Tuesday, November 20, 2007
the jodhpur jaunt
the rajasthan calling is always irresistable. when i received an invitation for a wedding and three days of shaadi celebrations at jodhpur, i immediately decided to participate in the maujmasti of a modern indian wedding. i had met the bride in london along with my daughter and mumbai at their home on several occasions. so i convinced myself that there was enough justification to take a short holiday and make the best of my stay in jodhpur. for the first time in my long career,i even decided to skip a board meeting! for the fun and excitement of a jodhpur jaunt!
can i say that i thoroughly enjoyed my stay? that would be a bit of an understatement. it was exhilarating. the big and beautiful indian wedding was meticulously planned and executed to the nth degree of perfection. starting with the wedding cards which were artistically prepared and printed and the series of programmes-sangeet,mehndi,tambrahm wedding and sufi-on-the sands. each function was captivating and unforgettable. the venues were mehrangarh fort,balsamand palace gardens,umaid bhawan palace and the sand dunes at khimsar(about 100 kms from jodhpur).
"with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,she shall have music wherever she goes". "the swish of skirts,bangles tinkling to the beat, red henna on the hands and tapping of feet". "and there are those of us who believe in all those far off dreams,so trust in what you know, they can be golden dreams". "the lamps are different but the light is the same, it comes from beyond". with such poetic fantasies printed on the cards for each of the above functions, i knew i was going for a dream wedding.
jodhpur is the second largest city of rajasthan.referred to as the sun city as it has bright sunny weather throughout the year, it is also called blue city because it's houses around the mehrangarh fort are all whitewashed and have an indigo tinge. jodhpur has a population of around 1 million.it was a major trading centre during the 16th century. the city is surrounded by a thick stone wall and it has eight huge gates.it was founded in 1459 by rao jodha,chief of the rathore clan of rajputs.hence the name jodhpur.the king made territorial gains and then formed the state of mewar.the jodhpur royal family enjoyed a good relationship with mughals excepting during the period of aurangazeb.the valour and equestrian skills of the royalty and their polo skills are legion.jodhpur is now also a military and airforce station and it has a large cantonement and airbase.it has two railway stations.i stayed at hotel ghoomer which is located close to the high court.the bishnois and the famous chinkaras live quite close to the city."no animals where rajputs stay,only in the bishnoi areas,says a rajput."we have hunted them all down".the bishnoi concept created in 1451 with 29 principles(bees+noi).they bury their dead to avoid cutting trees.
the impressive mehrangarh fort is 5km long and perched at an altitude of 125 metres on a high hill. started by raja jodha,it was actually completed after 200 years sometime in the 17th century by raja jaswant singh.the walls of the fort are 100 ft high.within the fort are some magnificent palaces .the marvelously carved panels of mehrangarh fort and its latticed windows are astounding.there is a mix of mewar and mughal culture in the minature paintings of various schools,costumes and furniture displayed in the palaces.this was the venue of the sangeet programme.the ethnic richness of rajasthan was showcased in the form of various dances,quawalis,puppet shows and skits and lighting of fireworks in the evening.their passion and fervour struck the right chord.what came through was a unending zeal to keep their tradition alive.the aerial view of the mehrangarh fort taken by kite photographer nicolas chorier is awesome. the view of the city from the highest point in the fort was breathtaking.
the people of this clean city are friendly and they enjoy a fascinating lifestyle.the men and women dress impressively.the men in their coloured turbans and bandhgala jodhpuris and the women in their wide gathered skirts and hip length jackets are a pleasing sight to watch.the city is famous for its handicrafts.the tie and dye fabric,embroidered jutis(shoes),and lots of wooden dolls and artistically painted lounging chairs and other furniture add to the shopper's delight.metal utensils,glass bangles,cutlery and marble products add to the sheer variety of shopping items.and can you resist the temptation of the matharia red chillies?
