Rajasthan India

Driving route thru Rajastan







In September we flew to New Delhi, India and took a 21 day, 1570 mile (2617 kilometer) driving trip in the state of Rajasthan.

Our touring vehicle











Our Driver Kahn and car. Khan is from Rajasthan and provided insight into the things we would see along the way. At each city we visited we also had a local guide. Interestingly, the tour company rules were such that Khan was not allowed to tell us anything when a guide was with us. However, we spent many hours driving across the countryside with only Khan in the car and his take on things added a richness to our experience that we greatly value.

Humayun's Tomb Gupta Pillar

Delhi has many interesting sites such as Humayun's Mughal style tomb on the left, which was built in 1573, some 200 years before the American revolution. The wrought iron Gupta Pillar on the right was erected in the 4th century AD. One wonders how they could make an iron pillar in the 4th century that has stood in the weather over 1600 years and is still in original condition, yet a steel car made today will last....



View of street traffic near the main mosqueTraffic congestion

The pictures taken in Delhi alone run into the hundreds, but of all the interesting sites we visited it was the scenes of the streets that impressed us the most.



Bicycle carring hayDonkey cart

It was not just the numbers of vehicles, the noise and the seeming chaos, which was surely impressive, it was the also the variety of transportation that we found intriguing.



Monkey in treeMonkey walking on the ground

Before leaving Delhi this monkey must be mentioned. Adjacent to our hotel was a small construction site where this monkey lived and played in a tree. Also at the site was a stray dog. I wasn't fast enough with the camera to catch all the action, but while I watched one of the workers twisted the ear of the poor dog and made him howl in pain. The monkey came tearing out of that tree in a flash, mounted the dog's back with bared teeth and forced the offending worker away from the dog. Once the dog was again safe from molestation the monkey calmly walked back to his tree. I was truly amazed.



Car passing truck on a narrow roadTruck with BLOW HORN painted on back

The trip from Delhi to Mandawa was 165 Miles (275 Kilometers) much of it over very narrow roads like the picture on the left. It made passing trucks a challenge, but meeting trucks head on was really exciting. Walt often rode in the front passenger seat and regularly tried to drive his right foot through the floor board looking for the brake. Virtually every truck in Rajasthan has a sign on the back inviting motorist to blow their horn. It was totally unnecessary, every driver in India blows his horn in any and all situations.



Passengers climbing on top of bus

Transportation is not plentiful in this part of India and people take great risk to get where they need to go. Passengers riding on the outside of the bus was a common sight, but we could not believe our eyes when we saw the little three wheeled tuk-tuk on the right that had been designed to carry 4 including the driver with eleven or more passengers.



Women drawing water from wellWoman with water jar on head

Most villages in rural Rajasthan have a single well where the women draw the water for the household, just as has been done for hundreds of years. Women walking down the road wearing colorful saris and with water jugs on their heads was a common sight.



Boiling down milk for candy















We made two unscheduled stops on the way to Mandawa, one was to visit the place where a candy is made by boiling down goat's milk to a solid. It is the signature candy of this part of India and Khan wanted to make sure we tried it. It probably is an acquired taste, not bad, but not to die for.

Shri Ranistatiji Mandir Hindu Temple







The second unscheduled stop was to visit Shri Ranistatiji Mandir Temple in the town of Jhunjhunu. This temple was built in 1595 A.D. to commemorate an act of Sati (self immolation) by the wife of a merchant, who was murdered by the solders of a Nawab (local governor). Sati was an act of desperation by the Hindu women of Rajasthan to save their honor from the Muslim invaders and dates to around 1350. This temple is a site of Hindu pilgrimage and Khan thought we would enjoy it because of our interest in Rajasthan history. He was correct.

Turret of Castle MandawaInterior alcove of Castle Mandawa

Mandawa today is a dusty little town on the edge of the Thar Desert, but in the 18th century it was a caravan terminus for the spice trade with the West and home of merchants made rich by the trade. The castle built to protect this rich trade was completed in 1755, it is now a tourist hotel where we stayed.



view of the hotel grounds













The view of the hotel grounds is attractive, but not representative of the town itself.







street in modern Mandawa











With the arrival of the British the spices went to Europe by ship and the caravan trade dried up. The merchants followed the trade to the sea ports of India leaving places like Mandawa to gather dust.







