Where is John Lama? travel blog

My driver Bhojraj on the right and Vikram on the left, about...

The scenery in Rajasthan was beautiful, with mustard fields like this all...

Camels are very common here, used for farming.

It was wedding season as well. Cars used for the festivities are...

This guy makes bangles, which are very popular. He invited me to...

This is my hotel in Mandawa. It is a converted haveli mansion...

Bicycle wheel on the left, wagon wheel on the right. All of...

 

Many goats around as well.

Underneath this gigantic sack of wheat is a full-size truck!

Karni Mata temple is filled with "holy" rats, which according to legend...

Internet, DishTV, mobile phones, dirt roads, and cattle roaming around.

Our next town was Bikaner, where I checked out the Junagarh Fort,...

The fort had some spectacular rooms. This is the ceiling in one...

This window is surrounded by colored glass and ornate painting.

High-tech fire control system... buckets of sand.

This herd (flock?) of camels was just hanging out by the side...

The guy with the camels let me ride one around for a...

I saw this baby camel with its mother during my ride.

Next we stopped at Baba Ramdev Temple, which is a popular Hindu...

This is the red powder used in ceremony and applied to people's...

One of the many shrines within the temple.

This man just got married. He and his wife, and the wedding...

His wife was walking behind, with an orange rope connecting them both.

Another Hindu rite where a child gets his first haircut at the...

 

Jaisalmer, the Golden City, was our next stop. This is a view...

We caught a celebration of India's Republic Day at the local stadium.

Jaisalmer also has some spectacular stone mansions, called havelis. This is the...

The inside was mostly empty, but I did walk up one stairwell...

One of the ornate stone sculpted widows on the front of the...

These are monuments called chatri, built to house the ashes of the...

A close up. Very nice looking.

Next I went on a short camel safari in the Thar desert....

Riding my steed! Camels are called the ships of the desert. They...

An artsy-fartsy photo for all you sophisticated intellectuals.

Is that a mirage, or are there two beautiful women approaching across...

Pretty cool view.

The sunset over the sand dunes was pretty spectacular.

There was a dinner and performance after the safari. This woman danced...

This is a view of part of the Jaisalmer fort, built in...

Inside the fort walls is a small city, sort of a living...

This girl was performing inside the fort. Check out the video below.

Another interesting person inside the fort.

Next stop is the city of Jodhpur, with the huge Meherangarh fort.

Around the fort is an old city. Many of the houses are...

Another view of the fort, which is still run by the maharaja...

 

 

There were some beautiful rooms inside the fort palace where previous maharaja's...

It took 12 men to carry the royals in this ceremonial coach....

 

 

There were some beautiful Rajasthani paintings on display in the fort.

A baby's crib.

A view of one of the courtyards inside the palace.

 

This white marble memorial, about a half mile from the fort, is...

A view of the fort from Jaswant Thada.

This boy was singing in front of Jaswant Thada.

Umaid Bhawan Palace, also near Jodhpur, is partially converted to a hotel....

You see many people in India sitting on top of buses and...

Pick your own caption: a) The Mini-Maharaja, b) The Smallish Swami, c)...

An owner of Monark Tours, Sumer Singh (on right), invited me to...

Sumer's family's home is surrounded by beautiful farmland and a village of...

Sumer brought me around one night to meet some of the village...

This is the inside of their home. No electricity, running water, or...

They did have plenty of goats though. This little one took a...

This village children really liked seeing their picture on my camera screen,...

I also hung out with this serious little boy at the family's...

During the day we took a drive around Bhagwa, and gave a...

Another village family. The women wear many plastic rings on their upper...

The village people raise a lot of goats. They kept the young...

This one is just a few days old.

This woman is facing the camera! They wear a veil, often covering...

Oxen are also commonly still used in agriculture around here.

This girl had a really cute smile, but not for the camera.

On the way from Bhagwa to Udaipur, we stopped at the large...

Ranakpur is one of India's largest and most important Jain temples.

 

The temple is filled with 1,444 ornate stone pillars, no two the...

There were several smaller buildings on the site.

Another building at Ranakpur.

Next stop is the "Lake City" of Udaipur. This is the dawn...

The Moharram Muslim festival was going on the day we arrived. People...

I took a tour of the City Palace which had great views...

A bedroom for the maharaja. A servant in the next room would...

I took a boat ride on the lake to Jagmandir Island. This...

 

 

A view of Jagmandir Island as we approached. The palace here was...

Looing back at Udaipur from the island.

One of the island palace buildings.

I met this nice guy from Sydney on the boat. We were...

