Scotsabroad's Weblog

January 6, 2015

Cold Curry Cows and Cricket

Filed under: Books,Holidays — scotsabroad @ 8:23 pm

photo

We were not prepared for the weather encountered in Agra, Delhi and Rajasthan. We felt the cold everyday. The classic shot of the Taj Mahal does not show it shrouded in heavy mist. We experienced the mist straight away on our arrival to Delhi. We crawled to Agra through the fog in about five hours following the fluorescent paint on the road. However, the mist took nothing away from the magnificence of the place.

1355935510_a-teardrop-on-the-cheek-of-time

I read Diana and Michael Preston’s delightful book, A teardrop on the Cheek of Time – the story of the Taj Mahal, a few months ago. This was a great potted history of the Moghul empire – and preparation for some of the extraordinary palaces we encountered in the region and the remnants of Moghul opulence we discovered as we drove around the region.

???????????????????????????????

In Agra we also encountered the first of many local school excursions and waves of modern Indian tourists enthusiastically visiting their country’s historical sites. They often brought warmth and colour to some sun-starved places.

???????????????????????????????

Some memorable moments…

???????????????????????????????

Standing at the bottom of the steps of Buland Darwaza (Victory Gate) at Fatehhpur Sikri. This fortified ancient city was magnificent. We walked the courtyard where Akbar is said to have played an ancient version of ludo using colourful slave girls as pieces. And the site of public executions where Akbar’s favourite elephants trampled on convicted criminals.

???????????????????????????????

Drinking creamy lassis in the early morning from a clay cup in Jaipur.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????,

???????????????????????????????

Enjoying some early morning warmth in Jaipur. Stopping to view the outside of the Palace of the Winds. Lucas befriended a snake charmer. Climbing the Iswari Minar Swarga Sai (Heaven Piercing Minaret) above the Tripoli bazaar at sunset. Walking the streets around the City Palace and visiting the extraordinary Jantar Mantar – an observatory built in 1728, with its large sculptures that are incredibly accurate instruments of calculation.

???????????????????????????????

The boys sitting on the wall outside the Sun Gate to the Amber Fort for about an hour watching an unbroken line of painted elephants negotiate the steep ascent into the main courtyard. Tourists are now deposited in the courtyard, replacing the war booty once displayed here to the populace. This was our favourite palace and fort.

???????????????????????????????

Visiting a paper-making factory near Jaipur after an unsuccessful tiger safari in Ranthambhore National Park. Getting a tour of the premises. Sheets of fabric paper hanging to dry from the ceiling. Everything from lightshades to notebooks produced mostly for export.

???????????????????????????????

The highway was the domain of magnificently un-aerodynamic lorries. Tata or Ashok Leyland trucks rumbled across the country many with tasselled and tinselled mirrors. Massive, slow-moving cuboids with rear painted messages such as, Blow Horn and All India Permit.

???????????????????????????????

Lucas delights us, innocently reading aloud another common message on the back of trucks, use diaper at night. After our laughter subsides in the car we get to thinking of the advantages of wearing one while driving in India. No disgusting service stops for a start.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

We visited the mighty fort of Mehrangarh as the sun was setting and looked down on the blue city of Jodhpur.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

We visited the wonderful old clock tower in the heart of Jodhpur’s Sardar Market. The old mechanical time-piece struck ten as we reached the top.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

A stop for lunch (and jewellery shopping) at a 300 year old heritage hotel at Rohet. Bruce Chatwin stayed here when he wrote (bizarrely) his book about the Aborigine people. His book, Songlines, describes the importance of ancient markings and songs to the Aboriginal’s nomadic lifestyle and their ability to travel across vast distances. I read it years ago when we lived in Harrowden Road.

chatwin_songlines

We admired the many Royal Enfield motorcycles on the road. Still produced in India, they may not go fast but they look good and sound menacing.

???????????????????????????????

We visited a showroom in Jaipur and I ended up buying a t-shirt. On the road to Udaipur we stopped at The Motorcycle Temple.

???????????????????????????????

Om Bana Temple was mobbed. A garland-decked Enfield Bullet from the 1980s is seriously worshipped. Om Bana died when his motorbike skidded into a tree. The bike was taken to the local police station but then mysteriously twice made its own way back to the crash site. Travellers along the road also started seeing visions of Om Bana.

???????????????????????????????

Only Lucas was brave enough to accompany me in and have his forehead smeared with a blessing. A cow was chased away as it made a grab for the flower garlands. 

???????????????????????????????

We visited the amazing Jain Temple at Ranakpur. Built in the 15th century from white marble. 1444 individually carved pillars. 

???????????????????????????????

Udaipur’s Lake Pichola. Four years ago there was no lake due to drought. Very touristy but stunning none the less. We sailed to Jagmandir island as we watched locals wash their clothes and perform washing rituals on the steps. We looked on Jagniwas Island. Roger Moore swam here, disguised as a crocodile, in the film Octopussy. Indeed, many hostelries show the movie daily. We explore the City Palace. I pick up an elephant head carving from an artisan outside the palace gates.

