Untouristy Rajasthan – where real people reside

Reason of travel are a plenty but the learning’s from each is unique, the experience breathtaking and the memories priceless. This time around we were on a trip to Rajasthan – the tourism capital of the country. However, in we were  hundreds of miles away from any known tourist place. We were going to the town where my wife was born – Bhinmal in Rajasthan.

Before I met my wife, I would have laughed off at even a hint of traveling to any such location. But post marriage, functions, customs and rituals in the family solicit the presence here. In all honesty, as a place to travel I wasn’t really looking forward to the journey. The family gathering, the colorful rituals and the fun associated with it is obviously something that maintains the spice of life.

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With the change in typology – there is an evident change in the dress sense – The typical Rajasthan attire for men. 

The place is best reached by train from Mumbai via Palanpur / Abu road stations. We took an overnight train to Palanpur which had all the experiences of the food, games and the shenanigans associated with the travel in one of my favorite mode of transport – Indian railways. The trains dropped us early morning the next day from where it is a 2hr drive to Bhinmal. The highway very quickly reminded me of the road trip I had taken some years back to Kutch. The Greek style fields and the highway passing through was the image that took me back to the great Kutch trip. Bhinmal is a small diversion away from this highway.

As the town approach with a college on the outskirts a single storied structure, a school again with a similar typology instantly hinted about the size of the town and the population. I was sure not more than 25000 people stay and i would be able to do a complete circle in 10 minutes, something which was ratified that evening itself. The architecture in itself was low rise and stuck in time between the traditional and the modern. The appearance leaned towards the traditional with architraves, arches and stone cladding dominating the fabric. The construction however was more with RCC. There stuck in time feeling was one that was predominant.

Apart from the family interaction, time was for interactions. The human feeling, there is instant warmth you feel in all interaction. Sense of reception and inclusiveness is something that was a part of the air. It starts from the ‘Pani Puri’ fellow at the market to the dhaba guy on the highway. The other angle to it is that my in-laws had a relation in so the interaction was better. But then Rajasthan and its warmth towards ‘tourists’ is well known.

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Temple at Bhadala – Rajasthan

The next day we went to Bhadala. The place where my father-in-law was born. A small village about 10kms from Bhinmal. The landscape transits very smoothly from the town to the village. Streets get smaller and unpaved. The greenery converts to farms with small settlements of about 20-30 houses on the way. Our plan was to visit the ancestral temple of lord  Shiva – my first visit after marriage.

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The Panchayat – Monday morning Afeem session

Apart from the serene architecture of the temple as you can see in the images the group of old men of the village smoking ‘Afeem’ was the most interesting visual. As far as I’m concerned it was all the elderly men whiling away their Monday morning. As a man of the city, smoking up on a Monday morning instead of working is still causing indigestion. My knowledge tells me ‘Afeem’ is categorized as a narcotic so there was inhibition in even approaching then for a photo. Even the idea of tasting seemed like a mountain to climb. One of us took the courage to go and ask for a picture. The bullet was fired, it hit the bulls eye. Another Tsunami of warmth flooded us. Not only did we get pictures but also tasted the Afeem. There was an open invite to even smoke the afeem. We were better off not doing illegal things. But the way we were engulfed in the a sense of oneness left me with lasting memories

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View from the Ropeway to the temple – Desert in rains

On the final day, we went to the Sundha Mata temple. Another gem hidden in the mountain. The approach road makes you think that this might just be one of the millions of temple existing in the country. As you get closer it keeps getting grander and grander. There is even a ropeway to take you on the top of the mountain. We were blessed with rains while we were there. There is a certain amount of bliss in seeing the rains in the desert the parched landscape soaking in water is a site to adorn. Especially if you are hanging by a ropeway car and the whole vista is there for you to experience.

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The entrance to Sundha Mata temple – Traditional stone work emulated by contemporary masons

The site just unfolds itself into a well-established pilgrim space once you reach the top. It’s like wonderland with ‘Dharamshalas’ of all possible castes lined along the path leading to the temple. The temple by itself is an extension to the original temple which is a cave. The idol of Sundha Mata was found inside the cave and is a naturally found idol is was the myth of the place is. The man made part of the temple is essentially the ‘Mandapa’ with the cave forming the ‘Garbhgriha’ and the mountain the Gopuram. For those who are interested in details, reference to the architecture of the temple is here. – Wikipedia link.

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The Sundha Mata temple – Rajasthan

At the time of leaving, my mind was comparing the insecurities of the city people living in gates communities with increasing security every day and the people here are absorb you like sugar in water. The other new learning was that of freedom. We are constantly running behind achieving material pleasures whereas the truth of life lies in minimalism. Worries are the least when there is nothing to protect.
Life is the ‘Guru’ but you have to ‘Travel’ to reach the ‘Gurukul’. The only difference is that I don’t really know here the Gurukul is, so I’m travelling!

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