Travel Rajasthan through Palaces, Festivals and the Desert
Being one of the most visited destinations in North India, Rajasthan is splendid in its own way. It is dotted with innumerable attractions that are worth photographing. Captivating are its lakes, deserts, forts, palaces, wildlife sanctuaries, festivals and its warm people. Within Rajasthan, the most important cities are Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Jaisalmer.
Day 1 - Mandawa
We arrive in Delhi at dawn. The arrival was not good enough that we would have liked since one of the traveling companions lost their luggage. After an hour and a half trying to solve the problem, it was finally found. The clock already marked six past when we left the airport. A car was waiting for us. The Indira Gandhi International Airport is about an hour from downtown. At that time of the morning, there was intense traffic in the streets and a movement of people moving from one place to another.
Looking out the window of the car I see my first images of fright. At about seven thirty we arrived at our hotel, a good hotel for tourists. After passing the corresponding security arch, we did the check-in. It was the time just for breakfast, shower and at nine we left to leave for the town of Mandawa.
We leave Delhi in a northwesterly direction. Fortunately today it is a holiday and the traffic is not as intense as in a working day. After leaving this great metropolis, we take a highway. As we move along the road, this new world continues to impact us, which after a sequence of images surprises us at every step.
We have to travel a total of 240 km to get to Mandawa, that will be about five hours with stops included for eating. So we have time to enjoy the atmosphere of the villages we pass through and be startled more than once. The highway arrives at a time when it seems to disappear. The driver pulls us through some villages, where the road becomes a dirt track, in many stretches almost flooded. Based on many maneuvers and with the great skill of our driver we were able to move forward.
Throughout this section, there are many shepherds that we can see with their cattle. The tractors, trucks and small vehicles are loaded with people to the brim, take advantage of even the smallest gap so that someone can ride.
Close to Mandawa, we visit the Shekhawati region. It is the old commercial route of camel caravans and famous for its Havelis. From this whole area, we visit Mandawa, Dundlod, and Nawalgarh. For this, we start with the latter. A few kilometers from Mandawa and already mid-afternoon we reached the city of Nawalgarh. It is a curious little tourist place and of which we are the center of attention of all its inhabitants.
Among its places of interest is its fortress built in 1837. It also has some beautiful havelis, famous for their frescoes. Being our first visited place, everything seems amazing and spectacular. We enter inside a haveli, of which we are impressed by his paintings from the outside, although partially deteriorated in some areas of the walls. According to our guide, these palaces are of wealthy Indians who live in other capitals and let entire families live in it and at the same time maintain it.
It's a shame to see how these architectural wonders can eventually deteriorate over time. We enter each of its rooms. Some of them are part of where families live, and we can enjoy the colors and shapes of the paintings. Apart from paying a small ticket, usually they are usually left a tip to the family, to somehow help them with the maintenance. We went up to the top and went to some terraces where we can enjoy excellent views of this small town.
Inside the haveli, a central courtyard surrounded by several well-preserved arches and decorated with colorful paintings depict religious, traditional and floral scenes. The architectural layout of these houses takes advantage of the possible current of the air and offers the least surface to the sun. Although the havelis can be somewhat modest, they are generally synonymous with a palace belonging to the upper middle class.
We leave this haveli and take a walk through the streets of Nawalgarh. The Tuc tuc run at great speed through these narrow streets and some ladies cover their faces when they pass by us. A couple of kids come to us to guide us. After an hour and a half touring this curious place, slowly we head towards our car, before being assaulted by several kids with the intention of selling us some souvenirs.
Late in the afternoon, we arrived at Mandawa. A nice resort was waiting for us. Here they did all the welcome honors and we stayed there. The hotel, distributed in several very well decorated areas, reminds us of old houses built in adobe.
Day 2 - Bikaner
After a good feast of the previous night held in the same hotel, in the morning I got up early and went around the hotel. It was superb with an exquisite decoration and very well taken care of. The first thing that surprised me was a few squirrels scampering between the tables on the terrace. After a good rich and abundant breakfast at 8.30, we left for Mandawa.
We left our hotel behind and, a short distance away, we parked the car to get lost in this beautiful place full of havelis. Some ladies, very prepared with their clothes, make a claim to be photographed in exchange for a few rupees.
Almost abandoned to their fate, this place has something magical and disillusioning at the same time. One thinks how this place would be dozens of years ago with glittering and well-groomed havelis. Now unfortunately, removing some well preserved, others have been almost in ruins, forgotten over time.
We walked through its streets, and almost a few meters on both sides of it, the paintings on the walls in our permanent view. Among so many works of art, the chipping erases part of them. The walls in some areas seem to fall. Luckily there is some well preserved as the Bansidhar Newatia haveli, which has fantastic paintings on the outside of the wall.
Not many kilometers away we headed towards our last destination in the Shekhawati region, Dundlod. The first thing that catches our attention in this bustling city is the chaos and the crowd of people going from one place to another. We dodge motorcycles, cows and garbage dumps under a hellish noise without being able to talk. We just watch, watch and our camera let us pick up everyday scenes of Dudlod's commercial life.
Here, as in the other two cities visited, the havelis also abound, although in smaller quantities. We visited some of them. Although we plan to visit some more, we decided to end the visit to the havelis since there were several that we had visited. We prefer to wander around for a while. That's how it was, for about an hour or so, we wandered through some streets of this small town and drenched ourselves with details we had never seen before.
The colorful clothing of women makes us stop and approach them. This place is not very touristy with what they often hide their face and prefer not to have any communication. On many occasions, they are even reluctant to be photographed. Next to the fruit street stalls, in a few corners, a group of women is chatting among themselves. We take advantage to buy some pieces of fruit, preferably bananas.
We left Dundlod and headed towards Bikaner, outside of the Shekhawati region. There are about 180 kilometers of risky roads that we will have to travel. We arrived at Bikaner at about noon. So the first thing we did was head towards the fort to visit it. But before, we went to an area of restaurants just in front, where we went to eat.
This imposing 16th-century fort houses ancient palaces, temples and a mosque. Founded by Raja Rai Singh, this fort encloses 37 pavilions decorated with a series of profusely decorated balconies and windows of varied designs. The Junagarh Fort has a wall 986 meters long and 37 bastions, a moat and two entrances. Built at ground level and defended only by high walls. At first glance, it is not imposing but when we access its interior we are amazed by its rooms, its exquisite decoration, and its patios.