???????????????????????????????

Stunning architecture. Detail in everything. Even the glass adornments high up on the top of gates and arches catching the light.

???????????????????????????????

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

We visited the Monsoon Palace on top of a mountain above Udaipur. The boys oblivious to how high up we were and lack of safety barriers.

???????????????????????????????

On advice we drove to a remote Mewar fort called Kumbhalgarh instead of the bigger Chittorgarh Fortress. Rulers used to retreat here in times of danger. It was only taken once in its entire history and only then by the combined forces of three armies. And they only held onto it for two days. The walls were magnificent, wide enough in some places for eight horses to ride abreast. We walked a small section of the twelve kilometres of wall in the warm afternoon sun.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

A clogged street runs up from the Palace gates to the footbridge for Hanuman Ghat in Udaipur. Tourist-tack, tourist cars and beasts of burden vie for space. I’m sure the horns are pitched louder in Udaipur.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

On our final morning in Udaipur we squeezed in a cooking class at the Queen’s Café. We shivered in Meenu’s home kitchen. While drinking Chai, we found out about the basic spices and the amounts to use in a curry. Cumin seeds: 2 pinches, mustard  seeds: 2 pinches. Then coriander, red chilli powder, salt, turmeric and garam masala in decreasing amounts of 5,4,3,2,1 pinches.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

We… okay, Lucas made pakura, wet and dry masala, chapattis, paratha, poori and naan. We couldn’t really appreciate the food as we had been poisoned the night before in an expensive, dangerous roof-top barbecue restaurant. We certainly were not prepared for all the unwashed fingers in the mix. On the whole the food during our holiday was fine, especially since it was mostly vegetarian. Once our friends asked for mutton at a roadside service restaurant.  We think we got the gist of what the waiter said – something like it wasn’t being served today because the last diner who ate it had got a worm. This was before we ate. Kingfisher beer seemed to kill most bacteria at mealtimes.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

Then there was Delhi. We flew to Delhi from Udaipur and stayed at some dodgy bed and breakfast. Freezing and not enough hot water. We welcomed the new year in with a rat in the kitchen and an intruder up at our bedroom window. For our last two nights we decamped to the Holiday Inn. Delhi was cold and dirty and hard to love.

However, we managed to see a fair bit of the city as we zoomed around in auto rickshaws. At other times we braved the underground.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

We visited to Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. In our socks, we climbed the filthy steps of the narrow southern minaret for a view of the old city. We stopped outside the Red Fort. We did not go inside. The British had gutted the place after flushing out a last troublesome Mughal emperor in 1857 and upgraded it to an ugly military barracks.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

We had an interesting tour of the Sisganj Gurdwara on Chandni Chowk. This Sikh shrine was mobbed. We got to see the community kitchen, providing food for twenty to twenty five thousand devotees, pilgrims, visitors and the hungry each day. Huge cooking pots and chapatti making machines. If you are hungry the last thing on your mind is prayer, explains our guide. We taste the sweet wheat halwa distributed on small foil plates to devotees entering and leaving.

???????????????????????????????

We visited the Qutb Minar Complex. Dominated by the victory tower and minaret built in 1193 to proclaim Muslim supremacy over vanquished Hindu rulers. At the foot stands the first mosque built in India. Built from materials taken from demolishing idolatrous temples, the buildings are carved with recognizable pieces of Hindu and Jain masonry – some quite explicit.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Standing inside the complex is an iron pillar. It is 7 meters high and predates all the surrounding monuments. Originally from a Vishnu temple it might date from around AD 375 to 413. Mystery still surrounds how it was made – scientists can’t work out how the iron, which has not rusted after 1600 years, could be cast with the technology at the time. Still, wouldn’t stand a chance after a few winters in Greenock.

???????????????????????????????

Our final day was spent at the National Museum. Some of the carvings  downstairs (from the Harappan Civilisation?) matched the best we saw in Egypt. The  surviving jewellery from the Moghul Dynasty amazing. Did I see that on the turban of the Khasi of Kalabar (Kenneth Williams) in Carry On Up the Khyber? Sorry.

???????????????????????????????

A sombre visit to Gandhi Smriti. His family house where he spent the last 144 days of his life before being gunned down in the garden. Great man. When Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western Civilisation, he replied that it would be a good idea. A flying visit to one more tomb before closing time. We started our time in India with a visit to Akbar’s Mausoleum and end with Humayun’s Tomb. It too alive with green parakeets. Bicycles… dogs…

???????????????????????????????

Cricket. The most popular sport in India. Being played by the young in every conceivable place – mosque ground, parks, streets and in the roundabouts and under flyovers on our way out of Delhi.

???????????????????????????????

India. What a fantastic place. Well, we only saw a bit. Love Rajasthan. Our little, point and shoot, Canon IXUS tried its best. In fact, I think this post includes just about all the pictures it took. Our penultimate foreign holiday. We will remember this one for a long time to come.

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: