Many of the trucks also had decorations in and around the cab area for a full 360 degree experience.
And finally the fruit and vegetable markets. No wonder the food is so amazing with such a variety of fresh produce available!
Rajasthan certainly didn’t disappoint in anyway. It left me hankering to see more of this amazing country and dare I say, further sampling the cuisine.
If you have made it this far, you may also enjoy this previous blog post regarding funny signs I spotted while travelling through Rajasthan.