|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!