MESSAGE: Rajasthan *Videos*
Rajasthan, known as the “land of colors,” lives up to its name! We found this out as we visited its 3 largest cities: Jaipur (the Pink City), Jodhpur (the Blue City) and Udaipur (the Lake City).
Covering more than 10% of India’s land and home to 68 million people, Rajasthan is the largest state and includes the Thar Desert, which borders Pakistan. It also has the Aravalli mountain range, one of the oldest in the world (10 times older than the Himalayans!).
We spent several weeks exploring this Indian gem.
MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Blue City. Jodhpur, with blue-painted houses surrounding the city’s central Mehrangarh Fort, is known as India’s “Blue City.”
We got a couple of different explanations on why some residents paint their houses blue. One reason is that blue was the color chosen by Brahmins, the highest caste, and now others are following suit.
Whatever the reason, the blue-hued neighbor is beautiful – especially at sunset. We were treated to a private dinner at the top of the fort, overlooking the city below. Spectacular!
EAT (Tasty Eats) – Indian Cooking School. Rajasthani food is spicy — Mainly because as a region at the edge of a desert, most of their food consisted of dried beans and meat, so spice was added to enhance / mask the flavor.
A specialty of Jaipur, where we had our cooking class, is gatta curry. Gatta are gram flour dumplings that are made with ghee (clarified butter), curd, salt, oil, and red chili powder. They’re an acquired taste.
Here I am as a cooking school student:
Can’t see this video? Click on this link: Cooking in Jaipur!
The cooking school did help me perfect some cooking techniques. For instance, apparently I’ve been stirring incorrectly all these years. The correct motion is to stir in a counter-clockwise directly in small circles at a very fast pace. A very pat the head, rub the tummy.
I also learned the flipping technique of lifting the food and flipping it in the air as you’re sautéing. Fun and slightly dangerous since I kept raising the pan higher and higher in the air, until I was flipping at shoulder height.
SEE (Must-see Sights) – Udaipur’s Lake Pichola. Lake Pichola is a man-made lake in the center of the town of Udaipur. There is a place in the center of the lake (the summer palace), on the southern shore (the winter palace) and on the hilltop overlooking the lake (the spring palace).
Udaipur was made famous in the James Bond film Octopussy – but I haven’t seen the film, so this bit of fame didn’t leave too big an impression on me.
Here I am in sailing on the lake one fine day:
Can’t see this video? Click on this link: Sailing Lake Pichola
SHOP (Gotta Have) –Bangles & Bindis. If you’re into shopping, Jaipur’s Pink City has it all! We took an afternoon off touring to simply walk around the marketplace and observe the crazed shopping scene.
I especially liked watching the women select their sari materials from a kaleidoscope of colors and adornments, like the stacks of glittering bracelets and bindis. Used through South Asia, bindis are small dots. They are usually red, but can also be seen as an added piece of jewelry.
Bindis are placed in between the brows as decoration. This is the place of the 6th chakra – the seat of “concealed wisdom.” By placing a bindi in this location, you’re said to retain energy and strengthen concentration. It’s also acts as a third eye and protects against demons. I need one!
ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Desert Village Visit. The Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, is the world’s 9th largest subtropical desert, covering over 200,000 km2 (77,000 sq mi). Some believe the desert to be more than 10,000 years old.
The trip to the desert village was one of the highlights of our trip to India as we got a peek at what life is like for tens of millions of Indians. Want more information on fun to be had in desert village? Read: Chewing Paan, Drinking Opium.
GIVE (Greatest Need) – Malnutrition. An article in the local paper cited the Indian government’s HUNGaMA (Hunger and Malnutrition Survey) as saying the state’s under-5 mortality and malnutrition rates are unacceptably high and among the highest in the country. According to the study, every other child in Rajasthan is underweight.
In fact, 22 of Rajasthan’s 33 districts are in need of “priority attention” to curb child malnutrition, with the remaining 10 districts warranting “immediate intensive intervention” to improve food security. In fact, 9 of the districts lie in the bottom of the UNICEF child development index.
Rajasthan is part of India’s Golden Triangle (Delhi–Agra–Jaipur), receiving huge influxes of tourist dollars. Obviously this wealth isn’t trickling down to the families that need it the most.
ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Elephant Ride at the Amber Fort. Jaipur’s Amber Fort is famous as a perfect mixture of Hindu and Muslin architecture. Constructed of white and red sand stone, in the interior is filled with intricate mirror works, mosaics, engravings, carvings, paintings, frescoes and murals. It is really a thing of beauty!
For added fun, we (along with 5,000 other visitors that day!) rode an elephant up to the fort. Why not?!