Haveli artwork







What brings the tourist to Mandawa today are the havelis (elaborate residences) the rich merchants left behind. To decorate the outside of a haveli with fine artworks showed the wealth and status of the owner and the best artist of the time were brought in to accomplish this task. Many of these works of art still survive making Mandawa an open air art museum. The government is making an effort to restore and preserve many of these art works.






Desert road











105 miles (175 kilometers) deeper into the Thar Desert to Bikaner. The landscape flattens out; the roads are straighter and wider. The vegetation is thorn trees and desert scrub.

CamelWomen in saris walking down the road.

There are now more camels wandering about, but it is still the women and kids trudging down the hot highway in their colorful saris. We assume the men have more important things to do.



Hindu temple in the desertJain temple in the desert

Pilgrimage as a show of devotion is common to almost all religions and the ancient religions of India are no exception. Holy men set up temples in the desert for this purpose. On the left is a Hindu Temple and a Jain Temple on the right. Although there are many points of commonality between Hinduism and Jainism because of their common heritage, they are totally separate religions.



Discarded shoes littering the road













The tradition is for pilgrims to make their journey barefoot. At one place near a pilgrimage site the road was littered with shoes discarded by the devoted.

Pligrims on the road













We stopped, on the road miles from anywhere, to meet and talk to a group of pilgrims. The man with no shoes standing on Walt's left had become blind and his sight was miraculously restored. He vowed to walk across India to the temple of the God held responsible for his good fortune. When we met them they had already been walking for many months and still had several weeks to go.

Junagarh Fort in BikanerLaxmi Niwas Palace

Bikaner was a Rajput State from the 15th century until the founding of the Indian State in 1947. Since the Rajput states were always having to defend their territories from marauders every major city has a fort. Junagarth Fort (somewhat redundant since garth means fort) on the left was built by the sixth Raj of Bikaner between 1571 and 1612. On the right is the Laxmi Niwas Palace, the residence of the last Raj built in 1906. Many of these old forts are preserved as museums as is the case of the Junagarth or converted to hotels as is the case of the Laxmi Niwas Palace were we lived in luxury for two nights.



Audance hall in the JunagarthWindow decorated with Delft tiles.

The interior of the Junagarth is one room after another displaying the opulent life the Raj lived. Like the audience hall on the left. The window on the right is interesting because it is decorated with Delft tiles from Holland. Who would have thought the Dutch were exporting tiles to India in the 1500's.



Looking over the roof tops of BikanerStreet scene of Bikaner

Looking over the roof tops of Bikaner one could believe it was any of the thousands of middle eastern towns from the levant to Iran, except for the cows in the street in the right hand photo.

Street scene of Bikaner











At street level little of the opulence of the Junagarth is visible, but then it probably wasn't in the 15th century either.

Jane entering the Jain temple







The oldest building still standing in Bikaner is the Bhand Sagar Temple. I had to get a shot of Jane entering a Jain temple,

Statue of Neminath















The Bhand Sagar Temple is devoted to Neminath the 22nd Tirthankara (enlightened ascetic) of Jainism. Believed by some to be a cousin of Lord Krishna of Hindu scripture. Interestingly archeologist have found a copper plate with an inscription indicating that King Nebuchadrezzar I of Babylonia, built a temple and paid homage to Lord Neminath. This indicates that even in the 10th century B.C.E. there was the worship of Neminath, the 22nd Tirthankara of the Jains.

Walt and Jane with the Jain priest











The temple priest gave us an interesting tour of the temple and a blessing. In many of the eastern religions we have seen the priest have a weariness of women, some have strict prohibitions about contact with women. We never learned the Jain attitude on the subject but from the photo it can be seen that the priest had no hesitation of embracing Walt, but Jane, no.

