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Nushrat Abid - Agilent Technologies, Gurgaon - Ajmer & Pushkar - Royalty Revisited
 
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Sand dunes, wooded hills and amazing lakes, palaces and rugged forts, men and women in colourful turbans and skirts, bustling towns and quiet villages, camels, elephants and tigers, harsh sunlight and the cool evening breeze – Rajasthan has it all. Rajasthan is the land of Rajputana of Old. It is the land of brave people with a royal touch in their lifestyle. It is where all the smiles and metaphors appear to have come together. But they form only part of an intricate tapestry.

I have always been intrigued by this diversity in Rajasthan and thus decided to visit Jaipur, Ajmer and Pushkar.

Travel Tales

One fine cold morning on the 24th of Jan-09 we (myself and three of my closest friends) set-off for Jaipur in my friend’s car. We stop on our way to get some cash from an ATM machine nearby. And guess what, the cash which we intended to withdraw got stuck in the machine itself. The balance on the receipt showed withdrawal of the amount. After some unsuccessful technical hit and trial attempts coupled with some frantic calls to the bank, we leave for our journey feeling a sense of ill omen on the incident.
With some soothing music playing in the background we soon reach on the beautiful highway, NH-8. The hustle and bustle of Gurgaon is far behind us now. Occasionally we pass through a town and a touch of Gurgaon is seen again. Masses of people crossing the highway, small shops and dwellings arranged on both sides. Cows wandering freely down the road.

We stop on a dhaba/hotel for our Lunch. The hotel looked posh though somewhat in disarray. It was in the middle of nowhere and no one was around.

We return to the car and continue our journey taking in the things around us.
With some brief stops and 6 hours of journey in between we reach on the outskirts of Jaipur. The mountains appear as if from no where and as we enter Jaipur we can see the fort with its walls and look out towers built hundreds of years ago. Going through the streets we come to know why the city is known as “Pink City”. The houses and shops are all painted in pink, bringing in a unique Unity in diversity case. Wondering about this unique culture of keeping ones owns houses and shops in the same colour, we reach our hotel. I had always been skeptical about booking hotels in advance but the sight of the reception area and the rooms subsequently gave us a sigh of relief and coziness. After having a couple of tea and getting fresh we get down on the streets to get a feel of the city. The streets seemed alive bustling with energy. There were lots of roadside eateries selling anything from Chat-pakodas to Burger. We have some light snacks on our way back to our hotel.

After having a good rajasthani dinner at the restaurant in the hotel, we decide to retire in our rooms anticipating a busy tomorrow ahead.

Although I am too lazy to get up early in the mornings, I have always been fascinated by the rising Sun. I have this uncanny habit of getting awake in the morning and then postponing my getting up ritual, to find myself sleeping once again. To avoid this I try to persuade one of my friends to get up before the Sunrise so that we could be ready to welcome the Sun rise amidst the Walls of the Nahargarh Fort, which was going to be our first Stop for the sightseeing. We manage to reach the fort before Sunrise. Seeing the Sun rise from the fort felt so divine that we were all spellbound forgetting about where we were and who we were. The Sight gave me a feeling of strength and hope. Nahargarh Fort is located on a hill about 15 kilometers outside of Jaipur. There's not much to see inside, as the fort has been neglected for the most part; its dark corners reek of stale urine and you could easily see the artistic instinct of teenagers in defacing the walls with their roughly carved initials. However, the sights from the top are amazing; Nahargarh easily provided our best view of the vast, dusty city. Having declined a local guide, we wandered around on our own, steering clear of the monkeys hanging out along the walls of the fort. It was nice to explore the fort at our own pace.

The rest of the day was full of power tourism at its best; we visited the City Palace complex and museums, the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), another fort (Jaigarh), and a couple of temples within Jaipur.By the time we were back to our hotel at around 10 pm we were completely tired. So we decided to rest so that we could be back in our elements for the journey to Ajmer and Pushkar.

