Feb 2, 2009

Rajasthan - Roads lesser traveled (Part 1)

The name evokes memories of forts, palaces, temples & desserts. Having spent most part of the school vacations in Kota (being the place I was born), I always have had a fascination with the history of the state. One of my favourite books in growing up years was a brief history of various riyasats of Rajasthan. Unfortunately, over the years, the book was lost somehwere. but the fascination was not.
The land of warriors, well-known tales of bravery of kings like Rana Sanga & Rana Pratap and of treacheries of those who sided with enemies to bring down their own kith & kins, Mira Bai’s devotion to Krishna, Rani Padmini’s beauty & immolation - everything to me has added to the Romance that is Rajasthan. For the modern generation, Rajasthan probably is the only link to a crucial part of history of the country itself.

The beauty of Amber Fort & Hawa Mahal of Jaipur, Sonar Killa and romance of Desert at Jaisalmer, Jodhpur’s palaces & enigma of Zubeida, Udaipur’s natural beauty and its palaces (converted to well known top-of-the line hotels) and Chittor’s fortress, Bharatpur & Ranthambhor’s wilderness have all contributed to the mystic of Rajasthan.

So when we decided to travel to Rajasthan for a short trip, Kumbhalgarh was not even on the list of our preferred destinations. After all so little is known about Kumbhalgarh. A state that is full of glamorous and well traveled tourist hot-spots, the name of Kumbhalgarh hardly evoked any reactions.

To be fair, had it not been a Club Mahindra location, we might not have had thought of travelling to this place too. Even friends in Rajasthan were unaware about the place. To everyone it looked like one of the relics of a forgotten history. By the end of our trip we had realised that it was not a relics rather the place where history was actually made.

But before the detinations comes the journey. After all while it is essential to keep a destination in mind, one needs to enjoy the journey. In losing the journey, we lose beauty. We lose experience. We lose the essence of life.

Journey to Kumbhalgarh

One can travel to Kumbhalgarh through railway via either Falna or Udaipur (equidistant from Kumbhalgarh at about 80 Kms distance by road). Unlike the railway journey we have had to North in summer at the height of Gujjar agitation, this time round it was the planning & ticketing that was hectic & chaotic. However, once the train started from Bandra Terminus, the journey was uneventful and peaceful. The only excitement during the journey was provided by the small rats in the train who, while plundering through the passengers luggage, also found time enough to have fights in the gangways.

We reached Falna, early morning. The weather outside was cold, crisp & delightful, perfect one for a good masala tea. The road to Kumbhalgarh from Falna goes via Ranakpur & Saira and through the forests of Aravali range. The road is well maintained and cool weather around made the drive very enjoyable. As the sun rays started making the horizon gold and life in the village started stirring, we left a hoarding stating "Moonlight" behind. Soon, the rays of sun peeping in through the hills & the bushes, providing the surreal effect to the drive. Within some time, we reached our first halt – Ranakpur temples.

Ranakpur Temples

I had first visited the place when I was in 9th and then again while I was in college. At that time I had found Ranakpur quintessentially what can be termed as a “one horse town”. I remember having walked in the forest in the middle of the night with the RTDC hotel manager because my father wanted to interview an old sadhu who was one of the oldest resident of the area.

Now, after 20-25 years too, there does not seem to be any increase in the population. Apart from the RTDC hotel, it is only the temple premise which has any semblance of being populated. The years have also aged the façade of temple a bit but the grandeur of these temples has remained intact.

Ranakpur Jain temples were constructed about 600 years ago during the regin of Rana Kumbha. These temples are perfect examples of the creative splandour of those times. Having been constructed with light coloured marble (a more porous and brittle stone and hence difficult to carve), the temples lie amidst the forests with hills around providing further protection. Perhaps that has been the reason that while other temples faced rampaging during the reign of fanatic Mughal king Aurangzeb, inaccessibility to these temples kept them safe.

Designed with face to all four directions, temple’s numerous shikhars are supported by about 1444 marble pillars, each exquisitely carved. Unlike temples of Nathdwara & other Hindu temples, the Ranakpur temple trust is more accommodating in nature towards tourists. One can view it through out the day except restriction on photography inside the temple premise during morning hours. Having reached there early morning, we realised that photography in the temple is permitted only during mid-day and hence had to be satisfied with whatever pictures we could click of the façade.

Sun having risen, the shikhars of temple were being used as perching ground by a number of birds, including Rufous treepie, white-breasted kingfisher (having seen it most of the times now-a-days near the fields, shouldn’t it be renamed as Kingfarmer?), a fowl which soon disappeared in the foliage, plum headed and alexandrine parakeets, a number of rock pigeons & spotted doves, peacocks & peahens, Black-headed Ibis and Pond herons. Langurs (Black faced monkeys) balancing themselves on various branches & using early morning sunrays to warm themselves were though a subdued. However, they were compensated more than by the ever-chattering jungle babblers. The good news is that the crows were largely absent but the bad news is that the jungle babblers have usurped the place of crows in most of these towns & villages. Sounding equally shrill most of the times, these flocks of jungle babblers were everywhere like scavengers and scaring away other birds.

Here I end first part of my travelogue, partly in roder to givea brief respite to myself but more to provide much needed break to those who have got tired of reading it but are just being nice. The second part shall be dealing with the time spent at Kumbhalgarh & around. Meanwhile, for those who would like to check out the pictures clicked in Ranakpur & Kumbhalgarh can click on the following link.

Those wondering about absence of birds, well, I have not turned a new leaf. The birds were there and so was my camera. The report shall be in part 2 and so would be the link to their pix.

1 comment:

Poonam Rahul Bhargava said...

V interesting...will chk it out in greater details for a future holiday...good photography too!