BootsnAll Travel Network

Off the Beaten Path

My second day in Pushkar was also my first true sightseeing day. My goal was to walk around the man-made lake and see the Brahma temple. Most Hindu worship focuses on Shiva and Vishnu as Brahma basically created the universe and then went off to meditate leaving the daily affairs of the universe to them. As a result, Brahma temples are very rare. The other reason is that Brahma went to Pushkar to perform self mortification but instead ended up getting married. The problem was that he was already married and his old wife wasn’t very happy with the new competition. In anger she cursed him and said that he would never get any new place of worship outside of Pushkar. On my way to the temple, I met up with a British couple who were also looking for the temple. We ended up walking too far and having to ask for directions. We stopped at a tea shop and asked a group of men whom included people ranging from a man in a business suit to a loin cloth wearing man painted from head to toe in red and white paint (looking slightly like a candy cane). Perfect example of eclectic India for you. We made it to the temple. Outside were several sadhus pulling around cows on a rope. These cows were a bit unusual in that they had five legs. The fifth leg grew out of various positions on the cows’ bodies. They are considered holy, but unfortunately I didn’t get that sense due to the fact that the sadhus kept following us around with the reluctant cows saying “picture, picture, picture” ad nauseum. Of course they would expect a handsome payment afterwards. The temple was surprisingly small and simply decorated for it being the only temple of its type. The central idol of Brahma appeared to be made from metal. The eyes were made of some sort of glass or crystal. There was also a subterranean shrine to Shiva holding the usual lingam. After the temple I seperated from the English couple and just wandered around the shops for a while looking at the whitewashed buildings on the lake. I found a clinic that offered Ayurvedic massage and decided to get one despite the 750 rupee price tag (90 minutes). It differed from the Chinese massages in that it seemed to focus more on long rubbing strokes with less pressure point manipulation.

The next day I walked to the bus station to catch my bus to Bundi. My only option for getting there was a five hour trip on the hated local buses. At the station, I saw one of the brothers that runs the hotel where I had been staying. He was there looking for more tourists to take to his hotel. He and his brother stay at the stations all day swapping off. I talked with him while waiting for the bus. During our discussion, an old woman came up begging and zooming in on me of course. The hotel man told me that the lady really didn’t need the money. Her daughter was in a very expensive private school and she basically just begged for the fun of it. Our conversation invariably switched to the commission racket. He told me that if the touts come to his hotel, his brother and he take them into one of the hotel rooms and hits them. Once again highlighting the violence of the commision game. My bus finally arrived and was packed as expected. I had to stand for the first hour until we got to Ajmer where most people got off. The bus conductor seeing my height plight assigned me to the front seat then. After another five hours, we finally arrived in Bundi. There I was met once again by a group of people wanting me to go to their hotel. Among them was a man that was recommended to me by the people at the Pushkar hotel so I decided to go to his guesthouse. I took a rickshaw. The guesthouse was very similar to the rest of those where I had stayed. It was family run with the family living there as well. The mother did most of the cooking in the small rooftop restaurant. The father ran the outside store while the daughter and the son managed the hotel. Also staying at the hotel was the Sri Lankan and Norwegian man again. I spent the evening talking to them.

As in Pushkar, my second day in Bundi was my sightseeing day. Bundi is a bit off the beaten track. Its main claim to fame is that Rudyard Kipling lived here while writing part of the book ‘Kim”. The city itself sits in a narrow valley inside an old city wall. There is an abandoned fort and palace up on the hill side. Many buildings are indigo in color similar to Jodphur. As it is off the tourist path, it is refreshingly free of the normal tourist aggravations. If fact I wasn’t asked for money and harassed to go into a store once during my two day stay there. I was shocked and relieved. It was similar to the sensation that one has when a very loud noise that has been going on for a long time is suddenly shut off and peace descends and one can hear the birds singing. I decided to spend most of the day at the fort. It was free as the palace was not. The palace had some paintings in it, but I didn’t feel it was worth the high foreigner entry fee. Besides there was a free smaller building next door with paintings and a restored garden. After looking in this building, I continued the walk up the old cobblestone path that leads from the city to the fort. It switchbacked its way up the hill. Beyond the palace the road was in bad shape as there is currently no preservation work going on at the fort at the top of the hill. On the way up, I sat for a while watching a group of female and infant monkeys playing in the trees. Before I did this I had found a stick to scare away any errant monkeys. The monkeys appear to use many different whistles and calls to communicate. They also appear to engage in communal child rearing with one mother leaving her baby with another female from time to time.

