Jhalana : Leopard Sanctuary Inside Jaipur

If there’s one place where you are most likely to spot a leopard, it’s Jhalana Leopard Sanctuary. And it’s right inside the City of Jaipur. Jaipur is a beautiful city to travel to in its own right. With fabulous havelis, palaces, shopping opportunities, food, culture and plenty of heritage. In the middle of all of … Read more Jhalana : Leopard Sanctuary Inside Jaipur

Khem Villas : A Luxury Stay In Ranthambhore

For us, forests are not just about sighting tigers. They are also about the beautiful trees, the grasses, the birds, the reptiles, other mammals… and of course being in touch with the forest itself. Not many places allow this, while giving you the comfort and good food you need. Khem Villas in Ranthambhore National Park … Read more Khem Villas : A Luxury Stay In Ranthambhore

Chambal River Safari : Looking For Ghariyals

Chambal River Safari

Not far from Ranthambhore National Park, barely some 60km away is the magnificent Chambal River, famous for its ravines and once considered the land of dacoits. If you are around, do make it a point to go for the Chambal River Safari, looking for migratory and resident birds, the critically endangered Ghariyal (Gavialis gangeticus), the … Read more Chambal River Safari : Looking For Ghariyals

Viratnagar, Rajasthan : Steeped In History

During our grand Rajasthan road trip last year, we dropped by Viratnagar, a nondescript little town, which is so steeped in history that it deserves a special trip of its own. And while we are yet to make that trip, I am collecting my thoughts on this once glorious city, also known as Bairat. Bairat’s … Read more Viratnagar, Rajasthan : Steeped In History

Siliserh : Off The Beaten Track

In the scenic region of Alwar, tucked away next to the magnificent Sariska National Park, is Lake Siliserh. Since it’s off the main route, many would miss it. There isn’t much here but a beautiful lake surrounded by the forested Aravalli Hills. But perhaps, that itself is everything. The only place to stay here is … Read more Siliserh : Off The Beaten Track

Kumbhalgarh : A World Heritage Fort

The Aravalli Hills of Rajasthan hold many a treasure, and Kumbhalgarh Fort is one such prominent gem. Built during the 15th Century by Rana Kumbha, it is the birthplace of Maharana Pratap Singh. It is now a World Heritage Site. It also has an over 32 km long wall, making it perhaps the world’s second longest wall (after the Great Wall Of China).

During one of our Rajasthan road trips we had stopped by Kumbhalgarh to have a quick look and meet a friend. We wanted to try the Walk The Wall Challenge but couldn’t because of lack of time. The fort is surrounded by the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary. With wild life including wolfs, leopards, sloth bears, hyenas, jackals, jungle cats, sambhars, nilgais, chausinghas (the four horned antelope), chinkaras and hares, we really wanted to spend more time here, but perhaps on the next trip.

Built at an altitute of 1100 metres above sea level, Kumbhalgarh Fort is very pleasant and breezy at the top. It’s some 82 km from Udaipur. Like most of Rajasthan, the best time to visit is winters, staring around late October till about March. The Rajasthan Tourism Department runs an Annual Kumbhalgarh Festival in the month of March. A search will reveal plenty of stay options.

 

Kumbhalgarh Fort
There is centuries of history at this place and one can only sit and wonder what all must have transpired here.

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Road Trip Through Rajasthan : 6400 km

Great road trips are made of these. Delicious road side food, beautiful country side roads and pleasant surprises through out. And in Rajasthan, thankfully, we had plenty of all that during our long work-related stay. We drove from Mumbai and went to Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Sawai Madhopur, Alwar, Sariska, Mount Abu, Delhi, Sili Serh, and many of these places many times. We wanted to come back via Madhya Pradesh so went from Mount Abu to Chittorgarh and then via Mandsaur and Ratlam to Mumbai.

We learnt that the Milk Cake of Alwar is the best in the Universe. We learnt that Mount Abu is a fantastic place to re-visit and that the Pyaz Ki Kachori with Jalebi and Lassi is the best breakfast ever. We learnt that the Poha in Madhya Pradesh is divine. We learnt about ancient Buddhist Stupa near Virat Nagar, Rajasthan this town once being the capital of the Mahajanapada Kingdom.

– Rajasthan is awesome to drive in, and most roads are in good condition, the drives are scenic and beautiful.
– The drive from Jaipur to Delhi is terrible with lots of traffic, trucks and delays. Unless you start like at 5 am. Also, avoid this route after dark, it’s not very safe. There have been instances of robbing.
– NH8 from Mumbai to Udaipur is a superb well built road, but the stretch in Gujarat is boring and full of factories and trucks on either side. On our way back, we came via Madhya Pradesh.
– Madhya Pradesh roads generally were in bad condition and too much traffic and many small towns on the way.
– Highway food is generally decent throughout.
– The roads became better when we entered Maharashtra, but full of speed breakers around Nashik. Be careful.
– It becomes difficult to find good food on the highways once you enter Maharashtra.

We learnt we should do this more often and take notes 🙂

Highway Dhaba, Rajasthan
This dhaba between Udaipur and jaipur had great food to offer, and a lovely walk behind it, to a wetland body full of birds.
Riverside, Rajasthan.
A walk behind the dhaba revealed this river side.
Acacia nilotica
And next to the river, this awesome walk, with Kikar (Acacia nilotica) Trees in full yellow bloom.