Opening to the main courtyard, the Karan Mahal, with its gold-layered paintings adorning its columns and walls, was built to commemorate a victory of the Mughal Empire over Emperor Aurangzeb, while the amazing palace of flowers was erected 100 years later. Stained glass windows, stone and wooden balconies sculpted with care, as well as brightly painted walls and ceilings, demonstrate the extravagant tastes of monarchs.
The Anup Mahal is the largest construction with wooden ceilings inlaid with blue mirrors and delicate latticework in windows and balconies. The palace of the moon is one of the most opulent rooms of the fort, full of golden deities and murals inlaid with precious stones. We climb to the top floor, where we can enjoy excellent views of part of the walls and its gardens.
Another impeccable place inside the fort is the palace of the clouds, this one covered with fresh paintings of Krishna and his consort Radha in the middle of the clouds. The Har Mandir of Rajasthan is the majestic temple for the royal family to worship their gods and goddesses. I remember that before embarking on the trip, I must admit that the palaces and forts were not exactly one of my priorities. Perhaps what I most wanted was to enjoy its people, color, culture, religion. But seeing this fort I was shocked, not only by its grandeur and majesty but also by its enormous beauty.
Perhaps the fact of being the first one visited also influenced it (later during the trip they were some more). Frankly I loved it. Undoubtedly just to see this impressive fort is worth your visit. It is also the fourth largest city of Rajasthan and its environment is very local, apart from the tourist burdens. We left the fort and visited the outer courtyards. Some of them cannot be passed, and some soldiers cut us off. We went to the car that was waiting for us near the fort. Some improvised sellers follow us.
Late in the afternoon, we left for our hotel located on the outskirts of Bikaner. A short distance from the hotel we passed some cenotaphs, where we stopped to look at it from outside. The cenotaphs are empty tombs or funerary monument erected in honor of some person or group of people, usually important or wealthy for those who want to keep a special memory. In a way, it is a symbolic building. We tried to enter inside, although a sign indicated that it was already closed.
About eight o'clock in the evening we arrived at our hotel, another magnificent hotel. By the way, I am not used to these categories when I travel alone. As well as what happened in the other, we were welcomed in a luxurious lounge with some refreshing juices. Although officially today's route was over, we did not want to stay at the hotel. So we spoke with our guide to take the car to Bikaner in exchange for an agreed price since the hotel was away from the center of Bikaner and was difficult to get another transport. At nine we were to visit it and then go to dinner at a good place with good views and dances in the area.
We are already in the center. The car has left us in a roundabout where there is an equestrian sculpture from where we walk. The streets are completely dark, only lit by the dim light of the street stalls. The noise is hellish and dozens of motorcycles run at great speed. We enter a small market and see how, like us, the cows walk the same narrow streets between the fruit stands. We continue along a street that will take us to an illuminated doorway.
At every step, we take the street stalls are full of shops with sweets, juices, pancakes. After a couple of hours hanging around, we stayed to have dinner at the hotel restaurant, a good place with very fresh beers and exquisite food. Once there we went up to the roof and they put us the dinner. It's hot, a humid heat that sticks to our bodies, so here we'll be better off in the cool.
I tasted the Shahi Paneer, an exquisite vegetarian dish with melted and mixed goat cheese. I accompanied it with some onion pakora and naan bread. And of course a very cold beer. Enjoying our excellent food and a cool temperature, a dancer and a couple of musicians and singles came to liven up the dinner.
We had a good time eating, chatting and laughing. Almost at the start of the next day, we left for our hotel. The day had been long, well nourished by experiences, sensations, and reflections.
Day 3 - Jaisalmer
In Deshnok, 33 kilometers southeast of Bikaner, is the Karni Mata temple. It is dedicated to the 15th-century mystic who prophesied the successes of Rao Bika, although it is more known as the temple of rats. So when we arrive we go to a stall where we can leave our shoes and in return, they give us some plastic bags to put them on our feet since we have to go barefoot.
Next, to the temple, we find some stalls with meals in the form of an offering for rats. We go through the door of the temple and stand in line. Now yes, we are already inside. The rodents are running everywhere, and in some moments they seem to surround us. Some say that it is good luck to have them pass through your feet or smear a little milk from where they drink and bring it to your lips.
In this temple herds of "sacred" rodents are protected by the belief that in a short time, they reincarnated into human beings. Attracted by candies and seeds there are hundreds of rats that screech and run around the marble temple. About 600 Deshnok families claim to be descendants of Karni Mata, the same number of rats that caregivers say they live inside.
When we enter the temple it is impossible to avoid stepping on the rodents, although we can say that at least our bare feet are covered by a plastic bag. The smell is intense. According to our guide, all the rodents that live here have no contact with the outside world.
When we leave the temple, we look at each other's faces. Some have the face of fright, others as exhorted, others thoughtful. Each one counts their sensation. I look at the pilgrims and followers of this temple. What a difference of face, their looks are firm, ours are gone.
In the direction of Jaisalmer, near the border with Pakistan, we stop in a curious place where every year has a popular pilgrimage fair. Although it was not planned in our program, it was a good idea to go there. From many kilometers back we see hundreds of followers who were walking on the roads carrying many colored flags. So after several hours on the road, we reach Ramdevra.
The fame of this tiny village located 12 km north of Pokhran in the province of Jaisalmer comes from Baba Ramdev. He was a Sufi and also saint. It was a tanwar rajput who in 1458 did the Samadhi. He had the capacity to work miracles and his fame reached far away. Legend has it that from Mecca they sent five Muslim scholars to testify and convince themselves of their miraculous powers.
Since then he was revered by Muslims as Ram Shah Pir. The Indians also accepted his powers and considered him as a reincarnation of Vishnu. In 1931 the Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner built the current temple. The car leaves us on the outskirts of the town with what we have to walk a couple of kilometers to reach the place of pilgrimage.
Here families from the remote corners of India came together. In this way, we began to walk through dusty alleys full of stalls and crowds. This is an open-air museum full of curiosities, and especially of many colors. Every bit I have to stop and enjoy these moments of so much contrast. They, like us are surprised, they take pictures of us and want to pose by our side. They surround us as if we were the characters of a circus.
