The outdoor art gallery: Shekhawati

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If you visit the Jaipur region, make sure you take the time for a trip to the Shekhawati region. The region is comprised of several small towns: Fatehpur, Nawalgarh and Mandawa and exhibits the finest examples of painted havelis in India. I have given the general history of the region and how they came to exist in the explanation of the store’s name. You must explore the various towns, as each lane will give you another example of wonderful painting and architecture. I suggest that you take at least two days and travel by a rented vehicle, as it is a treasure hunt. Hope you you enjoy the photos of this area.

Born due to a flower: Pushkar

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I have visited this small town several times, and if you do travel to India it would be of interest to pay a visit. It is located in southwestern Rajasthan about 150 kms from Jaipur and 15 km from the major city of Ajmer. The road from Jaipur to Ajmer is a new four-lane road to Ajmer, followed by a country road into the Aravali hills and on to Pushkar. This small town has gained attention for its yearly five-day camel/cattle fair. Thousands of villagers descend on the town dressed in their finest, ready to race/sing/worship, and to sell cattle and camels. This is an amazing festival unto itself, but I would like to highlight the religious festival of Shivratri.

The name Pushkar means “born due to a flower”. According to Indian mythology, the gods released a swan with a lotus flower in its beak and where it fell would become the site of a great blessing from Brahma (the Creator). This lotus fell into Pushkar Lake and as a result, the village became a very sacred place as one of the few temple complexes devoted to Brahma. Please keep this in mind if you plan to visit: There is no sale or consumption of meat or alcohol in the village. As well, one must show reverence for the temple areas.

The photo you see to the left was taken during the festival of Shivratri. It is a very important religious festival devoted to the worship of Lord Shiva (the destroyer). It occurs on a moonless night in a month corresponding to our month of February, according to the Hindu calendar. The devotees observe a strict fast and make a puja (offering) to the Shiva lingams. These ancient fertility statues are found in the temples, and are bathed in honey or ghee and milk in order to absolve worshipers from their past sins. The entire town is out celebrating. Many of the local participants are known to me, so it is always great to see the entire village from young to old celebrating.

Suitcase full of Patience

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Many customers ask what they should make sure to carry to India; my response is a “suitcase full of patience.” As we people of the west so often are conditioned to have our lives function in an orderly and efficient manner we often are not open to the way that life functions in the east. Here is a small travel story that inspires me to remember this as well.

Jaipur to Delhi highway a major travel route busy with trucks and buses tractors and many other modes of transport a route I have traveled many many times. At night with truck head lights bearing down on you, your life flashes by you till you manage to some how squeeze your vehicle and heart in a tiny hole and it passes you by.

I do not recommend traveling at night in India by car; maybe I am just too much of a man from the west. So I plan, must leave by no later then 2.00 in the afternoon in order to make Delhi by nightfall. This day we followed the plan all packed up and on the road in time. Then we had a flat tire ok, just a flat we change it and on we go, Then 20 kilometers later the tread comes off the next tire. So now we have an issue, no automobile assocatition to come and fix. So the plan is our driver will get a ride off the farmer on his tractor with our two tires in hand go to the next village and then come back. Off he went we are on the road with no tires and no way to plan any more. After a while two young boys cross the highway and invite us to the compound that their grandfather looks after up the road.

This is India; people are so generous with whatever they do have. Up the road over the ditch and we arrived in a lush compound growing with lemon trees and shade from the heat of the day (40 degrees c) a old durie rug is brought out and here we sit. Then the boys bring out the English school text that they are studying at school and we have an English lesson. Then appears some rice and vegetables and we have lunch and after every good lunch in India we have a nap. There is no rush things well come together in its time. Yes they do 5 hours later our driver returns with the tires after going from village to village to get the right one. We didn’t make it to Delhi before dark that evening but I did learn to accept the way the day unfolded, as well as the experience of genuine hospitality offer to us travelers.