A TALE OF FOUR CITIES

INDIA BLOG 08

Tuesday March 17, 2015

Amongst the many different stops we made while we clack-clack-clacked our way around India aboard the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels were several stand-out cities which deserve special mention.

The first that comes to mind is the Blue City of JODHPUR. Ringed by a high stone wall with seven gates and numerous bastions, Jodhpur is the second largest city of Rajasthan. Founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha (a Rajput king), its highlights today are the larger-than-life Mehrangarh Fort (which got a mention earlier in this blog) and the grand palaces within. And near the fort complex lies Jaswant Thada, with a bunch of royal cenotaphs made of white marble.

But here’s the thing: the ‘Blue City’ really is BLUE – thanks to the untold painted houses that glow with that colour. We know, because we saw it – from a high lookout on the fort walls. And inside the Old Town is a tangle of winding medieval streets, strewn with shops and bazaars selling (along with everything else) the famous breeches (jodhpurs) this city’s known for and horsey-people love to wear.

Two days later, after a late breakfast on the train, we found ourselves in a different colour-scheme: the Pink City of JAIPUR – known as such because of the terra-cotta-coloured lime plaster that coats the old part of the city’s walls, buildings and temples. Our main highlight that day was the super-impressive Amber Fort – which we entered (like royalty) on the backs of elephants. But en route we also got to see the intricately-carved ‘Palace of Winds’, otherwise known as Hawa Mahal. It’s really an elaborate facade behind which the ladies of the court used to watch the daily goings on in the street below. And, in a word, it was stunning!

A further two afternoons later, we caught a boat-ride along India’s most famous waterway, the sacred Ganges, to a temple-strewn section of riverbank that’s famous for (I kid you not) its cremations: the city of VARANASI.

You’ve probably seen pictures or TV documentaries about it. We had, too. But the real thing is even MORE colourful and MORE noisy and MORE mind-boggling!

At sunrise, the Hindu faithful flock to the bathing ghats (steps leading down to the water) where they seek to cleanse themselves of their sins. But the endless activity continues 24 hours a day on the cremation ghats. You see, to die in Varanasi is to end the Hindu cycle of re-birth, and this riverbank is a very popular place to say goodbye to loved ones who have just passed away.

We Kiwis got a bird’s-eye view from our wooden longboat. There were numerous cremation fires already burning up and down this vast terraced area – and we watched as new bodies, draped in brightly coloured cloth, were carried down the steps by family members, lovingly unwrapped and washed, then laid on top of carefully constructed woodpiles. Flames soon leapt high, turning Grandma (or whoever) into the ashes that would, later, be sprinkled over the sacred waters.

It was strange … moving … and pinch-me-please-I-can’t-really-be-seeing-this-with-my-own-eyes!  

As the Indian sun began to set, the ghats became even more crowded, with locals and tourists thronging to witness the regular evening aarti ceremony (a Hindu ritual involving young priests, singing and dancing, flowers, incense and lit candles or lamps).

Our Mad Midlifers went ashore where grandstand seats had been arranged so we wouldn’t miss a thing. And later, back on the boat, we all lit tiny make-a-wish candles and watched as they floated away on the surface of the Ganges.

PEOPLE NEWS: Another Wonky-Donkey has been claimed by a new nominee:

  • Helen got the “Border Patrol” Award – for leading hubby John on a wild goose-chase this morning. A walk through the Periyar township turned into a marathon trek when the two of them got lost – and, with Helen playing Camp Mother and marching on ahead, they ended up walking right through the town to the border between Kerala and the neighbouring state of Tamilnadu. (Okay, not as far as it sounds, but far enough!)

NEXT BLOG: There’s a fourth city (remember?) that I ran out of room for here – a city that was made famous by a love story etched in stone. But it’s coming, folks, so don’t change channels …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this entry, and add your ‘COMMENTS’! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief. And if you want to receive future blogs hot-off-the-press in your INBOX, just sign-up (top-right) for your free Email Subscription!

This entry was posted in 2015 India by John Cooney. Bookmark the permalink.

About John Cooney

John Cooney and his wife Robyn have enjoyed more than their fair share of travel. They hesitate to call themselves ‘experts’ – but they’ve grabbed every chance that’s come their way to explore new countries, cultures and customs. They’ve had the privilege (both on their own and as the leaders of numerous successful group-tours) to sample many stunning destinations: Europe, the UK, Singapore, Vanuatu, the USA, Israel, Egypt, Africa, Dubai, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And their recent (and most pleasant) memories are of the places ancient-and-modern that border the Mediterranean. John and Robyn are at-home in airports, hotels, cruise ships, and the like … and they know how to make the most of a unique travel opportunity. Travel, they reckon, is an all-five-senses experience – a chance to see, feel, smell, hear and taste the world. And they’ve done it often enough to know for sure: sightseeing with a group of laid-back Kiwis is DOUBLE the fun – lots of laughs, great company, and memories that last forever!

6 thoughts on “A TALE OF FOUR CITIES

  1. Happy Birthday to Margie Henderson from the Lewis Family. The trip looks amazing and we look forward to hearing more!

  2. Johnny your beautiful description of the cremation process brought tears to my eyes … how awesome to be privy to all that. What an amazing experience. WOW!!!!! Love ya both xx

    • Hi Allison

      Some amazing photos coming up on the blog. The Ganges experience certainly looks incredible. Everything looks so colourful. How was the elephant ride!!..Pam

      • Hi John, Robyn, Julie, Bruce and Mary. WOW what a trip. And the photo of the tiger was something else. Take care and look after yourselves. Bev Cooper

  3. Happy birthday Sherrol! I know you and Mary and Sheryl and all will be having an amazing time by the look of John’s
    blog and photos. Hope your day is extra special and you don’t earn yourself a donkey celebrating!

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