Who is a hero? Is he the one who earns name and fame through valiant deeds? Is he the king renowned for his charity and his kindness toward his subjects? Or is he the unknown, unnamed man who works hard but has no songs written in his favor- the man who follows the hero into battle, the man who toils in the fields to create the wealth that the king donates, the man who is a good son and a father and a good husband and a good friend to his family and friends. The Hall of Heroes in Mandore Garden is dedicated to the Rajput kings and the gods, but I’d like to think it is written to all those men (and women) who lived honest lives and tried to do good to whoever they met.
I have earlier commented on how awesome it would be to live in a palace, and this is a continuation of that theme. Here, I tell you some of the lessons I learned about being royalty from my tour of the Umaid Bhavan Palace in Jodhpur. Built by Maharaja Umaid Singh, the palace is India’s most famous structure after the Taj Mahal, looking at the stream of modern royalty, a.k.a. movie stars, who chose to get married here. Probably my chances of being a royal are lesser than India’s chances of being the top medal winner at the Olympics, but well, a girl can dream. And also, the lessons learned in this life will serve me well in my next birth, when, hopefully, I’ll be born as Prince William’s great-grandson or something.
Continue reading How to be a Royal: Lessons from a tour of Umaid Bhavan Palace
Mandore was the capital of the Rathods before Rao Jodha shifted it to Jodhpur. There is little left of the original city, just a crumbling fortress wall, but what stand tall and strong today are the cenotaphs built for dead Rajput kings. At first, I thought they were tombs, and I was quite surprised that the Hindu Rajput kings chose to be buried, but I was told that it was actually where they were cremated. It’s a little creepy to be visiting what is essentially a cemetery, but the garden-like aspect of the place diluted the effect. The cenotaphs are beautiful, though, some looking like temples with their shikhara-like structure, others domed chhatris, all with the detailed lace-like stonework that is a hallmark of Rajasthani architecture.
In all my travel stories, I haven’t spoken much about the people I met, unless they did something so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but comment on them. I have met some horrible people- rude, misleading, opportunistic- but I have met a lot of wonderful people as well- the ticket checker at Hospet bus stand who kept an eye out for my mom and me when our bus was delayed to almost midnight, our wonderful driver at Mysore who got us backdoor entry to the front of the temple queues, the security guard we chatted with at Elephanta. I met a lot of nice, turbaned men at Mehrangarh, men who welcomed you with a smile and a khamagani (hello or namaste in Rajasthani) and were willing to tell you the history of a particular spot even if they weren’t your official guide.
Continue reading The Men of Mehrangarh
How much gold leaf is too much gold leaf? However much you have is not enough, the Rajput kings would tell you. The Phool Mahal or the Palace of Flowers is a display in extravagance, with gilded columns and ceilings and enough gold to enable you to buy Lakshmi Mittal’s palatial Kensington Palace mansion. It is said that this was the pleasure room of the kings, where dancing girls danced and entertained the kings until they dropped down of exhaustion. I wish I could go back in time and give the kings two tight slaps for their excesses. That would be a fantastic scene, wouldn’t it? A mysterious girl appears out of nowhere, slaps the king and vanishes (of course I want to come back to my own timeline). Possible scene in Magadheera 2?