Camels at the research center









Bikaner is the home to National Camel Research Center. Where research is being done on breeding, feeding and use of camels. They have proven camel's milk is beneficial in dealing with diabetes, among other things. We were able to sample camel's milk and camel's milk ice cream. We are not a good set of judges since we drink very little cow's milk straight, but the flavor was not overly strong and the ice cream was good.

Camel dispensary











Surely you would not be surprised to find a camel dispensary at a camel research center, but we were and felt the need to document the fact.

Camel











“Hey sailor ever kiss a camel?” Ok, the camel really didn't say that but she looked like she wanted to.

Hindu temple at Deshnok









18 miles (30 km) south of Bikaner in Deshnok is a Hindu Temple dedicated to Karni Mata a female Hindu sage believed by her followers to be the incarnation of the goddess Druga, an official Goddess of the ruling family of Bikaner. She is said to have made a deal with the God of death so that her devotees are reincarnated as temple rats.

Rats in the temple at Deshnok









Some twenty thousand rats are protected and fed in the temple. You are not allowed to enter the temple with anything made from animals, such and leather belts and you are not allowed to enter shod no matter what your shoes are made of. No need to mention what you wade through in your bare feet.

Indian ladies in saris









We met these devotees of Karni Mata at the temple and they allowed us to photograph their lovely saris.

Young girl and her mother



















We met this mother and daughter at the Junagarth and they allowed us to photograph their costume. Unmarried girls don't wear saris in Rajasthan.

Dancing girl



















The last night at the Laxmi Niwas Palace we were treated to a traditional Rajasthan dance. We would see this dance performed several times during our stay, but never with the energy and grace of this young girl. She performed a very lively dance with those fire pots balanced on her head, but even without the candelabra she was amazing.

Girl dancing on a bed of nails



















In addition to fire pots on her head she also danced on this bed of nails and on a pile of glass shards. Walking barefoot on the desert sands must toughen one's feet.

Cobra emerging from a rat hole.









Leaving a restaurant after lunch, Khan said for us to come quickly. We arrived at the back of the restaurant in time to see this cobra emerge from a rat hole where he undoubtedly had just had his lunch. Khan had seen the snake enter the rat hole while we were eating. He was always on the look out for interesting wild life to show us.

Bus with passengers on top









The next leg was 198 miles (330 kilometers) to Jaisalmer and deeper into the Thar Desert. We were sure glad we were not making this journey by bus.

School boys looking in our car window









At times it was the tourist who became the object of interest.

Gajner Palace









Gajner Palace was built as a hunting lodge by the Rajah of Bikaner between 1746 and 1787. It was converted to a heritage hotel after Indian independence, but still has an air of royal luxury.

Walt and Jane by the lake at Gajner Palace









Stopping for a tour of the palace and a spot of tea broke up the long drive to Jaisalmer.

Khan and members of his family









Khan invited us to visit the home of members of his family living near Jaisalmer.

Walt and Jane with Khan's family









Interestingly when Walt was holding the camera in the previous picture, Khan's sister would not show her face. When Khan took the picture she did.

Jaisalmer Fort









Jaisalmer fort is one of the largest desert forts in the world. Built is 1156 by the Rajput ruler Jaisal to protect the riches of the spice trade. Like the other caravan trading centers its fortunes changed when the trade became seaborne.

Plaza in Jaisalmer Fort









Jaisalmer Fort is still an active city with about 20 percent of the population living inside. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries when Jaisalmer was raiding and being raided by Bikaner to the north and Jodhpur to the south all the population lived in the fort.

Camel cart in the street














Wandering around in the back streets you could easily start to believe in time warps. Except for the motor bikes, tuk-tuks and electric wires the city appears much as it was in medieval times.

Jane with cow.









Ok we have all seen cows, but one cannot go to India without taking pictures of the cows roaming around the streets. They are like pigeons in other cities, they are everywhere. The economics of owning a cow was not straight forward to us. However, Khan and our guides all ensured us that all the cows were owned by someone.