Hundreds of devotees go towards the temple, and we seem to be dragged by this crowd. Here everyone hums at the same time they raise their colorful banners. For a moment it seems that I look in the mirror of curiosities and strangeness. I am attracted to everything I see and I do not stop shooting with my camera. We are already in the vicinity of the temple and some railings cut us off, we have to stand in a queue where children, old people, women all crowded together. They have been waiting for hours to enter the temple.
Our guide speaks with the policemen in case we can get through a shortcut. He lets us pass, and next to us we see hundreds of people queuing and without being able to breathe. We do not like it. It does not seem ethical for us to go through the back door when they have even been in line for a day.
Along the protection fences, some devotees advance towards the temple by crawling. They pray and hum, while a partner helps him to push himself to keep crawling. Along with these rest, thousands of shoes piled up. The noise becomes untenable, as all sing in the form of screams. The pilgrim's crowds between the fences. All carry offerings for the gods. Many thirsty devotees take the opportunity to refresh themselves in these endless queues.
When we were near the temple we agreed that we did not want to enter. We did not like to sneak in that way, seeing how others looked at us with a face of astonishment or perhaps horror. It just did not seem fair to us. Slowly we started to go back to the car.
It is very hot, and sweat sticks to our bodies. We have to drink every so often. Fortunately, our car was loaded with a cooler of soft drinks and cold water. In this way, the first thing we do when we get in the car is drink, drink, and drink. In the afternoon we left for Jaisalmer, entering the Thar desert.
The landscape more and more desert and more depopulated. We see some camels among the bushes. At last, we are arriving in Jaisalmer. It is a quarter past seven. We see a great fortress on a hill.
We go directly to our Haveli, a former palace converted into a hotel and located on the outskirts of Jaisalmer. Very charming and with garden areas, the rooms are scattered around the pool. We left our gear, changed our clothes and at eight o'clock, we go to dinner to an excellent restaurant with views towards the fortress of Jaisalmer. Before going to dinner we took a walk through the streets of Jaisalmer. As it happened to us in Bikaner, the dark and the cows were our traveling companions in that nocturnal walk.
Already about ten o'clock at night we went to the restaurant run by a woman. We climbed directly to the roof, and there we improvised a good table with an exquisite meal. The owner suggested some good beers and good wine and also several typical dishes of that country. Among others, we ordered tandoori Aloo, Kesri malai, panner and Cheese Naan. After twelve o'clock at night, we went to the hotel.
Day 4 - Thar Desert
Jaisalmer, also known as the golden magic is the ancient city of merchants. It conserves a rich legacy of golden havelis, whose color is due to the yellow local sandstone with which they were erected. Jaisalmer seems to have been taken out of the story of a thousand and one nights. Here everything is spectacular from its people, its buildings, its traditions, its color, its strength.
Here, near the border with Pakistan, everything is magical. After breakfast, we left to visit Jaisalmer. The first thing we do is head towards Gadsisar Sagar Lake, located next to the city, to the south of the walls. It is one of the biggest tourist attractions since it is surrounded by temples and sanctuaries.
It was built by Maharwal Gadsi Singh back in the year 1400. This lake in the form of a reservoir supplied water to the entire city. It is currently a place of pilgrimage. To access the lake we do it through the Tillon gate, built of yellow sandstone. Once on the lake, we skirt it and go to some of the temples and sanctuaries, although we can not enter. Several characters dressed in typical costumes pose and attract travelers with a song.
The place is fascinating, a mix between the spiritual, the tourist and the picaresque of some who want to earn some rupees. Entire families walk along the shore of the lake to go to the cenotaphs and to the temples. They dressed in white and they with colorful clothes decorate the whole environment of the lake.
Besides the temples, a Sadhu attracts us with his painted face and his pinkish tunic. They spend most of their time in meditation. Many of these gather at certain festivals such as the Kumbh Mela. After a long time touring the lake and its temples, we now headed towards the interior of Jaisalmer, beyond its walls.
Known as the golden city, Jaisalmer is a charming city located on the crest of a sandy yellowish rock and is crowned by a fort that with 99 bastions crowns the Trikuta Hill. Just before the walls, we find a small esplanade in which there is a door through which we will access the interior of the city.
The view we have of the walls up there impresses us. Next, to us, the children scamper one by one to try to sell us something. Once inside the city, there are many attractions that have havelis, Jain and temples, palaces and above all much walk through narrow streets with painted houses.
To travel this city is to go back to past times. The vendors lurk everywhere and from time to time a curious character dressed in colorful clothes comes to meet us. The faces of some girls are loaded with beads, bright and hanging, and all are painted the Bindi. Historically it has also been a symbol of married women, so the bond of marriage was clear. It is also normal to see children with their eyes painted black with a substance called kohl. They do it to avoid the evil eye and as a measure of protection against infection.
We started walking through the streets of Jaisalmer. At each step we take we find a haveli, mansion or temple. It is a fascinating cobweb of narrow streets marked by beautiful carved houses and paintings on its walls. Many buildings have balconies and windows in salient, some with half arches and painted blue colors. In some alleys seem to touch both walls where the balconies feel salute.
Jaisalmer is a magical and legendary city, born from the sands of the Thar desert. The architecture of Jaisalmer is considered a masterpiece of adaptation to the wild climate of the desert, its torrid heat in summer and the onslaught of sandstorms.
Jaisalmer has always had a very strategic situation and was an almost obligatory stop in the traditional route of the camel caravan trade of Indian and Asian merchants. The route linked Central Asia with Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Africa and all the west. Traditionally the main source of income of the city came from the caravans of commerce but later the seaport of Bombay began to operate and the commercial routes by sea replaced the routes by land.
After the partition of India in 1947, all trade routes in the Indian area were closed. Jaisalmer became a desert place near the border with Pakistan that hardly evolved as if it had stalled in time. But in recent years tourism has managed to recover life again. Already inside the walls, we visit the Laxminath Temple. It has an attractive dome painted in bright colors. Another interesting place is the Patwa-Ki-haveli, dating from 1890 and although it is already admirable outwardly it is worth entering and visiting it since from above we can enjoy excellent views of Jaisalmer.
Walking through its streets, we are struck by the graffiti of some of their houses. With bright colors and images, our guide explains that when a couple marries it decorates it in this way, illustrating in the drawing the date on which the wedding was celebrated. Here the cows, merchants and street vendors seem to take over our walk. At every step we take, they come to meet us and sometimes in narrow alleys we have to almost jump over the cows.