After leaving the monkeys, I then entered the fort. I soon realized that I was the only person there. I had met two army officials leaving the fort when I got to the top of the hill but these were the only people I had seen. I entered the fort through a small wooden door set in much larger wooden gates. The fort was surrounded by high walls, had several stone water storage tanks with steps leading down to the water, and a stone keep. I first went to the water storage area which was almost empty. The ledges were full of monkeys. One monkey had a young infant on her back and was trying to groom a slightly older child. The child didn’t want to cooperate and the mother kept hitting it on the head every time it tried to get up. I didn’t watch very long as the young infant started screeching when it saw me and the mother came charging at me with bared teeth. Not wanting to get rabies I decided to make a dignified and graceful exit. (Well, as dignified as one can be when shaking a stick at a screeching monkey). I then entered the abondoned keep and went through many empty rooms and courtyards with grafitti and remanents of old artwork. As I was alone, the place had a very haunting air about it, especially in the pitch dark subterranean rooms. I didn’t stay very long there as I wasn’t sure if anything lived in them and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I tried to imagine what the place would have been like when it was full of life as in the ruins one could make out rooms that were once kitchens and such. The courtyards themselves were now overgrown with trees and bramble.

Leaving the keep, I then made my way up some steps onto the rear ramparts of the fort to see what lay on the opposite side of th hills from Bundi. The wall was full of ports for archers and rifleman as well as larger holes for artillery. This side of the fort was not developed and the walls looked out onto a lake and the stunted trees and scrubland that populated the area. It was at this point that my isolation in the fort ended. I was a bit disappointed as I had been enjoying the somewhat eerie atmosphere of being in these massive ruins alone with only the sound of the wind and occassional monkey screech for company. Five engineering students approached me and wanted to take a picture with me. They then invited me to stay with them and hang out, but I declined as I really wanted to get back to exploring the fort alone. I left them by walking down the wall. Further down the wall, I found an old Shiva temple as well as larger battlements. As the sun was getting very hot, I found a shady place in all the overgrown brush and sat down and read for an hour or so. When I got up to leave, I found that the large monkey troop that I had watched when I was further down the hill had finally made it up and were in all the trees around me. Remembering my experience with the other monkey, I left them to it. When I tried to exit the fort, I found that someone had shut up my previous entry points. Fortunately they were locked from my side and just barred with wood or unlocked chains so I was able to get out. I spent the evening looking around the narrow streets of the city.

After checking out the next day, I caught a ride with the hotel owner to the bus station. I had to get to Kota to catch my 4:00 am train to Baroda. Arriving in Kota, I got a retiring room at the train station. Retiring rooms are basically the train station run hotel. I figured by sleeping in the train station, I could check my train status and go back to bed if my train was late. The afternoon in Kota was uneventful. I spent my time using the Internet and stuffing my face at a very cheap restaurant by the train station. In the morning I woke up at 3:00 am and went down to the status board. My train was 1.5 hours late so I was able to go back to bed. I finally got on the train at 5:30 am. I spent the seven hour trip reading and watching the scenery. I was met at the Baroda station by my friend that I had come to visit. He will be referred to as “Gashwin” which is his online pseudonym. His name is linked to his blog. We went back to his mother’s house in Baroda. He is here visiting his family for Christmas. I watched my first Bollywood movie that night. It involved an Indian lady singing in the middle of a glacier and then flipflopping back and forth for about an hour between two guys she loved.

Gashwin and I first did some sightseeing in the city of Baroda itself. We went to the city palace which has a few rooms open to the public. The maharaja of Baroda lives in the rest. The palace was very western in decoration containing art that appeared to be inspired by European masters. There was also a museum containing art and furniture from the maharaja collection. Again most of the works, while containing Indian themes, were painted in a very western renaissance style with very full bodied women and in the practice of using effeminate men when wanting to give the impression of youth. We then went to the electrical mechanical engineering temple, which is called this as it is built in a very modern geometrical style from aluminum. It is supposed to be a uniting temple containing elements that represent several religions from the dome for Islam to the tower representing a Christian cathedral. The grounds were lined with displays of various stone sculptures from the 8th century onward.

The next day we went to Champaner which has a mosque that is famous for containing many Hindu influences. The stonework contains many lotuses and other references to Hinduism. The outside had balconies that also looked as if they belonged in a Hindu temple. It was built in a time of surprising religious cross pollination. This stands in stark contrast to the Hindu/Muslim conflicts currently cropping up all over India. The mosque recently gained UNESCO World Heritage status due to the combination of the building styles. We were shown around by the leader of the local heritage council. This was arranged through Gashwin’s mother who is on the committee that pushed for the World Heritage status. We were also joined by another Indian family from the US who must have also had relatives on the council. Gashwin and I then went up to Pavagadh hill by cable car. There is a Kali temple on top (sans rats this time). From the hill one can see much of the surrounding country side.

Today I am just updating the blog and uploading pictures. We may go and have a look around the old city of Baroda later. Tomorrow I catch my train to Mumbai where I will spend my last three days in India.

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3 Responses to “Off the Beaten Path”

  1. Jamie Says:

    Hey! I bet it was just GREAT seeing Gashwin and having some time to relax. Hope you both had a wonderful time. Enjoy Mumbai!

  2. Posted from United States United States
  3. Kellie Says:


    We Wish You a Merry Christmas! We Wish You a Merry Christmas! We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    Sent With Lots of Love,
    Dad, Mom, Jon, Kellie and Eva

  4. Posted from United States United States
  5. Preeti Says:

    Useless factoid: Sometimes trains in India are delayed because cows are on the tracks.

  6. Posted from United States United States

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