In the land of maharajas it is a must to marvel about their palaces. The architecture is very impressive and you get to know a lot about the life-style of historic times. Some palaces are completely open for tourism, in some rooms are still inhabited by the family. One palace is more beautiful then the other - and despite that we advise you (if you are not a big fan of cultural- and art-historic architecture) to plan maximum three in your journey. Easily one gets fatigue and in the end one doesn't know any more which detail belongs to which palace.
Also it is not an easy task to see the pomp of the palaces in contrast to the obvious poverty of many people in the cities and the hard life on the countryside - very difficult for the "fair-sense" of the world to digest.
Some palaces have audio-guides (for example Merangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Amber Fort nearby Jaipur), which are very good. You cannot ask questions, but take your own time to stroll through the rooms. A nice change.
As Gandhi already said, who wants to get to know the "real India", has to go to the villages.
We think, too, that village-stays will enrich your journey and give a more complete insight into Rajasthan. 75% of the inhabitants in this state live in the countryside in bigger or smaller villages. The villages have been built mostly in a special order: every cast, every tribe, every village-member has his/her fixed place within the village. For decision concerning the whole village, but also quarrels between or within families, the Panchayat, a voted group of 5 members, is responsible. They meet regularly, consult with each other and modulate all cases. If they don't get a good consent or the fighters are not happy with the decision, one has to go to the next authority. But as the Panchayat consists of members out of the social system of the village, they try always to get solutions, everyone can live with. Smaller villages have to join to build a Panchayat together.
The village-community gets usually a living by agriculture and husbandry, the surplus getting into trade. In many villages there are milk-cooperatives, Every morning the milk-car comes, collects the milk and takes it to the city for sale. In agriculture, which os party done with machines, partly by hands only, a lot depends on the monsoon and the quality of the ground-water. In desert-areas there is just one crop per year possible. Here mostly millet is growing. In other areas one also harvests wheat, and the golden mustard sparkles in the winter in the craggy landscape. Water is the most important issue for the villagers. Is the monsoon good, there will be also a good harvest and full stomachs, is it more scarce, one has to tighten one's belt despite the subsidised wheat from the gouvernment.
Next to these main occupations you'll also find lots of manufacturing. They ben diesen Haupttätigkeiten findet man in den Dörfern auch noch eine rege Handwerkertätigkeit. Blacksmiths are forging iron, jewellers produce simple and valuable jewellery, carpets are woven (the Dhurries in the Bishnoi-villages are something special), potters doing their pots on manual working turn-tables and in some villages you can see the traditonal block-printing.
In the villages there are for minimum gouvernmental primary schools, in which the children leran reading and writing with most basic facilities. Rajasthan still has a quite high illiteracy-rate (not only among elderly people), especially between the rural people (and here especially girls and women). Teachers are not keen to work in villages, children have (too) long ways to school or are more needed at home for working and the budget for learning material is low.
A very special experience is a puja in a Village-Temple, where you become eye- (and ear)witness from daily religious practise. Mostly the people sing, swing the fire-pan, ring the bell and drum. Spectators are mostly welcome, sometimes offered to join, but if you don't like, it is no problem to refuse. Just when someone is handing out prasad (blessed food), you should take it. But don't be afraid: You can't do anything wrong. The rules, which are important for the Rasthanis, they will tell you.
We offer different kinds of village-visits. Having an overnight in a Heritage Hotel in a village, a village-walk is a must. Here you can see especially the connections of the noble-class and the interdependence since generations with the village. Also many resorts have a village nearby and offer an accompagnied walk. As these walks are always done with someone from the hotel/resort, the contact with the locals is easy. You can ask all possible and impossible questions and therefore get a very good insight into daily life and the village-structure.
During a Cameltour you automatically get into villages, which you don't just see from the camel-back, but have a rest, drink tea, visit schools and take little walks. If you prefer to stay in a city, but also would like to see a bit of village-life, we cann arrange a half/full-daytrip to a village with or without lunch, for example to the Bishnoi-villages nearby Jodhpur.