Havali in Jaisalmer









The Havelis of Jaisalmer are not decorated with paintings as they are in Mandawa, but they are very luxurious. The facade of the five story Patwa Haveli only gives a hint of the opulence found inside. It was built over a period of fifty years by a merchant banker and his five sons who owned three hundred trading centers from Afghanistan to China. The wealth generated by the trade along the Silk Road between the East and the West is mind boggling.

Bats in a Havali









Many of these grand structures have become a burden to their owners, some are trying to make a go of it as tourist attractions, some have converted to boutique hotels and some are taken over by bats.

Walt at a Jain Temple














There are several Jain and Hindu temples inside the fort.

Statue of a Jain Tirthankara














Jain temples are dedicated to one of their 24 Tirthankara, men who have achieved perfection and serve as examples to the devotees as they struggle to attain perfection. There are two categories of monk; the white clad which wear only a simple white robe, like we met in Bikaner and the naked monks which carry their asceticism to the point of eschewing even clothing.

Statuary in a Hindu temple









Adjacent to the Jain Temple is a Hindu Temple dedicated to the Goddess Laxmi, consort of the God Shiva and Goddess of abundance.

Busker at Gadsisar Lake














Gadsisar Lake on the outskirts of Jaisalmer is a reservoir constructed in the 13th century to provide a source of water for the city. In addition to this traditionally clad busker, it has become surrounded by temples and shrines and has become a pilgrimage site for the faithful and for the tourist.

Gateway arch across the road to Lake Gadsisar

















This attractive gateway arch next to the lake was the home and place of business of a 19th century courtesan. When the local authorities tried to remove her and destroy her house she had a statue of Vishnu installed in 1908 and declared it a temple. It survives today.

Walt on camel









From Jaisalmer it is just 28 miles (45 kilometers) to the Sam Dunes. These are migrating sand dunes just under 2 miles (3 kilometers) long, 1/2 mile (1 kilometer) wide and 600 ft tall. There is something about sitting on an animal being led around that reminds me of 5 year olds and ponies.

Sunset on the dunes









The highlight of the Sam Dunes camel ride is to see the sunset over the desert. It was beautiful even though our photography was not equal to the task of properly recording it.

Jane's camel guide














Jane's camel guide has a face with character which tells the story of a hard life better than 1000 words.

Fort at Pokhran









The 14th century Balagarth at Pokhran was on the caravan route from both Bikaner and Jodhpur to Jaisalmer and took its share of the “Silk Road” tolls. We were able to get a guided tour by the current descendant of the Champawat chief who built this fort. Before Indian independence he was in line to be the Raj of Pokhran, now he was in the process of investing heavily in the conversion of the fort into a hotel and museum.

Cows in the roadCamels in the road

The highways of Rajasthan never ceased to amuse, if we weren't dodging trucks it was cows or camels.

Courtyard of the Mawar Desert Resort









The next stop was the Manwar Desert Resort a little over 100 miles (170 kilometers) from Jaisalmer.

Desert antelope in the Manwar desert














This part of the desert is teeming with antelope.

Jane on a sand dune.














More vegetation here, but still lots of sand.

Walt being led across the street by hand









Next stop Jodhpur, once capital of the Rajput state of Manwar 66 miles (110 kilometers). A bank ATM we stopped at was on the opposite side of the street. Khan was worried that Walt would not be able to negotiate the heavy traffic and insisted on leading him across by the hand. Jane thinks it is cute, hence this picture. Walt doesn't think it cute, but he did not refuse either.

The Ranbanka Palace









The Ranbanka Palace is another of the old royal residences that has been converted into a hotel. Half of it is still the residence of a grandson of the Maharajah of Jodhpur. It doesn't compare to the grandeur of the Laxmi Niwas Palace in Bikaner, but it was still quite nice.

Walt with the doorman at the Ranbanka Palace



















The Indians carry the wearing of facial hair to a fine art. Walt just couldn't compete.

Mehrangarh Fort









Mehrangarh is the fort of Jodhpur and is one of the largest forts in India. Begun in 1458 by Jodha, the 15th ruler of the Rathore clan, it sets on a hill 400 feet above the city and contains several palaces. This fort, like others, has been converted to a museum by the current Maharajah of Jodhpur.