Besides being able to see the temples, for example, the one of Laxminath and the one of Surya, there are other so many Jains that date from centuries XII to the XVI, there is a total of seven, built in yellow sandstone and each one dedicated to a God with a concrete meaning. The devotees enter the interior of the temple and offer their offerings, when they go outside they pass under some bells that they have to touch.
After lunch, our guide gave us the opportunity to take a trip to the desert of Thar (it was not included in the program) in which each included the jeep back and forth (60 km away), a camel ride with sunset views, dinner, and dancing typical of the area. So we all signed up and at four o'clock in the afternoon, we left for the desert, at the same gates of the neighboring country of Pakistan.
Divided into four jeeps, we left Jaisalmer in the direction of the desert. It was very hot, when suddenly as we went along, a strong breeze began to rise and the sky gave us a few drops of water. The weather cooled. About 30 km away we stopped in a small village where all the children ran towards us. With smiling faces, the children look happy running around among us. Next, to them is a humble house built of bricks and adobe, with no more luxuries than just to live and be happy.
We leave the village and continue towards the deepest part of the Thar desert, also known as the great Indian desert. The land is formed by small undulating sandhills, between which there is scattered vegetation and rocky elevations.
Bordering with the Pakistani border, this desert enters the neighboring country with the name of Cholistan desert. As a curious fact we can say that in 1974, India detonated its first atomic bomb in the most unpopulated area of the Thar. Once we reached the desert, a group of camel drivers were waiting for us, with everything ready to make a small camel route through the dunes, and then enjoy the sunset.
The jeeps left us next to a somewhat rudimentary house with a central patio. There we would meet that night to dine and enjoy a dance and music typical of the area. The camels took us into the dunes of the desert. With the rattle, more than one was about to fall. Without being excessively high dunes as we can find in the Sahara, some of them were pronounced. So every time we started to climb it felt like falling backward.
Shortly after moving forward we found a group of women dressed in colored red, yellow, green saris who were preparing to carry water bottles from a nearby well. After an hour of traveling with the camels, we finally reach the highest part of the dunes, where we lie on the sand and wait for a little to enjoy the sunset. I hear some impromptu songs. The truth is that up there and with that nomadic atmosphere it was not bad. A small breeze at sunset lashed our faces. The infinite silence of the desert is only broken by the crooning of our musician, and we lay there, waiting for the sunset.
While we wait, our cameleers try to sell us some small beads in the form of souvenirs. Already with the fallen night, we returned to the house to dine outdoors and enjoy a nice Indian dance. With an abundant and exquisite food, we could enjoy, at the same time that we participated in the sensual dance that was beautifully danced by a beautiful girl. Kathak, that's the dance that was captivating me, like the girl. Dressed in a beautiful dress of many colors, in every movement that sounded all the bells that he wore on his arms and ankles. On his head a pile of small vases also of bright colors.
Day 5 - Jodhpur
We left Jaisalmer and headed south, in search of the city of Jodhpur, located on the edge of the Thar desert. There are 286 kilometers that separate us from both cities, the five hours there is no one to take them away, with stops included.
As we are arriving at Jodhpur, we are impressed by the great mass of fortress that we saw from afar and that, perched on a hill, impacts us from the distance due to its enormous beauty.
Jodhpur was once the capital of the Marwar state. Founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha, head of the Rathore clan of Rajput, the genius of its sculptors is revealed in its magnificent palaces, fort, temples, and havelis, which testify to the grandeur of the empire.
Known as the blue city, many houses are painted in this color. It was noon when we arrived at Fort Mehrangarh, stunning location and fabulous views. The first thing we do is enter the restaurant that is in the same room. This fort is perhaps the most majestic and one of the greatest fortresses of the Indian subcontinent. Mehrangarh is a huge fort, sitting on a hill 125 meters above the city, which dominates completely.
The fort is accessed through 6 large doors, usually after a curve and after a steep slope, specially designed to avoid the attack of elephants. These doors separate the exterior of the fort, of a more defensive nature, of the interior, of a more palatial character.
Upon accessing its interior, we are struck by a series of impressions of hands placed on the wall. It is the traces of the women of the Maharajas who, when their husbands died, launched themselves on their funeral pyre to accompany them on their journey to paradise during the sati ceremony.
Once inside, we are impressed by the architecture of the palace and the exquisiteness of all its details. The main courtyard is where the coronations of the princes were carried out. The filigree of the windows is an architectural expression of the Islamic tradition of women hiding from the sight of men behind fine veils, through which they could have a view of their surroundings.
Of the many rooms that the palace contains perhaps the most outstanding for its beauty (it is already difficult, they are all impressive) are the Palace of Flowers, the Takht Mahal, the Pearl Palace, and the palace of the spies. All these coated white marble, mirrors, gold filigrees, inlaid precious stones, paintings, and ornaments.
The Takht Mahal is the most decorated, being the room of the monarch Takhat Singh, the Maharaja who was in power when the British occupied India. The pearly palace is the largest hall and is named after the color obtained by adding ground shells to the stucco mixture. The walls have no ornaments, precisely to highlight the work of the ceiling.
We left the fort and headed to the royal cenotaph, an impressive marble memorial built in 1899, commissioned by the Maharaja's wife after her death. Located on a hill, and next to a small wall that rises to the top of a rocky mountain, next to a lake that reflects the silhouette of the building. Around the main cenotaph, there are four more cenotaphs of the grandparents and fathers of the Maharaja.
From this rocky hill, we contemplate the views of the city of Jodhpur down below and to our right the impressive Mehrangarh fort on top of this complex. We enter the interior of the temple and contemplate the carving of the great hall, in which by the way, we have to take off our shoes to access it. The main building is built like a temple, with sculptures, frescoes, vaults, pillars and jalis (marble lattices).
On the outside, senators are carved with a multilevel garden housing as many cenotaphs. The pond of the gods, within the same complex, serves as a traditional cremation place for the royal families of Jodhpur. Previous rulers of the dynasty arranged their cenotaphs in the nearby town of Mandore, to which we turn next.
Once we left the cenotaphs, we had two options, either visit Jodhpur or go to Mandore, located about 10 kilometers away and visit a curious place full of temples and inhabited by hundreds of monkeys, besides being a place of pilgrimage. We opted for the second.