If you want to have even more intense experiences in village-life, we offer a Homestay in Siyana, a village not far from Bikaner (until now quite unique) or arrange a day with a village-family, where you can join with all work (for sure you'll have a translater with you).
If you have special interest in Handicraft, we will arrange a visit accordingly. Many work you can try on your own, too, like block-printing or pottery - we will help you with a smaller or bigger workshop!
Also we like to arrange a School-visit (if it is not already included in a village-walk), where you can inform yourself about the school-system and todays's topics.
Apart from all these "learning- and experience-aspects", a village-stay is always a good opportunity to get into a slower rhythm, to enjoy the simplicity of life, calm down and listen to nature.
Apart from the nationwide holidays there are quite a number of regional festivals, you can easily include into your itinerary. Here you find the dates for the most important fetsivals for this and next year for a better planning.
|Jaipur, Udaipur, Bikaner||Gangaur||9.-10.4.||29.-30.3.|
|Sawai Madhopur||Mahaveerji Fair||17.4.||9.4.|
|Mt. Abu||Summer Festival||20.-21.5.||9.-10.5.|
|Mt. Abu||Winter Festival||29.-30.12.||29.-30.12.|
Rajasthan is dominantly hindu, but there are several possibilities, to visit other religious places and communities. And Rajasthan wouldn't be typical indian, if there wouldn't be also very special places/temples, which we think are a lot more to discover than what we have mentioned here. And thirdly there is also superstition, which influences in some areas the daily life. Best to ask your guide about these.
For Hinduism a most special place is Pushkar with it's holy lake, surrounded by 52 bathing ghats. There you can observe many hindus doing their rituals or also have a puja for yourself doen by a priest.
Most exciting is a visit of an active Village-Temple, which we can include in your itinerary.
The biggest centre of Islam is in Ajmer with its impressive mosque. But also in Jodhpur you can hear the muezzin calling early morning through the old town.
Same in Jodhpur there is a protestant-methodist community with approx. 500 members, who go to church every sunday morning at 9:00 am. You are very welcome to join! Also in Bikaner there is a church to visit. The christian population here is about 5 %.
The centres of Jainism are in Mt. Abu and in Ranakpur. In Ranakpur iyou can see the most impressive temple - many smaller temples are in several places in Rajasthan.
Regarding the "special places" we can offer the following:
- rat-temple Karni Mata in Deshnoke (nearby Bikaner)
- exorcism-temple in Balaji (between Agra and Jaipur)
- Bullet Baba Temple nearby Rohet (there a Bullet Enfield is said to have spiritual power)
- Amaj Mata Tempel with a kind of Oracle (nearby Kumbalgarh)
Most known of the folk-religions is the one of the Bishnoi, becoming famous due to a tree-hugging-campaign in 1730, protesting against the cutting of trees and prefering to die then to stop the fight.
The astrologer has a very important role in the life of the rajasthani. Mostly he provides a horoscope at the birth, has a look at the star-constellations of matching partners for an arranged marriage, looks for suitable dates after consulting the stars and is asked for several questions regarding the life of the rejasthani people. All the stone-rings you can spot on male hands in India are for influencing the planets. Are you curious about your horoscope or the indian interpretation? We'll arrange a meeting with an astrologer.
Much fun you will having joining a cooking-class. In several places indian cooks offer to teach you the art of indian cooking. You will learn the basics with some tatsy dishes, the usage and effectiveness of spices and you can ask everything so that at home you will be able to do it yourself.
