Palaces, Forts, luxury and a vivacious culture of the Royal State of India are flashed upon the screen of your mind when you read the word ‘Rajasthan’. The state gives you a glimpse of the Royal Rajputana empire that was known for its gallantry, tradition and extravagant lifestyle. Though tourism has brought most of its colours out to shine, there are many experiences that you miss while just following your fixed itineraries. And this article is aimed to bring before you the hidden jewels and fantastic experiences. Read on some of the offbeat things to do in Rajasthan.
Clicking the iconic step-well with 3500 steps
When the directors of The Dark Night wanted the best geometrically designed prison for the adventure of Batman as a savior, they couldn’t find a better match than this beautiful well constructed centuries back by the Rajput Kings in India’s Rajasthan. The well isn’t only a perfect selfie spot but also the best spot for architecture and sculpture lovers. The step-well, known as ‘Chand Baori’ is located at Abhaneri village. The actual purpose of the well that has a three-storied quarter on one of its sides was to serve as the Summer Holiday Home for the kings of that time. The architectural brilliance keeps it cool during the summers and warm during winters. The step-well even served as a source of drinking water till very recently. The complex around the well has some ancient idols of Hindu Gods and carvings.
It is altogether a different experience roaming around the village of Abhaneri adorned with tiny mud houses where the ladies cook on traditional stoves wearing yellow saris.
Regular buses and private cabs ply Abhaneri which is around 95 km on Jaipur-Delhi Highway.
Walk around India’s Ancient Open Art Galleries
Not too far from the royal city of Jaipur, inhabited the richest merchants who dealt in the business of opium and zari (golden thread) through silk route. The group of villages where they lived came to be known as the Shekhavati group of villages. Each of the merchants is said to be richer than even the kings of the then Rajputana Empire. They showed off their richness by decorating the walls of their havelis (royal house) with the frescos depicting the foreign lifestyle and the characters or stories of Indian mythology. A few of them have the ceilings embellished with the real gold sheets. The village of Churu, on the other hand, has a huge haveli with around 11,000 windows. Each village would thus present before you, a new surprise as you walk around the streets awestruck at the paintings.
The merchants had abandoned their havelis when they got the opportunity to settle in the big cities like Kolkata and Mumbai during the British Era. One of the havelis also belongs to one of the richest businessmen of United Kingdom, Laxmi Mittal. The best villages to stroll around are Churu, Mandava and Nawalgarh. Rajasthan Tourism Board, as well as many travel agencies, provide a special package of a tour to these villages. Or else, you can book your stay at Castle Mandawa or ‘Malji ka Kamra’ and ask them to arrange for the heritage walk around these villages. Click here to read more about these havelis if you wish to visit.
Explore the City of Lakes – Udaipur
At the heart of the otherwise a barren land of Rajasthan lays a city adorned with a number of lakes. Udaipur can be called an epitome of luxury and royal beauty. Apart from the splendid palaces, havelis and hotels, the city provides you an excellent ethnic experience. The traditional puppet shows, listening to the folk music at Gangaur Ghat on the lake, visiting the temples are few of such experiences.
Moreover, this is the only city that lets you enjoy a stay right in a middle of a lake. The Taj Lake Palace Hotel at Udaipur is located in the centre of the Lake Pichola with a grand view of the palace on one side and a sprawling range of Arravali Hills on the other. For all the hippie budget travelers, a number of hostels are available in the centre of the city.
Sleep under the Stars on the Golden Sand Dunes
Ever wished to wake up to the view of a star-studded ceiling in the middle of the night! That’s exactly what you must expect while camping in the dunes of the Thar Desert in Jaisalmer. While the city itself reflects the golden granules in its pastel yellow architecture, the Thar Desert makes you fall in love with the aridity of the place. Besides camping, the Youth Hostel Association of India gives you option of trekking in the desert and camping on untouched and inaccessible dunes every night.