When we arrived, we crossed a zone of gardens in which the monkeys scampered at ease. Thousands of pilgrims and entire families seemed to spend the day as if it were a party. The Mandore Gardens with its charming collection of temples, monuments, and its terraced rock terraces, is undoubtedly one of the destinations that we should not miss if we visit this area of Rajasthan.
These gardens house the cenotaphs of many rulers of the former princely state of Marwar. When we walk through this leafy grove, we find some pointed temples full of beautiful ornamentation. The monkeys are crossing at great speed in front of us and the fascination of beautiful girls stares at us, surprised to see us there. In fact, on more than one occasion they stop us to photograph us with them. As we are attracted to their faces and their colored clothing, they are also attracted to our western clothes.
The domes of the old temples arise between the thickets and the treetops, we continue advancing and at every step, we have to stop to contemplate some corners of this place in wonder. We left the Mandore compound and left again for Jodhpur. At our hotel in Jodhpur, we left all the belongings, and at night, four of us went to dinner at the restaurant. Located next to the clock tower, we went up to the terrace and there we could taste an exquisite food.
The penalty was not to enjoy a visit to the city, as it should be very nice, with its bluish colors, but as I said at the beginning we opted for Mandore.
Day 6 - Ranakpur
At about quarter past eight, we left for Udaipur, but before we would make a couple of interesting stops. The road continues to show us an arid and desert terrain (later it will change abruptly). A crowd of people on the side of the road makes us stop the car. It seems like a place of pilgrimage. After a short time, we verified that it was indeed that way. Many families in full go to a small religious site. Others rest in the interior of some old carts and others chat under the shade of the trees.
I approach one of the carts, where the whole family seems to travel. And slowly we leave this curious place, and eye crossing the road because the car we have it on the other side.
Going towards the temple of Ranakpur, the landscape begins to change. We leave behind the desert area and green areas appear, with trees and near a mountainous area. There are many scenes that we are contemplating as we move along the road. I do not stop looking through the window. I do not want to miss any detail, just at each step we take, I enjoy everything I see from its colors, its means of transport, its smiles, its simplicity.
The trucks are loaded with people, many motorcycles with whole families assembled. Here the mountains make their presence and every time we advance in a curve without visibility.
We are already in the spectacular Ranakpur temple. Surrounded by mountains and an intense green color, populated by thousands of trees. An idyllic place in which to enjoy the nature and spirituality of the followers of Jainism. Located in the valley of the Aravali mountains, this temple was built with richly carved white marble, between the 12th and 15th centuries, it is perhaps the most gigantic, beautiful and fascinating building of the Jain religion.
To access the temple we must take off our shoes and pay a small amount of rupees if we want to photograph inside. According to the Jainism, women who are menstruating will not be able to access the temple and the posters that we find scattered throughout the building indicate this. Likewise, it surprises us how in the Jain temples we can always see a monk or a caretaker sweeping the floor, despite being gleaming. The reason is that we can not step on any living thing: insects or small bugs since the Jain religion respects the life of any being.
Being vegetarians, entry is prohibited with any garment that is leather. In fact, I had to take off my belt and leave it outside. Dozens and dozens of followers or simply visitors access by a long staircase into the interior of the temple. A beautiful image of multicolored greens, oranges, yellows is what I can see in all the women.
Known as the temple of the four faces, it has 29 rooms and 1444 columns that support the magnificently carved ceilings, all of the different shape. The temple of Ranakpur is dedicated to Anidatha, an important figure within Jainism, known to be the founder of this religion. It is said that it is impossible to count all the columns since they are very concentrated in space.
The construction of the temple and the gridded image symbolize the conquest of the four cardinal points of Tirthankara, and therefore of the cosmos. When I walk through the interior of the temple, a mystical music takes me to several corners of it. Peace and tranquility is what is breathed in this labyrinth of columns, perfectly located, and without there being two equal.
From time to time I approach the windows and look out. There are spectacular views of the surroundings, all green and mountainous. This place is fascinating and worthy of admiration. I think it alone would be worth a trip.
We left the main temple and in the middle of the lush forest, we went to the temples of Neminath and Parshvanath located both in the surroundings. The entrance to these temples is free. These temples built in the fifteenth century stand out especially for their openwork stone windows and for the many sculptures with erotic scenes that decorate it.
We left the complex and headed towards Udaipur, located about 60 kilometers away. In the afternoon we arrived in Udaipur, after two hours in that short, but a beautiful journey full of mountains full of greenery. During our journey, on the narrow roads, we were going through all kinds of animals, so more than once the braking of the car made us jump out of our seats.
Once in Udaipur, we went to our hotel, an excellent hotel very comfortable. We left all our gear, we got fresh and about seven thirty we were a small group to visit Udaipur. Known as the city of lakes or the white city or as the city of dawn or also with the nickname of Venice of India. It is a beautiful city with multiple attractions, imposing white marble palaces, luxurious green gardens, and ancient temples.
After negotiating with the drivers of the Tuc-Tuc (always have to bargain) we went to the area of the lakes. We visit a restaurant, located on the shore of Lake Pichola and just in front of the great palace. The views were unbeatable and the food somewhat expensive to be in India is delicious. Namely, Tandoori Aloo, Kesar malai paneer, and cheese naan. It was worth it, advisable whenever you travel to this beautiful city.
Once we ate, we went for a night tour around the lake area and through the narrow streets of downtown. Late at night, far from the hotel and without means of locomotion at our reach, we contacted a store with a couple of young people, with whom we negotiated a price to take us to our hotel.
Day 7 - Udaipur
The next day, we had breakfast soon, and about nine in the morning, we left to visit Udaipur, starting with the City Palace, located on the shores of Lake Pichola. It is a hot day, and in the early hours of the morning, the thermometer exceeds 35 degrees. This palace is considered to be the largest in Rajasthan, fusing Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles. Built on a hill, it has spectacular views over the lake, mountains, and other historic buildings.
The city palace was built at the same time as the establishment of the city of Udaipur by Maharaja Udai Singh II, in the year 1559. The foundation of the city and the construction of the palace complex cannot be considered in isolation because the Maharajas lived and administered their kingdom from this palace. The series of palaces within the palaces complex of the city is oriented to the East and under a splendid facade of 224 meters long and 30 meters high.