We started for our next destination-Ajmer. It is roughly 135 kilometers from Jaipur, The Highway was very good and this made our travel very easy and fast. The Landscape was very picturesque with hills, brazen land, and naked trees. We enjoyed our ride taking pot shots at each other on a frequent basis. It took us nearly 3 hours of ride to reach the outskirts of Ajmer. We decided to visit the Dargah-which is like the face of Ajmer.
Ajmer is surrounded by Aravali hill and you will get a nice view in the morning and evening in any direction you look .We had to park our Car quite a distance away from the Actual shrine since only Rickshaw is allowed in that area. It was a fascinating walk - dozens of shops selling Muslim caps and religious mementos, sweet shops with large glass cases of prettily patterned sweets, rows of shops selling prayer beads and necklaces and other shops hung with metal kitchen utensils. It took half and hour to walk to the Dargah. The entrance to the mosque was lined with shops selling baskets of red rose petals and the atmosphere was verging on frenzied as people were pushing their way in through the gates. Security was tight and no cameras, phones, bags or shoes were allowed in. Once inside there were thousands of people praying, reading religious books and lining up with their baskets of flowers to enter the tomb upon which the flowers are spread. In another courtyard were very large iron pots into which pilgrims were dropping money and bags of rice to be distributed to the poor. We lined up to enter the tomb but seeing the push and pull forces acting on me, I decided to give up my desire to see the tomb of Khwaja Moinuddin chisti. I decided to wait for my friends on the exit door of the tomb.

While I was standing there I observed that some people were forcing their way in through the exit door. This brought back the desire in me to visit the Tomb of the Saint. I too made my way in through the Exit door and reached the tomb. There were so many people in that small room occupying the tomb, jostling for space to pay homage to the saint that I couldn’t hold myself longer than a minute. I could easily understand how people are trampled to death at religious festivals in India. It was an experience I would not wish to repeat but once again an amazing insight into the intensity which people worship their religions in this country.

 
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After all my friends were through with their visit, we took our way back to our next stopover which was going to be Bajrangadh-a famous temple of Hanumanji.
The temple is at some height and we had to climb around 200 steps to reach there. Once on the top you can see majority of Ajmer from the top. The view was totally mesmerizing. There was virtually no one at that place. The cool breeze and the peace of the place relaxed our minds and body. We stayed there for around half an hour and descended to see the lake which was nearby called as Anna Sagar and a garden to take rest. There were loads of people taking time off to enjoy with their family. It was truly a very good picnic spot away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Our last destination was Pushkar which is 18 kilometers away from Ajmer. The road to Pushkar, winding through the Aravali Mountain is very scenic. The travel to Pushkar takes us half an hour but it was a memorable experience and made us wish for more. We reach Pushkar sometime in the late afternoon and decide to go straight to the lake. A travel guide comes along with us, non-invitingly to tell us more about the place and its history. On our way to the lake, he tells us the history of Pushkar.

Pushkar is one of the oldest cities of India which has the only Brahma temple of the country. It is famous for the extravagant, flamboyant Pushkar Fair. The fair brings alive the glorious tradition of Rajasthan and the roaring enthusiasm of fair participants as well as visitors makes it a lifetime experience.

According to an often quoted legend, Lord Brahma was in search of an auspicious place to perform yagna and was over the Rajasthan desert on his swan. Some lotus petals fell from his hand and wafted down. Miraculously, blue lakes sprang up where the flowers touched land. A lake sprung up at Pushkar, and that is how the scenic holy lake of Pushkar came into being. A dip in the lake is supposed to give you and seven generations in your family, that ultimate salvation that pilgrims traveling from world over are seeking. We reach the lake and this is when we realize the dual ability of our guide in being a priest also. He persuades us to perform some ritual which is a necessary part of visiting the temple and the lake. On our return from the temple/lake we do some window shopping at the colourful shops on both sides of the road. We then move forward in the search of Rose Gardens which is said to be India’s largest Rose plantation place. After asking numerous people and gliding through a very bad road we reach the place. We take a quick view of the place and decided to return as it was getting dark and the place was secluded. On our way back we debate on the place being India’s largest Rose plantation place or not. We were feeling tired after such a hectic day and decided to go to our hotel. After taking a quick shower and numerous cups of tea, we were again ready to explore the city and enjoy the night at any of the lake side restaurants. We just stroll on the streets looking at the colourful shops selling artificial jewellery, rajasthani dresses, marble items and painted T-shirts as well. We have some light snacks on the way and decide to take a walk on the numerous ghats around the lake. The View of the lake at night was completely different from what we had experienced at the daytime. We just take a walk on the various ghats immersed completely in the beauty of the place. We were completely tired and decided to have dinner at one of the lake view restaurants. The restaurant had an open seating arrangement which best suited our purpose of enjoying the dinner while admiring the beauty of the Lake. We take a table having a clear view of the lake and try to soothe our tired body. And this is when the best part of our whole journey took place. There was a group of young tourists who were performing some breathtaking stunts with fire. All the people around the place were completely taken in by their stunts.
Their stunts and enthusiasm had a magical effect on us and it disrobed us of the tiredness which we were feeling just a moment ago. We have our dinner and head back to our hotel at around midnight still immersed completely in the experience at the lake.

Tomorrow we are going to return to Gurgaon and re-enter the usual routine life that we live in. But not without deciding the next travel destination.

 
 
 
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