Lessons From Rajasthan
I suspect these lessons apply to all of India but since I can’t yet confirm or deny, I’ll call them local lessons for now.
I truly enjoyed our 15 days in the state of Rajasthan, but some places were better than others.
That said, there will always be places left unseen and things for next time. Rajasthan is just one of those places where I don’t think there would ever be enough time. There are a few national parks that would be great to explore, when timed correctly to see the flora and fauna. I read about another fort that captured my attention. Chittaugarh would have been interesting to visit, not because I was disappointed with the forts and palaces we did see, but rather because it’s a bit off the beaten path and could probably be visited without so many people around. Other people talked about doing a true camel trek. 3-4 days, or longer, where you start in one place and end in another. I enjoyed our quick overnight camel “safari” but it was a little silly as we were probably only a 1/2 mile from a road. And lastly, I also read about a “city-free” route through Rajasthan that takes you through the Aravalli Hills. It’s possible that “city-free” could mean less horn honking. That alone would be worth it.
When the guide book says that the monsoon for northern India runs through August 30th, it would be best not to take that literally. Turns out, there isn’t a switch that just turns it off….and it’s possible you will get still caught in a downpour when you least expect it, even into September.
It really doesn’t matter what your hotel room looks like, if you have to take a shower with a bucket or if the power goes out multiple times each day – as long as your hotel has a rooftop terrace, it’s all good. The rooftop culture and lifestyle for both travelers and residents is a great part of the Rajasthan experience. In the early morning you can watch what seems like the whole city up on their rooftops. People stretching, stringing up clothes to dry, still sleeping on mattresses pulled out into the cool evening air, and kids playing. Almost all restaurants worth visiting have either a rooftop terrace or an open seating area. With a few fans, it remains surprisingly cool and is a great way to get up and out of the noise and bustle but still be able to feel a part of it.
GET UP TO DATE
Things quickly get confusing in this region and lots of terminology and history gets thrown around. There are the Mughals, Rajputs, Maranthas, Maharajas, Maharanas, Rajputanas, etc, etc. Each district in Rajasthan had its own nobility and palaces and princely traditions. There are palaces and havelis and forts. Centuries of wars that changed the hands of power back and forth over time and from an independent kingdom to part of a nation. Architecture and culture uniquely Rajasthani. Turbans are worn and tied 100s of different ways to identify what group they belong to. It’s also in the tribal belt of India with tribes and ethnic groups that have not mixed and have remained homogenous, each with it’s own colorful traditions and culture. Phew, it’s a beast to even begin to understand. Then there are so many Gods & Deities that are referenced as stories are told about a particular place or historical time period. A lot of religious migration has gone on over the years in this region. We visited places of worship for Jains, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. All of these pieces of the puzzle are commonly referenced by tour guides and written information and it can be quite overwhelming to sort it out all out. A little research before hand could go along way.
BE A WARRIOR
We heard a lot about the 4 different castes, one of which is the warrior caste. As a tourist to Rajasthan, especially as an India first-timer, it sometimes takes being a warrior to push through the unpleasant and find some peace in this colorful land. It’s filthy, grimy, dusty and the hawkers, tourist touts and excessive horn honking and noise can really put some stress on the nerves. For me, the noise was the most difficult for me to take in. Lots of time outs and retreating up to a rooftop helped. Unfortunately all of that negative stuff is right in your face and it can be hard to look past it….but Rajasthan is such a fascinating place, you just have to find a way to make it open up its magic for you!