The unique aspect of this conglomerate is that the architectural design is a rich mixture of Rajasthani, Mughal, Medieval, European and Chinese architecture and is remarkably homogeneous and striking. The palace has been built in its entirety with granite and marble. The interiors of the palace complex with its balconies, towers, and domes show delicate works with mirrors, marble, murals, paintings, and works in silver. The complex offers beautiful views of the lake and the city of Udaipur from its upper terraces.
A series of impressive doors provide access to the complex. These are colloquially known as Pols and were built in the year 1600 by Maharaja Udai Singh II. Within the complex we find the Amarvilas, the highest patio, which provides us with the entrance to the Badi Mahal, it is a pleasure pavilion built in the Mughal style with a splendid hanging garden.
This palace also known as the Garden Palace is located on a rocky formation about 27 meters from the rest of the palace. The Bhim Vilas has a gallery of a remarkable collection of miniature paintings depicting the life stories of Radha-Krishna.
Other places of interest within the complex are the Chitrashala Chini, the Dilkusha Mahal, the Durbar Room, the Fateh Prakash Palace, the Sheesh Mahal. If we want to see the whole complex well, the three or four hours there is no one to take it from us. One wonders when one walks through this work of architectonic art. In addition, its formidable location overlooking the lake makes it unbeatable.
After almost all the morning visiting the palace, we left it with the feeling that this would be the most beautiful palace we had visited so far, although that is what we think when we visit the others. Every day we go to more.
We are now in the garden of the Maidens (Sahelion Ki Bari), located on the shore of the second lake of Udaipur. It is in the north of the city, with its ornamental fountains, elephants carved in white marble and a charming pond covered with lotuses. In the garden, there are several species of vegetables, impressive palm trees and trees with showy flowers.
It is midday and the sun is tightening, the temperature has risen even more, so we decided to go to the hotel a bit, eat there, rest a bit and then return to continue visiting Udaipur. About six o'clock in the afternoon we headed towards the lakes area.
Udaipur is located at the foot of the Aravalli mountains, located south of the state of Rajasthan. There are several lakes around the city, including Pichola, Fateh Sagar, Udai Sagar and Swarup Sagar. The biggest of all is Lake Pichola, located in the heart of the city.
On the same bank, we began to haggle with a young woman who sold bracelets. She was sitting on the steps of the lake, with her husband and a baby a few months old. We move now through the streets of the center of Udaipur and in one of its main arteries, we find the Jagdish temple. This one rises on a high terrace and was finished in the year 1651.
It is linked to a Mandapa (pavilion to perform public rituals) of two floors. A steep staircase leads us to the inside of the temple, but before going up we stop to see the natural flower necklaces that some ladies sell, and that some buy as offerings for the gods. Other ladies sell petals of orange, pink, green flowers. Two large elephants flank the entrance of the Jagdish Mandir. The temple impresses us when we climb. The facade is full of carved sculptures of armed warriors, beings twisted by many arms, and paintings.
Under one of the elephants, a sanctum or something similar, at least it seems someone venerable. Already inside the temple, the priests and caretakers do not stop, with great neatness, to arrange and take care of all the details of the interior: place the braziers, shake feather dusters, and occasionally play a curious musical instrument.
Many of the faithful approach and hand out their flower beds, others burn incense in the brazier placed before the altar and mark their foreheads with ash. Soon a large number of women (the vast majority quite old) who sit form a circle in the center of the temple.
Then a couple of gentlemen take musical instruments. Sitting next to all the ladies, they begin to play a melodious song, which slowly I get hooked. The rhythm of the tune became more pleasant to hear and for a few minutes I was immersed and attracted by this humming.
The faces of the old women gave off a lot of experience, a lot of work, and why not, at that moment, joy and devotion. My eyes were hypnotized by so varied colors. My ears absorbed that music and my thoughtful mind, happy to be there, that they had kindly accepted me as one of their group.
The music was still flowing and some ladies started dancing. My legs moved more and more to the rhythm of so attractive singing. My head moved in small swings to the chord of the rest of my body. They looked at me and with an insinuating and respectful glance invited me to dance. I did not hesitate. I was immersed in that party. So I went out and together with another man I started dancing.
As a farewell, they gave me a band of yellow color with many insignias and representations. They put it around my neck, letting it hang for the rest of my body. I was proud of that detail. It was an exciting moment. In the evening we went to dinner at the restaurant which is just in front of the temple. It was a good place in which as always we could taste exquisite food, something less spicy. Later in the night, we catch the Tuc-Tuc and we went towards our hotel.
Day 8 - Pushkar
We left about 8.30 in Udaipur, and although it was only 280 km away from Pushkar, we would arrive around 4 in the afternoon to our destination. The road was hellish, with a lot of traffic and in bad conditions. The city of Pushkar, also known as the city of pilgrimage, is located on the shore of a small lake with many ghats and small temples. Spirituality and peace are breathed in each of its corners. People bathe in the lake during the sacred festivity of Kartik Purnima. The 52 ghats located along the sacred lake of Pushkar make it one of the great centers of pilgrimage.
Among all the temples, we find the Brahma temple, the only one dedicated to the Brahma in India. It is one of the oldest cities in the country and this is where the ashes of Gandhi were scattered. In the vicinity of the great temple, people crowd among dozens of stalls, and where the movement of believers is continuous. Sometimes it is difficult to walk and the easiest thing is to stumble at each step we take.
It is worth plunging into this atmosphere of crowds and at the same time of spirituality. It is a strange sensation that one perceives. At times I feel overwhelmed by not being able to walk through the infinite noise. But on the other hand, it is compensated with a flood of beautiful images that are crossing in front of my eyes. Each scene is unique and I want to immortalize it through my eyes and the lens of my camera.
Slowly we head towards the lake ghats. This walk becomes a true living museum of colors and strange sensations. In a short time, we reached the lake. Our guide takes us to the stairs of one of the ghats. In front of the ghats and as they descend the steps there are small pools. Some people say that inside the lake there are snakes and therefore choose to bathe with greater security in these. Although according to some giant graffiti they say that it is forbidden to photograph, it is difficult not to do it. The colors and the atmosphere incites you to just the opposite.
The water of each ghat is believed to have different powers. So the water of the Kund Naga is believed to give fertility. The one of Roop Tirth the beauty. The one of Kapil Vyapi cures leprosy and the one of Kund Mrikand Muni grants the gift of the wisdom.
