Sorry for the delay in postings... and now, the challenge of trying to consolidate an amalgamation of experiences into a concise update....
I have spent the past few weeks traveling through the state of Rajasthan, the land of royal families, warriors, palaces, forts, and deserts. Rajasthan has seen the rise and fall of many empires and has the architectural masterpieces to evoke their stories. Walking through the labyrinth of walk ways, up and down narrow steep stairs, in and out of a variety of royal quarters and on top of the canon filled bastions in these impenetrable fortifications really brings you back in time. The stories and paintings of battles won and lost, women committing jauher (collective sacrifice on the funeral pyre of their husbands), the participation in watching animal fights as a sport and inspecting their daunting medieval weaponry sheds light on the gruesome nature of this period of time which is contrasted with the telling of love stories, loyalty, bravery and witnessing their opulent architecture, furniture, attire, jewelry, and art work.
Modern day Rajasthan remains steeped in colorful traditions. Many men wear very large colorful turbans and sport long mustaches to display their manlihood. The turbans are said to represent unity (in that everyone from peasants to royalty wore them) as well as distinction (in that the size, color and way they are wrapped may indicate a person's caste, religion, region, occupation, and whether they are grieving or celebrating). Many women wear vibrant color saris or traditional skirts and continue the practice of purdha (covering their face to "protect them from the gaze of men"). The jewelry women wear, ie. white plastic bangles up their entire arm or large nose rings are also identifying factors of marriage and class status.
I visited common pilgrimage sites that modern day folks visit to receive blessings for life's transitions such as marriage, birth, and death. I have seen an observatory built in the early 18th century with gi-normous equipment that is still used by sages and scholars today to observe the cosmos to inform science and fortell of auspicious dates. I have gone on a non-comercialized tour into villages and watched the common practice of an opium ritual and weavers and potters demonstrating their village trade. I have laughed with elders, watched children flying kites on rooftops and of course played with many others, I have rented a motorcycle with a new friend and visited small rural villages and my story culminates with a magical overnight camel safari in the desert, sleeping under the starry skies at a village family's camp site. Only to be kept awake all night by an Indian wedding at a posh heritage hotel over 30 miles away flashing disco lights and pounding base "music." But of course! This is still India don't you know!!!!
I have been worn down by haggeling, trying to dissect through lies, scams, who to trust, the heat, horns, dust, nasty smells, tummy upset and then built back up by random acts of kindness, generosity, someone offering you home cooked food they brought on their picnic for you to try, the genuine invitation from an Indian family to come stay with them in their home hundreds of miles away just after a small conversation, and the meeting of new friends from India and around the world. This place really is exceptional! And not for the weak or weary!
|Jaipur the pink city... The honey combed building was for the royal women built so that they could look out but designed so nobody can look in.|
|Large sun dial (I think)|
|One of many forts|
|A common form of transport for a family of 4. Mom was not on the back yet and did not want her picture taken. Women often sit side saddle and not uncommon for children to be standing up.|
|Waiting at the bus stop|
|A wedding march. The vessels on their head are for the spirit of Ganesh to pass through.|