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The roaring sands of the Thar desert and a Music Festival

Chapter 1: Jodhpur

My friend Tanvi was really shocked when I told her that even after working in the film industry as an Assistant Director since 2014, I have never attended a Music Festival. And this revelation is how our plans to attend Ragasthan 2018 were set into motion.

Even though we were all excited about our trip, we never realized that it actually had the potential to turn out to be such an adventure. And I am glad that it did! Because this is how you would want anything from your bucket list to turn out, right?

On the way to our destination

Now we decided to take a train from Mumbai to Jodhpur on our forward journey. The BDTS BKN SUP EXP aka the Bandra Terminus Bikaner superfast express at 2:30pm in the afternoon. And we realized it after boarding the train that it was a bad call. A flight journey would have been so much convenient. The first drawback, the train doesn’t have a pantry. Plus the train attracts a lot of regular travelers from nearby stations like Surat, Vadodara and as such. They have no regards for the rules of reservation and enter even the AC compartments and lounge at the lower births. Even the TTE on the train turns a blind eye towards them. We are thankful that we had upper births. And for the fact that the train returned to its normal state in the night when it was devoid of all those regular unreserved passengers. We could at least have a peaceful dinner and a good night’s sleep.

A day well spent at Jodhpur

The train reached Jodhpur Junction early the next morning at 7:30am. Now our train to Jaisalmer was at 11pm in the night so for our stay during the day, Tanvi had made a booking at Zostel Jodhpur.

I would take it that you all are well acquainted with the chain of Zostels all over India. But even in 2018, the concept of a backpacker’s hostel was alien to me. You see, I was that naïve! But it’s good that I didn’t because then, I wouldn’t have enjoyed my experience so much.

As we were both really hungry and our room wasn’t ready just yet, we decided to dump our luggage and go to the terrace to have our breakfast. And all my tiredness from the journey vanished when I saw the view of the fort from there. I can’t say that I haven’t seen forts in my life. I have. But nothing measured up to the beauty of that view.

After getting freshened up and all, we thought about exploring the city a bit. Now, we decided to call the same autorickshaw driver who dropped us at Zostel. He was more than eager to show us around. Plus, he didn’t take a penny from us as an advance.

We started with the Umaid Bhawan Palace. It is said to be one of the world’s biggest private residences consisting of 347 rooms. Part of the palace has been converted into a hotel which is been managed by the Taj Hotels group. And a part of the palace is a museum. It is still the official residence of the royal family of Jodhpur and is named after Maharaja Umaid Singh.

Umaid Bhawan Palace

Jaswant Thada is a memorial built by Maharaja Sardar Singh in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II in the year 1899.

It is made out of beautifully carved sheets of marble that glows in the rays of the sun. The memorial consists of a very well maintained garden with a variety of exotic plants and flowers and a lake too.

Jaswant Thada

Then as we were hungry, we went to had lunch at a nearby locally famous restaurant called Kalinga which is said to serve the best Laal Maas in the city. It is a type of lamb meat curry cooked in an exclusive mix of Rajasthani spices. Slightly towards the spicier side, even the color of the gravy is a fiery red. Well, we were having Laal Maas for the first time in our lives, accompanied by a bottle of chilled beer; it definitely ignited our taste buds and sent us to cloud seven.

Laal Maas

After satisfying our bellies we resumed our expedition. From the Kalinga Restaurant, we went to Kaylana Lake. The lake is an artificial body of water spanning up to 84 kilometers. We overheard a guide saying to a group of foreigners that it has been built by Pratap Singh in the year 1872 after demolishing quite a few palaces and gardens which sounded like a mean feat to achieve.

The lake offers boating facilities so we hopped on to one. The ride lasted for 30 minutes in which we dipped our hands into the cool and refreshing water. Took in the scenery surrounding the lake and also spotted a few exotic birds.

Kaylana Lake

After that our last stop was the magnificent place known as Mehrangarh Fort. The fort I saw that very morning from the terrace of Zostel Jodhpur.

Mehrangarh Fort

I didn’t fall in love with this magical place because it is one of the biggest forts in India and because it stands at a height of 118 feet and just because the mere width of the walls is 69 feet. No. The thing that mesmerized me is the number of historical facts it contains and retains. Just like stories out of a book!

The most beautiful thing that took my heart away happened right at the beginning when we saw local city folks playing age-old musical instruments, a couple of them singing an old Rajasthani song that is about welcoming guests to their humble abode. Kesariya balam padharo mare des. And we kept on seeing such a colorful display of art and tradition throughout our tour. 

Rajasthani Folk Music

The place contains a few temples, some palaces and a museum inside itself. All of it speaks of its rather fascinating history.

The museum is home to artifacts that date back to the Mughal period. History says that the fort is a present to the Sun God because the ancient royal families who lived here were all sun worshippers. History also talks about an old legend where a hermit cursed the fort. Because his home was demolished to build the fort. He gave a curse that there will never be enough water here. Which came true and the old king even built a new home for the hermit in the fortress itself. But the local folks say that the curse still exists. Because the region faces a draught every 3-4 years till now.

Then there are the palaces

  1. Sheesh Mahal (a hall made entirely of mirrors)
  2. Moti Mahal (a pearly white courtroom)
  3. Phool Mahal (a hall designed to provide leisure activities to the royal family)
  4. Zenana Deodi (the woman’s quarters made out of sandstone)
Sheesh Mahal

The most amazing thing about this place is that no matter where you are standing, the view of the outer surroundings is just spectacular. Maybe that’s the reason a lot of movies (international ones too) have been shot here.

My favorite spot was the place from where I could see the miniature blue colored houses of the city below. Like a model made by a kid out of Lego blocks.

A few tips for the flocks who would like to explore the city

Even if you go here in winters, the heat during the day is unbearable. So it’s better to wear comfortable cotton clothes, like shorts and shirts. And the most important thing, wear comfortable shoes like walkers or trainers because you will have to walk a lot.

So finally we made our way back to Zostel. And we got to meet the other people staying there. Some in private rooms like us, some in dorms. There was a mixture of desi and videsi folks. We befriended a few, talked about our adventures in the day. Sat on the terrace and had our dinner with almost everyone. Someone started playing the guitar and struck up an old Hindi song that we all picked up at different notes. Later, saying goodbye to everyone, we packed our bags and headed to the station to catch our train to Jaisalmer. The same autorickshaw driver was happy to see us through to the station. The guy even carried our luggage to the platform and was thrilled when we rewarded him with a 2000 rupee note for his services since morning.

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