Gate of the Mehrangarh














One of the forts seven gates commemorates a victory over Bikaner and another commemorates a victory over Jaipur. The history of Rajasthan is filled with the exploits of the Rajput States trying to raid the riches of their neighbors.

Palace in the Mehrangarh









The richness of the old palaces inside the fort is lavish to the extreme.

Hindu aesthetic









Legend has it that a Hindu fakir ousted from his cave by the construction of the fort was given a permeant place in the fort. symbolized by this guy.

Residence of the Maharajah









The royal residence of the Maharajah sits on the highest hill in Jodhpur. Conceived as a drought relief program in 1929 it employed over 3000 people for the 15 years of its construction. When it opened in 1944 with 347 rooms it was the largest private residence in the world. It is now divided into three functional areas, a 5 star luxury hotel, a museum open to the public and the private residence of the royal family.

Market in Jodhapur














The grand palaces and forts are impressive, but we found the streets of the city to be more interesting.

scred tree









Leaving Jodhpur for Udaipur 167 miles (276 kilometers) away we climbed out of the Thar desert into the Aravalli Mountain range that protects the Ganges Plain from the Thar Desert. These women were attaching prayer cloths to a tree at a Hindu shrine in a small village along the way.

Jain temple at Ranakpur







The Jain Temple at Ranakpur is 54 miles (90 kilometers) from Udaipur. It is one of five holiest sites in Jainism and is an architectural marvel. Built of carved marble in the 15th century, its basement covers an area of 48,000 square feet and it took 65 years to build. It was nominated as one of the seven wonders of the world.

Columns in the Jain temple.









Inside the temple there are 1,444 intricately carved columns, of which not even two are the same.

Monk making sandalwood paste











Every time a monk gives you a blessing in India he will mark your forehead with colored sandalwood paste. This monk is making the holy paste.

Monk in line for the chief monk position

















This young monk gave us a tour of the temple and claimed to be the direct descendant of the monk who first ordained this temple in the 15th century. He is in line to be the head monk in his turn.

Monkey sitting in the road














On a narrow mountain road between Ranakpur and Udaipur as we drove across a bridge there was a monkey sitting in the road. We stopped to take pictures.

Monkey about to jump on the car

















As soon the car stopped monkeys appeared on the bridge guard rails and proceeded to jump onto the car, trying to get into the windows.

Monkey on the hood













This little guy climbed on the hood and lifted to windshield wipers trying to gain access. We were being mugged by a gang of monkeys. We felt bad that we didn't have booty to give them, they deserved something for sheer audacity.

Hindu wedding









A Hindu wedding was taking place in one of the village on the way to Udaipur.

Lake Pichola









Udaipur became the fortified capital of the Rajput state of Mewar after the The Mughal emperor Akbar captured the previous capital at Chittor in the 16th Century. Situated on the shore of Lake Pichola in the Aravalli hills it was a welcome change from the Thar Desert.

City Palace in Udaipur









The City Palace is an impressive complex of several palaces half of which is still occupied by the royal family. The other half is divided between a hotel and a museum.

Peacock mosaics in the Mor Chowk









These peacock mosaics are on one wall in the Mor Chowk (courtyard) where royal gatherings took place.

Windows of the womens quarters









On either side and above of the Mor Chowk are the women's quarters with grilled windows so they could look out on the proceedings below without being seen.

Tiger cage














In one courtyard elephant fights were staged to amuse the royals, in another the ruler's weight in gold and silver was measured out and distributed to the poor. This cage held a tiger that was the chief executioner for capital offenses.

Donkeys blocking traffic









The streets in the old town are narrow and traffic can be a problem. Here our car was caught in a donkey traffic jam.

Puppet shop














This is one of the many colorful puppet shops in Udaipur.

Painting









In an artist studio where they are preserving the techniques of the past, they often use brushes made from a single squirrel hair. The detail has to be seen under a magnifying glass to be appreciated.

Jagdish Hindu Temple









The Hindu Jagdish Temple built in 1651 is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is a steep climb up the stairs, but the marble carvings are worth the effort.

