Leaving Udaipur was sad because I really enjoyed the city. But all good things come to an end, and thus bus ticket in hand, the Blue City in mind, off we went.
The bus ride was… um… a very entertaining experience. Jovan and I got onto a very local bus, which looked as though it had been put together with super glue. Getting over the initial stares from locals, we were off on our adventure and what an adventure it was. Not only was it the bumpiest road I have ever been on, I had the wind knocked out of me when I literally lifted 10 cm from the sleeper and came crashing straight back down on my backpack (this was not a once off event).
Needing the loo in the middle of the night, the bus finally came to a holt at a stop-go section of road works. Not being able to locate the driver and bursting so badly, I had no choice but to make a wee right next to the bus because I was worried the bus driver would drive away from me. Dignity is an expensive commodity that most people in India cannot afford – that night I got a brief glimpse into that world. Because I had been holding it in for so long it had become a really long wee. The road works opened to our direction of traffic, the bus driver appeared out of thin air and started the bus to leave. In a panic I shouted to him that I was outside. He literally came and stood next to me; tapping his foot trying to hurry me along and shouting in a language I had no understanding of (all while I was squatting, trousers around my ankles, making a wee). I gathered he was not impressed that he would loose his much prized position in the queue of buses following the same dirt road. After the fifth bus over took our stationary bus, I realised that my wee break was going to cost some serious make up time and at that point I realised that I would not get a wink of sleep on board.
We arrived in Jodhpur at 4AM and had rickshaw drivers bombard us within seconds of getting off the bus, trying to get us to ‘their’ hotel. This is a whole commission decoy and something travelers get warned against. But we were there safely, and that really was all that matters.
The blue city turned out to be a great stop. It wasn’t as blue as I had thought it was going to be, but blue enough for me to figure that is how they got their name. The Indian caste system really is a very interesting and odd system. One which I am still trying to wrap my brains around due to the rigidity that it entails and how a person can usually not change their social and financial position, no matter how hard they work for it. It is said that the blue city got it colouring from the Brahmins, members of the priestly class (a respectable high caste). The reasoning for painting their houses is unknown, but legend has it that it was due to the Brahmins trying to signify their domicile and status, and to set them apart from the lesser human castes. This legend then goes on to say that non-Brahmins trying to change their caste, painted their homes blue, pretending to be part of a higher caste and thus change their fortunes.
The fort (aka Mehrangarh) that towers 120m above the city is magnificent and I can confidently say that after visiting the Palace – it is by far my favourite in the whole of India. Not only is it spectacularly maintained (a rarity in India), but its history is so unique and unlike any I have ever been privileged enough to come across.
My biggest eye opener were the hand prints, the sati (self-immolation) marks of the royal widows who threw themselves onto their Maharaja’s funeral pyres when he died. Just inside the main gate are 31 orange hand prints. I have been trying to find out how many woman actually burnt themselves at this funeral, as there are differing figures.
The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 Part I, Section 2(c) defines Sati as:
The burning or burying alive of –
(i) any widow along with the body of her deceased husband or any other relative or with any article, object or thing associated with the husband or such relative; or
(ii) any woman along with the body of any of her relatives, irrespective of whether such burning or burying is claimed to be voluntary on the part of the widow or the women or otherwise
I suppose that woman were seen as property, and once the King died – it was natural for him to take the property that couldn’t be transferred to the new King, with him. The British banned this practice in the 18th century, but there are still occurrences of it in rural villages around India. To the West this practice is seen as suicide, but the East views it as the ultimate act of love. The Sati’s main role is to assist her husband’s entrance into heaven, which would produce a successful rebirth. Not only that though, she is to die with honour and grace, thereby proving her purity and her devotion to her husband.
I am not here to judge, my world trip has been to break away from judgement and with an open heart, view the world as it is. Having said that though, I could not imagine the 25 or so queens burning with their King upon his death, all the while being watched by hundreds of people.
The whole palace is beautiful, but the Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace) stands out in my memory.
This is the main reception hall, which was decorated with amazing stained glass and intricate gold leaf art work on the roof and pillars surrounding the room.
I met the royal astrologer, who read my palm and told me all about my past and future (he was more accurate than my own memories when it comes to my past and well, I suppose I will just need to wait to see what the future brings – but there’s love, money and all sorts of exciting happiness ahead, so I’m not complaining).
By complete chance, I also met the royal musician who was responsible for the calming music played to the King. He showed me an arrangement of different instruments played and also played me a few songs in the Kings performance room – honestly very calming and wonderful.
The Spice Market around the clock tower was also a fun adventure. I found the infamous Omelette man who uses 1500 eggs a day in omelettes for tourists and locals alike. It really was the nicest omelette I have ever had. The experience was different to anything I have yet experienced in India. He cooks the omelettes on a gas stove outside in the open air. Sitting on a red plastic chair, chomping on my omelette-on-toast; watching the busy crowded street; my eye caught a glimpse of a camel drawn cart makings its way into the clock tower area. I had really left my known reality and felt like I was in a complete dream world.
Within the market I tried saffron tea for the first time, and then proceeded to buy more spices and teas than my backpack had space for. After meeting a little girl on the street, and then taking her for lunch, she told me that I was a silly tourist who got ripped off and that I paid 4 times the market rate. Such is life, and it is the reality in India.