Entire families stand in front of our cameras to photograph us with them. Some girls with beautiful brown faces and light eyes smile at our presence. Slowly we leave the area of the lake and again we go to the streets of the interior. The place is full of stalls of different colors, street stalls where we can buy even the most unthinkable. There are small places where we can eat, along with improvised fruit shops on the ground.
We moved to the terrace of the bar next to the lake and with excellent views. Going to this place was intentional since we had read it in a travel guide. We wanted to try a curious drink. It was a lassi with a little marijuana. We thought that marijuana would be a joke. So we asked the waiter when and what effects it produced. The waiter told us, in just over half an hour we will begin to notice the effects.
After a while of chatting, laughing and enjoying beautiful views of the lake, we continue to wander through the dark corners of Pushkar. Effectively that began to take effect. We looked into each other's eyes and the laughter was permanent, from time to time we were sticking around the stalls. That was not a joke, it was very serious and also lasted several hours.
About nine thirty at night we went to our hotel, located outside of Pushkar. A nice hotel composed of several rooms in the form of single-family houses in the middle of a large garden. Once at the hotel, some colleagues went directly to the restaurant to eat. We still had the effect of that refreshing drink, so we went the shortest way to the room.
In the morning without any hangover, I took a walk through the garden of the hotel and then to have a good breakfast. We prepare our luggage and leave again. As always when we left a hotel, all the waiters approached us to take our luggage. At nine in the morning we left for the nearby city of Ajmer.
Day 9 - Ajmer
We set off and headed to Ajmer, where we would be just over two hours. The car left us on the outskirts of the city. So we took several Tuc-Tuc to get us closer to the center of town. Once there, we walked down a dusty street that took us directly to the great mosque. Ajmer with almost half a million inhabitants is a highly religious city, which is the mausoleum of the Sufi saint Khawa Moinuddin Chisti, the Dargah Sharif.
Hundreds of faithful and pilgrims go to the temple. We in the middle of the tumult are dragged inside. In the tour we can see many mutilated pilgrims crawling in the dust of the street, some without upper and lower members literally rolling towards the mosque. The images are Dantesque and of course I did not want to photograph them. An avalanche of followers hummed loudly, while carrying a giant colored cloth with several badges and held by many believers.
We are there in the middle, astonished and without knowing anything. The only thing we could do was observe very carefully. Many of the companions stayed outside the mosque, some of us entered inside, being dragged by the great mass of pilgrims. Undoubtedly, it was a strange place with a great religious fervor. We could not photograph its interior since it was forbidden, so we were left with the memory and the lived environment.
As in any mosque we had to take off our shoes, and with so many people coming and going more than one step we took. Without saying how our socks were once we left the temple. On our way back to the Tuc-Tuc we stopped in the many stalls that were in the streets. The seller of petals claims us to go to his stall. He wants to pour the rose petals into my hands to give as an offering in the mosque.
Once on the car, the driver starts and the air conditioning does not work. It's hellish heat. The driver gets off the car to see what the problem was. We went to the hall of a hotel to wait until they gave him a solution. Soon, they tell us that another car will come for us. After a couple of hours of waiting we left for Jaipur.
About five in the afternoon we arrive in Jaipur, after traveling the 140 km that separates them. The hotel was close to the city walls and therefore a ten minute walk away. It was a beautiful landscaped complex, where the great majority of waiters were young Nepalis. We settled and went to tour the streets of Jaipur.
With a map in hand and some recommendations from our guide book we got lost in the big bazaars of the city. Jaipur, next to Agra and Benares form the most visited golden triangle in India. Thousands and thousands of people come every year to visit these three cities. Jaipur, known as the pink city concentrates one of the largest commercial areas of India. Hundreds of busy and bustling posts scattered in a few bazaars. Many other markets scattered around the city sell everything from silver jewelry, puppets, silks of cheerful patterns, objects typical of Rajasthan, colorful bracelets the city emerges vitality in every corner of the bazaars.
When we go through their stores, the merchants do not stop harassing us so that we enter them. Many encourage us to take a cup of tea while we browse the objects they sell.
We continue advancing through this tangle of shops and at each step we find sacred places where people stop to pray and deposit their offerings. After a few hours walking around the bazaar areas, we consulted the book for dinner at a typical restaurant and, if possible, have beer.
So we negotiated with the driver of a bicycle rickshaw and he took us to a very good looking restaurant. The only bad thing is that it did not have the beer. So again we took another cycle-rickshaw and it took us to another restaurant. There was exquisite food and chilled beer. Although a bit expensive, it was worth it.
As we left the restaurant, an avalanche of Tuc-Tuc and rickshaw drivers came over to take us to the hotel. We negotiated the price and told him the name of the hotel and he accepted it quickly. He stopped a couple of times to ask where our hotel was. I was totally clueless. As we could, with signs and indicating the map we returned to indicate which was the hotel. He began to take us through narrow and lonely streets. After those narrow streets, he ended up in an avenue, the one of our hotel. We finally arrived, almost three-quarters of an hour later.
Day 10 - Jaipur
At eight-thirty in the morning we left to visit Amer Fort, located about 11 km from Jaipur. It is one of the most visited places in Rajasthan, and therefore also in India. The Amber fort is a palatial complex originally built for Meenas, who consecrated the city of Amba, the Mother Goddess whom they knew as Gatta Rani or Queen of the Past.
The fort is located on top of a hill above the Amber complex, and is built with red sandstone and white marble. With views of Maota Lake, it is connected to Amber by fortified landscapes in beautiful surroundings. Approaching him we made a stop before arriving to enjoy his enclave with the lake at his feet. To climb the fort we can do it on foot by a steep ramp, or as most travelers did, climb on the back of an elephant.
It is one of the great attractions of the place and therefore since we are here we will have to do it. Each elephant will be able to ride a maximum of two people and the price they charge for elephants on the climb is Rs 900, plus another 100 that are left directly as a tip.
So once mounted on the elephants we started jogging up that steep ramp. It is a constant movement of these huge pachyderms that go up and down in search of more travelers. As we climb we can enjoy a beautiful landscape behind Amber and the waters of the lake below. Meanwhile, the huge trunk that elegantly decorated our rear elephant does not stop puffing as if we wanted to reach.