Palace ruins in Chittaurgarh









Chittor is about 70 miles (117 kilometers) from Udaipur is one of the oldest cities in Rajasthan, its fort, Chittaurgarh was founded in 728. It was the ancient capital of Mewar for over 800 years. It was finally abandoned in 1567 after it was sacked by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. This is the remains of one of the palaces in the old fort.

Podmini's viewing chamber









Any place as old as this will have many legends, one involves the structures in the lake behind Walt. In the 14th century the king of Delhi laid siege to Chittaurgarh. He agreed to lift the siege if he were allowed to see the renowned beauty, princess Padmini. Padmini was in the structure in the lake and a mirror was positioned in the structure on the left so that the attacking king could see the reflection of Padmini in the mirror. The siege was lifted, but Padmini's beauty so exceeded expectations that the king of Delhi returned the next year and sacked the fort.

Elephant ramp up to Chittaurgarh














This is the elephant ramp up to Chittaurgarh which is built on a rocky hill that rises some 500 feet abruptly out of the surrounding plain. It is hard to imagine attacking such a fortress, but it was sacked on three occasions in its long history. On all three occasions the women and children in the fort threw themselves into a fire and their men fought to the death to avoid capture.

Anti elephant spikes on a gate into the Chittaugarh









These anti-elephant spikes on the gate of Chittaurgarh were designed to prevent the beast from crashing through the gate.

Cistern in the Chittaurgarh









The fort's cistern which once stored the water to allow the people to withstand long sieges now makes a good swimming hole.

Monkey eating from Walt's hand









In addition to being the haunt of tourist, Chittaurgarh is the home to a troupe of langur monkeys that although wild, are quite inured to the presence of people. Unlike the macaque monkeys which will snatch anything offered and run away, this female langur gently held Walt's finger and took the food one piece at a time.

Bijaipur Castle











Bijaipur was a feudal estate about 24 miles (40 kilometers) from Chittaurgarh. It included some 90 villages and was ruled by a younger brother of the 16th century ruler of Mewar.

Bijaipur Castle









The current owner of the Bijaipur castle and direct descendant of its 16th century founder has converted the castle into an India Heritage Hotel. The young man on the left in this picture is his son who greeted us with flower necklaces and tea.

Family living in Bijaipur














Leaving the comfort of the castle and touring the village of Bijaipur was to step back into another age. One of servitude and grinding poverty.

Preparing the daily meal on an open fire









Homes are mud huts with no modern conveniences like running water, electricity or anything that is not manually operated.

Blacksmith making tools














Farming tools are hand made by the local blacksmith.

Dinner plate and bowl made from leaves









Traditionally Hindus eat their meals on banana leaves, which are not abundant in this part of the country, so they adapted a local leaf to the purpose and make disposable plates and bowls.

Newly wed couple gathering fodder














This newly wed couple returning from gathering fodder stopped to pose for us.

Road out of Bijaipur









The road out of Bijaipur is testimony to the rural nature of the area and probably the size of the local economy. This leg of the trip will take us to Bundi a distance of only 60 miles (100 kilometers), but it took all day and was the most uncomfortable ride we experienced.

Women on the road construction gang









There was 60 miles (100 kilometers) of dusty road construction, heavy traffic and bumpy road. Women in India are not spared the heavy work, we witnessed many instances of women on the road gang carrying heavy loads of gravel on their heads, always in their saris. We assume they are cheaper than a wheelbarrow.

Road scene in a small village









At least in the villages there was no road construction, but it was usually hard to tell. Even on the major paved highways the road usually became unimproved in the village. State funds for road construction must end at the village limits.

Road side dentist office









Here is an open air road side dentist surgery in one of the villages. It really puts the difference between the first world and the third world in perspective.

View of Bundi Palace and castle









Bundi was the center of another 14th century Rajput state. It is located in an attractive valley with its fort perched high on a hill above a lake. The royal castle sits on the hillside below the fort.

Bundi city gate.














Bundi is not as well visited as most of the other sites we have seen, giving it a less touristic feel. This is one of six city gates.