That night Bhojraj and I went to the Monsoon Palace, located on...

Next stop was Chittorgarh and its Black Fort, considered by many to...

The Jaya Stambha (Tower of Victory) was erected in 1468, and includes...

You can climb all the way to the top in the narrow,...

Another building within the Black Fort.

Outside the fort we saw these guys making bati balls, a traditional...

The balls are then cooked lying on hot coals. And the coals...

Our last city in Rajasthan, the capital of Jaipur, also called the...

Bhojraj lives in Jaipur, so he brought me to meet his family....

Another couple Bhojraj relatives.

Sumer also arranged for me to attend a wedding reception. The groom...

There was a huge feast at the wedding party. These guys are...

We saw this baby elephant on the way to see the Amber...

The fort had some rooms with very ornate walls covered in tiny...

There was also a lot of renovation work being done here, much...

 

More women working at the fort.

These guys are selling sweets and snacks in town.

Burka on Board.

These women are part of a Kalash Yatara rally of Hindu pilgrims...

The other owner of Monark, Vikram, showed me around the city palace....

That night we went to Chokhi Dhani, a kind of a mock...

On the way home I saw these cute donkeys, standing of course...

Some more of Bhojraj's family.

Some more kids in Bhojraj's neighborhood.

Movie Clips - Playback Requirements - Problems?

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These girls were singing traditional Rajasthani songs for tips out in the...

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There were camels everywhere actually working and not for tourism. They are...

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This amazing girl in Jaisalmer is balancing on a rope over a...

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Old school irrigation. The oxen are driving a series of buckets that...


I flew into Delhi, the capital of India, and arranged for a 12 day tour of Rajasthan. Since this trip included stops in many places, I have combined the whole tour as one posting. You can follow my route on the Rajasthan map, moving counter-clockwise through the cities I mention in my comments.

Rajasthan is often referred to as the Land of the Kings, and is home to the Rajput warrior clan. It is loaded with castles and forts, built over the last thousand plus years by the various Rajput rulers. These rulers grew very rich as there were many trade routes through the area. The Rajput maharajahs were even able to maintain some autonomy later during British rule, but India's independence led to a significant loss in power.

Since there is so much to see in Rajasthan, I decided to hire a tour company to plan a trip for me, and arrange a driver. A friend I met online has been to Rajasthan many times, and he recommended Monark India Tours. Visit Monark Website Monark is run by two guys, Sumer and Vikram, and they planned a great journey for me.

I mentioned the sites I wanted to see, and that I was especially interested in meeting real people off the tourist track. Sumer and Vikram did a great job. I was invited to the ancestral home of Sumer's wife, in a little farming village called Bhagwa. Sumer also introduced me to his family, and arranged for me to attend a wedding party in Jaipur. Since I had my own driver, I had the flexibility to change my schedule, or just stop by the road to meet people or take a photo.

My driver's name was Bhojraj, and he is a Rajastani man who speaks their local language, as well as Hindi and English. Bhojraj and I spent two weeks together in a little car and had a lot of fun. It turned out we are both 37, born just 40 days apart, but Bhojraj has been married for 21 years and had four kids! The marriage was arranged when he and his wife were both 15, and they were married the next year.

The story of Bhojraj's wedding is fascinating. His father contacted a distant relative in another town who had a compatible single daughter. Once the parents had worked out the details and agreed to the marriage, Bhojraj and his wife were informed of the decision. They had never talked or met, or even seen a picture of each other! As the wedding drew near, Bhojraj knew that his eldest brother's wife, called his "bhabki" in their culture, had seen his bride. He gave her many gifts to butter her up and asked about his new wife, especially if she was pretty. His ploy worked and bhabki passed along some positive details.

The wedding ritual started with seven days of ceremonies held separately by the bride's and groom's families. Then Bhojraj's family traveled to the bride's home with gifts, and they had another full day ceremony together. Bhojraj's wife wore a veil the whole time so he never saw her, and she couldn't see him very well either. After the ceremony at the bride's home, Bhojraj brought his wife and family back to his home where they visited temples to make offerings, and his bride spent time with the women in his family singing and dancing.

The couple was not alone together in a room until that night. Then finally his wife was able to remove the veil and he saw her! Bhojraj said they were both pleased, and very interested in the stranger who would be their spouse for the next 60 or 70 years. Bhojraj said they spent the next three days just talking, and they are still close 21 years and four kids later.

Bhojraj and I had a great time. He was really good about exposing me to the real Rajasthani people and culture, and not just tourist sites. Check out the photos!



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