Rajasthan is a shopping-paradise. But how to find trusty dealers and good products for reasonable prices in this abundance of shops? Yes, it is true that guides and eikshaw-drivers get commission in most of the shops. And in some of the shops one feels really uncomfortable and pressured. In others the huge selection and the quality of the products make up for this. We cannot abolish the commission-business, but we can give you a shopping-assistant, who doesn't like firtly for the commission but for the satisfaction of the client. So s/he will just go to the commission-shops if the products are reallly of good quality and other shoopers made good experiences already, otherwise you go to the shops where also the locals go. And you won't get bad looks, if you didn't find anything suitable. When finding dresses, which don't fit well, we accompagny you to the tailor, who will make the changes for small money.
Very special is a game-afternoon in Nora Villa in Jodhpur. Mrs. Leela has a little collection of games incl. some typical rajasthani games in her cozy living-room and likes to play with self-made pastries and tea or coffee.
Would you like to take a paintbrush in your hand? Then please sit down next to a Miniature-Painter, let him explain the techniques and paint a little picture yourself. You can use the time to have a chat with the painter. A simple visit of a studio without own painting is for sure interesting, too.
What about a cinema-visit with a bollywood-movie in original? If, then for sure in Raj Mandir in Jaipur, the biggest cinema in India. If Jaipur is not in your itinerary, we can arrange a cinema-visit in every other place for you.
Woman's day! Would you like to get to know more about the women n Rajasthan? We give you the opportunity to spend a whole day with one. Go shopping with her, cook and dance together, visit the beauty parlour or the local sightseeings - much time and occasions for good talks! This offer is for ladies only.
A nice experience and also a good memory is the visit of an indian Photostudios. Before for sure you have to dress up (we provide you with local dresses) and make up (face make-up, hair, mehndi - as much/less as you wish!). Then you will get photos in front of indian settings and at will you can get collages. It seems that ideas of indians are endless.
In such a dry state water plays a big role. The knowledge about collecting water and uses is, is very old, but partly suppressed. On special watertours you can learn a lot interesting things about the usage of water.
Walking and strolling around is good fun, but in some big cities you might feel a bit lost in the small crowded alleys, you don't know where there is something interesting and you cannot talk to most locals. In the bigger cities there are offers of Heritage Walks in the old towns, means that you not only get intresting stories, but also discover corners and people, which would have been otherwise hidden.
In Rajasthan there are some projects/NGOs, during which visits you can get a deep insight into some aspects of the life in Rajasthan.
First we mention our own project, the Kamerakidz (www.kamerakidz.com). In the village of Chandelao children have taken photos and made a book out of it (http://kamerakidz.com/products/booksbucher/). We offer on one day to be guided by one or more of the photographers through the village and meet the places and people of the book. In this package is included: per person 1 book, tea with a family, 1 local guide (the children are sometimes a little shy) and for sure the salary for the children.
Also in Chandelao you can find Sunder Rang (www.sunderrang.com). Sunder Rang is engaged in traditional handicraft and gives women the opportunity to add to the family-income and keep on the ancient knowledge. They have a nice store where you can shop while watching the women manufacturing the products.
Not in Rajasthan, but in Delhi is the Sulabh Organisation (www.sulabhinternational.org). But as you usually start or finish your journey from there, we also mention this worth-visiting NGO here. You learn a lot about the situation of the Dalits (lowest caste), the toilets in india and their betterment. For the guided walk you have to calculate half a day.
Very exciting is the idea of the Barefoot-College (www.barefootcollege.org) in Tilonia nearby Ajmer. It is about the strengthening of the creative skills and the buried knowledge of the in a special sense uneducated rural population. But despite the predominant illiteracy they are very well able to understand technical contexts and use it. A visit takes minimum half a day and can be booked with or without lunch.
In Jaipur Ladli (www.ladli.org) takes care of street-children and children from torn families and difficult family-situations. They visit the school, get additional lessons and learn some handicraft techniques to make beautiful things. Also they have psychological support as some have a tough deal with their experiences. Security and a safe community gives more stabilisation into their life.
Next to these mentioned projects, we know some more in other places with different topics. Please tell us what you are specially interested!