It is the land of the upturned pointy mustaches and the bright laheria turbans, the dancers that move to the old tunes and the wise looking camels on the dune. But there are more reasons to drop everything and head to Rajasthan.
Forts and Palaces
The forts of Rajasthan have stood the test of time and have emerged glorious testimony of the many empires that ruled and the kings who sat the throne. Hundreds of years ago there were just these forts around which cities developed. As you will trudge on towards these grand structures you can't help but be amazed by the skill and architecture.
But that aside, the palaces of Rajasthan are perfect for a taking picture. For those who like to be in front of the camera or behind it. These textured walls, the countless pillared galleries, the jharokas will give you ample inspiration to pose or to click.
Mehrangarh fort of Jodhpur is one of my favorites. The big cannons on the fort front and the overlooking blue city is a visual delight.
Another fort palace with a spectacular facade is Udaipur's City palace. Over looking the lake, the palace, to my eyes, is delicate and pristine. It's tinted glass windows, the intricately ornate walls and courtyards with inlay glass work are masterpieces- each in itself.
Folk Tales and Fables
If you love stories and folklore then Rajasthan should definitely be in your to-do list. Every step that you take in its enchanting cities gets you closer to the history and all the spectacular tales of the past.
In Chittorgarh stands the impregnable fort that witnessed the saga of love, lust, war and death. The story goes that the beauty of Rani Padmini was legendary. They say she was so fair and her skin to translucent that when she drank water or would jew paan one could see it passing down her throat. When King Alaudin Khilji heard of her beauty he just wanted her, the lustful king made a request to the King of Chittorgarh, cunningly saying that she was a sister to him. But Padmini knew in her heart that Khilji's intentions were all but brotherly. So she devised a way where Khilji could see her reflection in mirrors that were angled in such a way that she could be sitting far away at the steps of her janana mahal, safe from the lustful reach of the ruler of Delhi.
These mirrors are still placed in the fort of Chittorgarh and you can still stand where hundreds of years ago Khilji must have stood to catch a glimpse of the most beautiful woman that lived.
Also reverberating in the corridors of Mewar, the story of the great sacrifice of Panna Dhai. The nanny who let her own son die just to save the only heir of Mewar, Raja Uday Singh- a plot that you have probably seen several times in masala bollywood potboilers. Many such tales are recounted and celebrated in the light and sound shows that happen each evening at the Udaipur City Palace.
From the mirrored bangles, to the beautiful mojaris...from the ornate handmade paper diaries to the elephant print harem pants, from bright embroidered bags to leather chappals, well you get the gist- everything that you could possibly think of is right here.
The best place to shop for Mojaris, or juttis is Jodhpur. In my experience, these last the longest, are most comfortable and are the best colour and design.
Pushkar is great to shop for too. The whole road leading to the only Bhrahma temple in the world is lined with all kind of shops. So you will find an interesting massage parlor right next to a cart selling heaps of colour. Look out for very interesting earrings and anklet shops that are selling stuff dirt cheap. From the fashionable drop crotch pants to asymmetric zipper jackets, you will find a lot of foreign fashion on the streets of Pushkar.
Go to Chittorgarh even if it is just for the beautiful Chandan Silk Sarees. Yes, not many people know of these amazing saaris. Made of Bamboo threads, these saaris once washed with alum water (phitkiri) smell of sandal forever. They are lovely colours, often playing with bright contrast, and very reasonably priced. I challenge you to return with just one.
No narration for Rajasthan can be over without talking about the delicious food that is available to devour so abundantly here. It is an ecstasy trip for the foodie. People are unapologetic about eating here, unembarrassed about hangout in huge numbers around the eateries.
Most old hotels in Rajasthan are heritage and the new ones are built to look like one. And that is the best part about a hotel stay in Rajasthan. You are made to believe that you are royalty. In those few days and nights spent under the high arches and between walls painted with elephants and horses you forget that city dwelling you call home.