Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jodhpur, Day 11

We arrived at hotel in time for dinner ( I might mention that dinner is not before 7:30 anywhere) and decided we needed a change of pace from the buffet which was the usual setup in most hotels. The hotel had a Chinese restaurant so we decided we would try it. I was hoping for less spicy (read less hot) food. Ned and I each ordered a dish and I specifically asked for mine to be mild. Not to be. Ned got a lovely fish dish that was wonderful that we shared.... portions are huge anyway so one would have been enough. I do have to say that the staff in the restaurant was willing to give me something else.

All through the trip so far we had unseasonable weather. It was hotter and more humid than normal for this time of year and it rained almost everywhere we went. The skies were hazy and overcast. The air has a lot of dust particulate and in some places the pollution does nothing for the air quality. This particular morning was no different and I was sort of disappointed. I was hoping to get some good photos but it wasn't till later in the day that the skies cleared up. I did the best I could.

Jodhpur is also known as the Blue City. You can see why in this photo. Many of the houses are painted blue. Most of these are owned by the Brahmin caste members. It really is a beautiful view.... add a windmill and it reminds me of Mykonos with their white houses and blue shutters. 

Our first stop was the royal crematorium and the memorial cenotaph for Maharaja Jaswant Singh II which was built in 1899. Both are built of beautiful white marble with intricate lattice work. This crematorium is ONLY used by the royal family. It sits on a lovely lake which is a necessity as part of the Hindu tradition of purification. Ned is into birds so we have been learning about the local species as we go along. Women seem to be the groundskeepers and musicians play using traditional instruments. If  I can figure out how, I will set up an audio link. I recorded some of it.

Our next stop was Mehrangarth Fort with its beautiful palace. There has been extensive restoration work done here and you can see the gorgeous wall paintings and textiles. The museum here has a nice collection of old carriages and cradles used by the Maharani's. The opulence is jaw dropping. We got a great demonstration on turban wrapping and if I can put it in a slide show to go fast it will be great. There were musicians playing here as well. They were preparing for the marriage of the Kings daughter next week to a prince of Jaipur and everything is being spiffied up.

The new palace, Umaid Bhawan, was built by Maharaja Ummaid Singh ji who ruled from 1911-1947. It took 3000 people 15 years to complete. The region was suffering from economic hardships and draught conditions, so the Maharaja decided to find employment for the locals. Too bad it was so misty this morning.

One of the things that Rajasthan is noted for is their miniature paintings on silk and rice paper. They are done with a very fine brush (usually one bristle) using natural dye pigments. I had bought similar ones in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul several years ago and decided to add to my collection. One is fairly recent done on silk and the other is quite old done on rice paper. We got to watch a demonstration. It can take an artist weeks to make one of these depending on the detail. They use real gold and grind their own pigments. This seems to be an art form for much of Asia as you see this technique even in the small glass perfume bottles from China. Obviously, there are decidedly different styles for each region.

Our next adventure was about to take place at the warehouse of one of the Maharani art exporters. Lets say we went a bit overboard at all the textiles. I bought Pashmina shawls, bed throws, antique silk quilts, quilts done by the gypsy women, and an antique wall hanging that was made with gold threads... they weighed the thing to decide the cost. I managed to spend 2 hours in the place and Ned was patient. We hadn't even yet gotten to the special visits we were making to the villages beyond.
India is trying to keep alive its crafts and so helps to subsidize these artisans. Many of them have formed cooperatives. They are off the beaten track so you have to know to ask to go. They live in huts and still farm their land.

The first place we visited made pottery. Wish we could have gotten a large piece but they are heavy. I settled on a small vase and a painted Ganesh. They do the pottery on a hand wheel that they spin. No foot petal. We had a fantastic demonstration...he made it look easy.

Next place were the weavers where we ordered 2 Dhurrie runners for our hallway. They are doing it up in the colors I chose and will ship it in 2 months. I think there are about 25 families as part of this cooperative. They even have a website! The head of this group spoke about 16 languages. Don't let looks deceive! Their huts were beautifully decorated. The water buffalos and cows resided outside the main walls.

Next stop was to the Bishnoi villages. The Bishnoi may be the original world ecologists and environmentalists. They have very firm ideas about the treatment of animals and vegetation. They will not cut down trees and will not harm or kill an animal. They have given their lives to protect both. They are an agrarian society and vegetarian. The women are gorgeous in their very bright sari's and jewelry. They are very welcoming to strangers... we arrived as they were about to eat dinner.... which was being cooked using traditional fuel.. dried cow dung. Don't turn up your noses so fast! This does not smell like you would imagine. It actually has a sweet smell and is quite pleasant. I liked it... sort of like the smell of a camp fire. A daughter was back visiting her family as she had just given birth to a new baby and they will reside with mother for at least a month before going back to her husbands family. The baby was in a basket hanging on a tree and covered with a a bit of silk to keep out any flying insects. They offered us dinner! We did not want to impose and we did not want to insult them, so we had a small sampling. The food was very good and fresh, but to me very spicy. Ned loved it. They grow and grind their own spices fresh... they wouldn't dream of buying them already ground up. Their huts are whitewashed and painted with designs. Everything was clean. The animals were kept outside the courtyard area.

Back to the hotel for us.. we had a wonderful day. I am sorry I did not plan for more time in Jodhpur.  I will return there one day. Our next adventure is a train ride in the morning to Jaipur. We had to be up at the crack of dawn for a 6:00 a.m. train. We asked the hotel for a boxed breakfast to go.

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