the dance form has been perfected in rajasthan.it is an aesthetic inebriation. swirls,acrobatics and hypnotic beats make the heady rajasthani dance timeless. flowing lehngas,fascinating moves,vibrant colours and a unique grace, elegance and tempo.these were sights which we had not seen. perhaps it was from a bygone era? or does the legacy of the various forms of rajasthani dance still continue in this fascinating state? in their unique manner these exhibit a high degree of zest and vivacity.interestingly, dance is an accepted part of rajasthani culture whether he is a king or a common man.some dances like the famous ghoomar(name of the hotel where i stayed) literally meaning ghoomna ,moving in circles,and gair,have been passed on from generation to generation.ghoomar involves ladies dancing in circular movements in their colourful lehengas and elegant hand movements.the gair dance traditionlly performed by men has women and men dancing in separate circles and going diagonally in loops.the beating of the drum match each turn in the dancer.the bam rasiya is another dance where men and women dance together in a circle often with sticks in hands like in dandiya.when tapped together,the clicking noises of the sticks give the beat.this is an easier dance than gair or ghoomar.the bhavai is another dance that is amazing.nine brass pots rest on the heads of the lady who moves her feet and arms elegantly and combines it with the swaying of the hips.it is not an easy dance.surely years of labour must have been required to dance this to perfection.the kathputli(puppet) dance are rajasthan-typical and accompanied with lots of singing and loud at that. they tell folklores of this wondorous state. many folk dances are also performed as rituals to appease the gods.
one of the popular functions these days in any wedding is the mehendi."mehndi laga ke rakhna". every young girl or lady make a beeline to the woman who applies this reddish paste which acts as a decoration,coolant,deodarant and astringent thanks to the properties of the henna leaves. and they go the bangles stall and pickup the best of glass bangles.the venue of this function was the balsamand lake and gardens.a beautiful lake built in 1159. a splendid summer palace stands impressively by the lake side with wonderful gardens around. we were all turbanated as soon as we arrived. headgear is an essential part of a man's apparel.it is called pagari,pencha,sela or safa depending upon its size and style.we all sported safas.
the umaid bhavan palace which took 16 years to complete is an opulent edifice.it has one million square feet of marble and is made of chittor sandstone.it gave employment then to a famine stricken population.the umaid bhavan palace is the last palace ever built in india.the story goes that maharaja umaid singh was a connosieur of western life and style.so dear was it to him that he travelled to england in 1925 to search for a british architect to build his palace.three thousand artisans worked to create this stunning palace on 26 acres of land atop chittar hill designed personally by henry lanchester of the london firm lanchester and lodge. part indo-sarcenic and part art deco style,the hotel has 347 rooms of which 15 are suites.inside,the decor merges contemporary with classic due to the brilliant work of polish interior deisgner stefan noblin.the liveried porters made you feel at home and for every query there was a "jee,hukum".they add to the aura and even talk in english.the expanse is unbelievable.balconies,courtyards,gardens and palatial rooms.it is now managed by taj hotels.though a part of the hotel remains as the royal residence of the erstwhile maharaja of jodhpur gaj singh II and his family.the royals of india lived a lavish lifestyle and exhibited a high and impressive standard of culture.whether jewellery,clothes or cars they represented the culture of their kingdom.their subjects don't lag far behind! doesn't everyone dream to dress and live like a king or a queen? the foyer of the palace hotel is the best one can see in any 5 star hotel. in the lawns outside the tambrahm wedding commenced in the early hours of the morning in a special marble mandap.there was a welcome nip in the air.
wandering minstrels and dancing girls alone do not make rajasthan. on the penultimate day of our stay,we did a 100 km to journey all the way to khimsar for a night to be spent listening to sufi songs.we drove by car, jeep and camel cart to reach the fringes of the thar desert and were awestruck by the huge sand dunes.the sufi songs were sole stirring.the octogenarian rana singh snag with gusto and he was accompanied by some very talented artistes playing mellifluously on their stringed instruments.it was an unforgettable evening.
the rajasthani cuisine was thoroughly delicious and enjoyable throughout our stay. in particular the dal batti and churma,the jodhpuri kachoris and matharia mirchi.even now i smack my lips and recall the taste of the delightful food that we had in all the functions.ranging from rajasthani specialities to tambrahm delicacies cooked by special cooks flown in from hyderabad.the marriage rituals were performed in typical iyengar style and was appreciated by one and all.
rajasthan is a land of awesome forts,brilliant latticework carved in sandstone and kota stone,tye and dye fabric,lac jewellery and mirror work.beautiful dresses for men,women and children.can you ask for more.it was like a huge one stop shoppe.
on the last day we shopped.picked up some tye and dye fabrics,quilts and even artistic chairs and lovely dolls of palace watchmen.leather slip-on jootis are a hugely popular buy.i could not resist the temptation.
the four days and nights were a continuum of chivalry and magnificence.but then,all good things must come to an end.my dream visit,dream stay and the dream wedding will always be etched in my mind.i have touched only the tip of the iceberg.there are lots more to see and enjoy in rajasthan.udaipur,jaipur,chittorgarh and jaisalmer.and pushkar.perhaps soon i will go again.probably see rajasthan from the 'palace on wheels'. rajasthan is indeed incredible and irresistable.