This would certainly be a lifetime memory and should not be missed at any cost. And my personal recommendation for the backpackers would be to stay in the Free Backpackers’ Hostel run by Dilbar Jaisalmer and he would take care of most of these amazing experiences in Jaisalmer. Or you can contact a local named Kheta for a complete rural experience. Read My Guide to explore the Golden City of Jaisalmer.
Heritage Walk to see the Opulent Havelis in the Lanes of Bikaner
While the haviles at Shekhavati villages would take you on a historic trip of the bygone era, the Rampuria havelis at Bikaner would give a glimpse of the lifestyle of a rich family. It is said that the family was so rich that even the king used to ask for loans at the time of urgent needs. Many families in Bikaner had their own palace like havelis and led a royal life. With intricately carved wall and the doors and style inspired by the British architecture, the Rampuria Havelis makes for a unique antique structure and also resembles the old buildings of the New York City. For some stunning pictures, it should be visited early in the morning.
Get Amazed at the Vibrant Palaces of Bikaner
Grand corridors with artistically painted walls flanked by elegant windows pillars and the antique artefacts add to the aesthetic feel of the Junagadh Palace. The palace is an epitome of artwork and is certainly a masterpiece when it comes to wall-art. The colourful rooms at Lalgarh Palace and Lakshmi Niwas Palace are also equally astonishing. Staying at one these palaces converted into luxury hotels can be an imperial experience.
Witness the Marvelous Marble Architecture of Ranakpur and Mt. Abu
The man-made marvels of Ranakpur and Mt. Abu would definitely leave you awestruck with its delicate designs carved on white shining marbles. The temple is a perfect specimen of dedication, hardwork, patience and spirituality. Both the temples located at a few kilometres away from each other have been completed only due to the dedication of their builders. The work continued even while their builders came and bade goodbye to this earthly home. The temples would startle you with its flowers, devil faces and other symbols of Jainism carved on pillars, doors, and walls of this place of worship. The audio guide would entertain you with interesting stories behind each figure and carving of the temple. And you would not get enough of it in just one visit, and the sculptures would lure you to keep gazing at them.
Walk Around the Second Longest Wall of the world
The fort, that is the birthplace of the Legend named Maharana Pratap , the brave king of Mewar, is still guarded by a mighty wall fringing the fortified area for 36 kilometres. A walk on this wall, on an early morning, would give you a panoramic view of around 360 Hindu and Jain temples built across the fort and the lofty palace overlooks the vast area at the other end as if guarding the premise that once flourished with the devoted subject of the Rana Kings. The view outside the fort is equally mesmerizing with acres of green fields spread as far as your eyes could see.
Dance on the beats of Folk Music in an Old Haveli
As the sun bids adieu and paints lake Pichola with its vigorous colours in the city of Udaipur, the traditional dancers are all ready in their vibrant attires to give you a glimpse of the astounding culture of Rajasthan. Bagaro ki haveli, tucked on the bank of the Lake Pichola seems abandoned and quiet from its exterior, but the moment you enter, you are welcomed by the soothing sound of the ‘shehnaais’ accompanies with the resonating sound of the ‘dholak’. And the evening is filled with joy as the dancers amaze you with their graceful moves and the jingling anklets. ‘Kalbeliya’, ‘Ghumar’, ‘Terataali’, Matki Bhavai’ and other folk dances performed here would take you back to the declined era of Rajputana kings.
Devour the Spiritual Vibes at Pushkar
When the petals of the Hindu God Brahma fell on earth, the town of Pushkar was blessed with the formation of the lakes at the very places. The main lake in the town of Pushkar is now fringed with the serene ‘ghaats’ painted in white and completing just a circle around the lake would acquaint you with the customs of the people belonging to different corners of Rajasthan. While the evening ‘aarti’ the atmosphere turns all the more divine. And in case you choose to be here on a Diwali night, you can expect to see the Ghaats illuminated by thousands of earthen lamps.
This Post was originally written by me for the Airports Authority of India Magazine.