Step well














Wells with steps leading down to ground water depth, like this one near Bundi, were elaborately decorated and covered. They provided not only access to water, but also served as a community recreation site. Sadly, today most have been filled in or become trash pits.

Monkey sitting on a roof














Bundi like many other places in India has a resident troop of langur monkeys. These guys live in the city and use the roof tops as their playground. They get their food mainly through the largess of their human neighbors. The Hindu ethic of kindness to all creatures seems to serve them well.

ToiletToilet

Traveling around the world as we do we have experienced many variations of this device, but none as egalitarian as this. It provides a place to plant your feet if you prefer to squat on your heels, as do many in this part of the world, or a seat, hopefully free of footprints, for those of us who prefer the chair posture.

Street scene in Ajmer









Next stop, Pushkar, 79 miles (131 kilometers) into central Rajasthan. We stopped along the way to traipse through the teeming streets of Ajmer.

Tomb of Moinuddin Chisti














Our purpose at Ajmer was to visit the tomb of Moinuddin Chisti, who died in 1230 AD and is one of the most famous Sufi saints in India

Walt with offerings on head














Naturally, Walt with offerings on head of flowers, cookies and a shawl (we don't know why it was carried on the head, tradition?) had to make obeisance and get a blessing (after an appropriate donation) from the imams manning the tomb.

Pushkar Lake









Pushkar is one of the oldest cities in India, the date of its actual founding is unknown, but it is mentioned in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India which form an important part of the Hindu canon. It is therefore an important pilgrimage site for devout Hindus as well as a popular destination for tourist.

Hindu devotees bathing in Pushkar Lake









The waters of Lake Pushkar are considered by the Hindus to be the second most holy after those of the Ganges River. If the ashes of your loved ones cannot be scattered in the Ganges then Pushkar lake is the next best. Bathing in the waters is a devotional act.

Street scene of Pushkar









The streets of Pushkar are geared for selling to tourist both foreign and domestic.

Busker with antique instrument









A Pushkar busker with antique Indian instrument.

Jane getting a blessing at a Lake Pushkar ghat.









One can't go to one of Hindu's holiest sites and not partake of the spiritual benefits. The local Brahmin priest will offer blessings for you, each member of your family, your friends and even your pets. Of course there is a fee associated with each blessing. Jane and I were blessed separately (twice the fees) on the steps of one of lake Pushkar's many ghats. We however missed out on a ritual bath in the holy waters.

Jane with a blessing mark on forehead









So far we have been blessed by the Jain's, the Muslim Sufi's and the Hindu's. Maybe we will get a break from the Wind God when we get back to Callisto. Walt developed a rash on his forehead, probably not a good sign.

Sunset over Lake Pushkar









Sunset over Lake Pushkar.

Buildings of Jaipur









Next stop, Jaipur capital of Rajasthan. It is also known as the pink city, because all the buildings, except the royal palace, were colored pink to welcome Queen Victoria of England in 1883. It is a pretty city with wide boulevards and is undergoing extensive restoration. It is a popular destination for both foreign and domestic tourists.

Jaipur's fort









Jaipur's impressive fort.

Walt and Jane riding an elephant up to Jaipur's fort.









The fort is one of the big tourist attractions of Jaipur and tourists ride elephants up the hill to the fort.

Sundial at the Jantar Mantar









Jaipur is also home to the Jantar Mantar which is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments built in the first half of the 18th century. The observatory consists of fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars' location as the earth orbits around the sun, ascertaining the declinations of planets, and determining the celestial altitudes and related ephemerides. This picture if of the smaller of two sundials.

The sun's shadow on the sundial









This picture shows the sun's shadow on the face of the dial. The second sundial in the park was shrouded in scaffolding while being refirbushed, but at 90 feet (27 m) high, it is the largest sundial in the world.

Truck being repaired on the side of the road with large stones to ward off traffic









The next stop was Ranthambhor, another 138 miles (230 kilometers) on the road. If you need to do repairs on the roadside large rocks provide more safety for the repairmen than traffic cones or flares.

Basket weaving









A local basket weaving factory in Ranthambhor.