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Jodhpur : The Blue City

Few cities evoke a colour in mind, like Blue for Jodhpur (the other one which does is Pink for Jaipur, or this awesome pink village in Maharashtra). Jodhpur, a walled city, was the capital of the kingdom of Marwar. The city was built circling the majestic Mehrangarh Fort, built by the King Rao Jodha in around 1460 AD. For some reason, a whole lot of houses in this walled city have been painted blue. Some say it’s because the colour keeps the homes cool in the long hot summers. Some say the founder King Rao Jodha had asked for the houses to be painted blue. Perhaps we will never know.

Nevertheless, it’s a gorgeous city full of architectural joy in its narrow lanes.

When to visit: Summers are killing in their heat, so a good time to visit is the winters. If you are a music buff, tie your visit around end October when the summers are just receding and Fort Mehrangarh becomes host to one of India’s best folk music festivals, the Jodhpur RIFF (Rajasthan International Folk Festival).

Where to stay: When in Jodhpur do try and stay close to the Mehrangarh Fort, inside the Jodhpur Blue City. That’s when you can really soak in the city and all it has to offer. There are plenty of stay options at various price points, and we chose Shahi Guest House.

Where to shop: Sadar Bazaar near Ghanta Ghar or Clock Tower is the market area. You can get your textiles, souvenirs, arty stuff, veggies… just about anything.

How to reach: Jodhpur has an airport so you can fly in. It’s also well connected by train and chair cars leave from Jaipur every morning (apart from many other trains). You can also reach Jodhpur by road.

What to eat: Do try the Rajasthani Thali (meal) at Gypsy restaurant, Sardarpura. For a fine dining experience, do have a meal at the Hanwant Mahal Restaurant in the Umaid Bhavan Palace hills. Also try the local Pyaaz Ki Kachauri, Chaach, Lassi, Gatte Ki Subzi, Kadi, Ker Sangri etc. Jodhpur, like most of Rajasthan, is great for food.

Jodhpur Station 2
The Jodhpur Station has a beautiful old world charm.

Jodhpur Station
A clock tower and red sandstone structures at Jodhpur Station prepare you for a town steeped in heritage.

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Jodhpur RIFF: The Songs Of The Desert

October breeze. Full moon nights. And the songs of the desert! These words may portray a festive mood but the actual experience is truly beyond words.

Jodhpur RIFF (Rajasthan International Folk Festival) has been our musical retreat for the last two years. This is really a soulful music festival away from run of the mill electronica, rock-metal clones, or mainstream tunes. The curator tastefully brings the best of folk musicians from across the world and into a unique fusion with the traditional artists of Rajastjani folk, the Langas and the Manganiyars. You can imagine a beautiful confluence of west and the east , the Sarangis and the Guitars, Rabab and Jazz, Morchang and Violins! Different artists, languages, instruments and music genres meet and jam on the main stage.

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Deogarh Palace, Rajasthan : A Hidden Jewel

Built over 300 years ago, the splendid Deogarh Palace is a delight for architecture, royal living and art. We surely couldn’t give it a miss, and especially when it is so close to Todgarh. The city of Deogarh is about 2100 feet (roughly 700m) above sea level. This keeps it slightly cooler than neighbouring areas … Read more Deogarh Palace, Rajasthan : A Hidden Jewel

The Story of Todgarh

Nihal Mathur at Todgarh.
Nihal Mathur at Todgarh.

A guest post by the wonderful Nihal Mathur, the original travel writer, film maker, researcher, a great friend and a personal icon.

Todgarh is named after a British Lieutenant Colonel James Tod – who was born in Scotland in 1782. In 1799 he enrolled with the British East India Company and the following year – 1800 – he came to India as a Marine at an early age of 18. In 1801, he was selected as a survey officer. His great service was the scrupulous care with which he documented and mapped the entire regions now comprising Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
But it was his long lasting relationship with Rajputana that earned him immortality. This country of Rajput Princes became in his own words “home of my adoption,” as he affectionately called it. And indeed, the best part of his life was enthusiastically and usefully devoted in Rajasthan where Tod collected materials on the history of the Rajput clans who ruled most of the area at that time. Tod’s work drew on local archives, Rajput traditional sources, and monuments and edicts.
In 1818 he was appointed political agent for the states of western Rajputana, where he conciliated the chieftains and settled their mutual feuds. As the Resident British officer in the state of Rajpotana he approached this task with sympathy and understanding for the Rajput princes, many of who remained his admirers and friends.
1819 In appreciation of his work in the Merwara Region, the Maharana of Udaipur renamed Barsawada, a village in his monarchy, as ‘Todgarh’. The name comes down to us today.

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Majestic Aravallis: Road tripping in Rajasthan!

It is a great joy to take a driving holiday. You get to see and experience more of the land. And it is especially exciting when you are driving through Rajasthan. So we soaked the sun through our winter drive in Rajasthan around the majestic Aravalli Mountains, moving from Uaipur – Deogarh – Todgarh – … Read more Majestic Aravallis: Road tripping in Rajasthan!