Jane in safari jeep









Ranthambhor National Park is a wildlife sanctuary and tiger preserve. Where tigers can often be seen during the day. We took a jeep safari into the jungle to find one.

Deer in Ranthambhor Park









Although we never saw a tiger, we did find a fresh tiger paw print and plenty of tiger prey, like this guy. There were lots of other animals like spotted antelope, monkeys, and a sun bear to make it an interesting drive.

Village market









A village market on the road from Ranthambhor to Agra, a distance of 138 miles (230 kilometers).

Agra Fort









Agra is famously known for the Taj Mahal, but is also home to several magnificent examples of Mughal architecture such as the Agra Fort.

Interior of Agra Fort









Agra Fort might be more accurately described as a walled city, for it contains several palaces used by six successive Mughal emperors and the supporting structures they required. Opulence abounds.

Tomb of Itmad Ud Daulah









This is the tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg aka Itmad Ud Daulah who was a high official in the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar and his successor. He was also the grandfather of Arjumand Bano Begum, the woman for whom the Taj Mahal was built.

Marble inlay on the tomb of Itmad Ud Daulah









Sometimes refereed to as the "mini taj" this tomb was completed five years before the construction of the Taj Mahal began and many of the technics used in the building of the Taj were first used here. Such as inlaying semiprecious stones in marble. Each piece of colored stone used to create the designs are hand carved and placed in a chiseled out grove in the marble. A process requiring many man hours of skilled labor.

Man hand carving semiprecious stone









Amazingly, four hundred years on, a guild of stone masons in Agra still practice the process for inlaying semiprecious stone in marble. The formula for the concoction used to cement the carved stone in the marble is said to be a closely guarded secret.

The Taj Mahal seen from across the Yamuna River









The Taj Mahal, here seen from across the Yamuna River, is truly magnificent. We have seen lots of art and architecture, but nothing as awe inspiring as this structure. The Taj Mahal is a complex of structures which include the two buildings flanking the central marble tomb and which were added for architectural balance.

The central tomb of the Taj Mahal









Looking closer at the central structure one can get a feel of the size compared to the people on the main platform. It is said to have taken more than 20,000 workers 17 years working day and night to complete.

Entry gate of the Taj Mahal









The Complex is surrounded on three sides by a red stone wall and the river on the fourth side. The wall opposite the river has an entry gate seen here.

Walt being searched at the entrance to the Taj Mahal.














The Indian Government takes measures to ensure the safety of the Taj. Here is Walt being searched. It would be a tragedy of unimaginable proportions if the Taj went the way of the Buddha's of Bamyam to meet the cause of some radical group.

The tomb of the Taj across the reflecting pool









The Taj was built in the memory of the beautiful Arjumand Bano Begum, third and favorite wife of Shah Jahan. Also known as Mumtaz Mahal (the exalted of the palace), she died at the age of 39 giving birth to her fourteenth child. Shah Jahan was inconsolable and the palace was in mourning for two years. He swore to build her a monument that would never be outdone so the world would never forget her. It appears that he was successful. Her crypt is directly below the center of the main dome and Shah Jahan's is off to one side, the only asymmetry in the whole complex.

Mosque flanking the tomb of the Taj









The mosque on the western flank of the main tomb is not an insignificant structure even though it is dwarfed by the main tomb.

Main tomb of the Taj









The beautiful marble from which the main tomb is constructed changes its tone as the sun rises and sets. Seen here just after sunrise.

Carved and inlayed marble of the main tomb of the Taj









For the inlays, Yemen sent agates, the corals came from Arabia, the garnets from Bundelkhand, onyx and amethyst from Persia. Mumtaz Mahalís final resting place was ornamented like a queen's jewel-box

The Tomb of the Taj Mahal









This must be the most photographed structure in the world and volumes have been written extolling its grandeur, but none do it justice. If you ever have the opportunity to see it in person do not pass it by. After Agra it was another 120 mile (200 kilometer) drive to Delhi and our return flight home to Callisto. After 21 days and 1570 miles (2617 kilometer) we were more than ready to go home, but it was a wonderful trip that we will relive for many years.