It really does not stop being a tourist attraction more, and for this reason it feeds many families that are dedicated to this tourism. I have heard that on some occasion there was a somewhat dangerous problem, an elephant on the rise was altered and put together a good shoe. The elephant is a docile animal but when it infuriates there is no stopping it.
After about fifteen minutes of climbing, we cross the main gate of the fort, this being the place where the elephants are leaving all the travelers. Considered one of the seven wonders of India, we will start visiting the impressive Amber Fort. All the royal rooms are located inside and around a large patio. On the west side there is a garden and next to it is the Surk Mahal or Palace of Pleasure. A luxury with doors of ivory and sandalwood. Cascades of water fell on the marble walls.
The oldest part is located towards the south. In a central patio is the Zenana or ginaceo (in Persian, it refers to the part of the house reserved for women and their entourage). The ground floor is for princesses and the upper floor for concubines. Perhaps the most spectacular stay is the "Hall of Mirrors" which is completely decorated with small mirrors.
When royalty lived in this place, at night, when they needed to pass through these rooms, they took a single candle, and thanks to the intricate design of mirrors, the whole room was illuminated. In all the strong highlights its lattices, from them women could look behind them without being seen. The whole complex covers the top of the hill where you can see the real strong lookout, surrounded by a military wall and extensive defensive systems.
Inside we go from one room to another through corridors, some located outside. Slowly we leave the fort, and for that we do it by another descent different from the one we climbed. From above we were accompanied by a kid, who insistently wanted to sell us a small musical instrument made by hand with bamboo cane. During the whole trip we were bargaining to get a good price, while enjoying excellent views of all the surroundings.
After several hours visiting the Amber Palace, we returned to Jaipur. We moved directly to the Palace of the Winds, one of the most original and visited buildings in Jaipur. Before entering and just on the sidewalk in front of the palace, he claims us with an appealing little tune a snake charmer, we approach him and we bite into the typical tourist photo.
Then we are ready to enter the Palace of the Winds. The Hawa Mahal was built in the year 1799 by Sawai Pratap Singh. It was part of the city palace and served as an extension of the Zenana or chamber of women for the harem. The original function of the building was to allow real women to observe the daily life of the streets of the city without being seen.
The Palace has five floors, the two upper ones a little narrower, which gives it a certain pyramidal shape. It is built in red and pink sandstone with incrustations made of iron oxide. The facade that faces the street has a total of 953 small windows. The wind that flows through them gave the palace its name. This wind is what allowed the enclosure to stay cool even in summer. Located in the center of one of the main streets of the city, it is not surrounded by gardens, as would be usual in the Indian palaces.
The exterior structure of the palace resembles the tail of a peacock. There are no stairs that lead to the upper floors accessed through ramps. It is considered as the maximum exponent of the architecture Rajput or Rashput (member of one of the territorial patrilineal clans of the north and center of India), in fact it is the symbol and the most representative icon of the city of Jaipur.
To access it, we have to go through the back of the complex. We pay a symbolic amount and many others for taking pictures inside. The most spectacular aspect of this building is its main facade and the views we can see from the roof of it. At midday (lunchtime) we decided to first visit the astronomical observatory of Jantar Mantar, although, with a very high temperature, it was around 43 degrees.
This solar observatory is the largest in the world that is still used today, but it is above all an extraordinary combination of architectural beauty of Mughal style, and an impressive astronomical for its time. Today it is a magic-religious symbol still in force. It was built between 1728 and 1730 and contains 15 astronomical instrumental complexes. Six of them need sunlight and another 10 work with the lunar and stellar reflex. They all give an accurate measure of time. When the solar watches could not be used due to rain or the covered sky, the clepsydra (water clock) was used to measure time.
Below I detail each of the measuring instruments, like small sundial, instrument of the Polar Star, sundial, horizontal sundial, ecliptic instrument, large astrolabe, instrument of altitude, wall meridian, Sexante, equatorial solar clock, zodiacal instrument, armillary sphere, concave hemisphere, circular instrument, altazimuth instruments, and azimuthal instrument.
All perfectly preserved, make us enjoy this visit, especially with the deepened explanations of our guide to understand such curious measuring instruments. We are surprised by this trionium architecture-science-religion in this magical place that we can not stop visiting if we come to Jaipur. The place is very hot, it seems that they looked for the ideal place in which to locate these contraptions. Fleeing the heat we went to lunch at the restaurant of our hotel, rest a bit and then, again to kick the bazaars and the great atmosphere of Jaipur.
As I said before, Jaipur is known as the pink city, since all its historic buildings are painted a pink salmon color that in Rajasthan is the color of luck. The city is surrounded by a crenellated wall that has ten gates. Going through these doors we enter the historical heart of Jaipur, divided into nine quadrants with wide streets. Of these nine quadrants, two are dedicated to the palatial complex, the Palace of the Winds and the Solar Observatory, the other seven are dedicated to the town.
We wanted to escape from the most tourist area and discover the commercial essence of Jaipur. Although it was not a very recommendable area, we penetrated the narrow streets surrounded by several mosques. The crowd and commercial bustle was perceived by every corner we stepped on. The constructions looked humble and even in some cases quite deteriorated. We were in the whole center of the Muslim quarter and it was clear that in that area few Westerners had passed, since the gazes were permanent towards us.
Immersed in that area, we began to walk through some streets that were somewhat uncomfortable. A moment arrived that we were lost, although with the plane of the city we quickly oriented ourselves. From barber shops, small food stores, street stalls everything was a spectacle for us and also for them to see us pass.
On occasion, I even had a hard time photographing, they were scenes that I did not want to be violent either, so little by little we were integrated into our walk. Here everything is sold, we can find everything, and if we are able, we can even eat in the middle of a swarm of strange meals and not exactly with a very good face. If on the contrary we want to bring some food we can do it: fish, baked chicken and hung in a curious way.
The afternoon begins to fall and the dark is taking over the streets. We are still immersed in this commercial chaos, where some shout, others pray and others simply lie on improvised beds in the middle of the sidewalks or inside their own stores.
At the turn of each street or each alley we had a surprise. Suddenly we went to a small square where the cows grazed freely in the middle of hundreds of garbage. Everything was normal, they are free to go from here to there, eating where they please and without giving explanations to anyone. Slowly we go out of these streets to the great avenues. Finally, we can breathe something better, although the commercial crowd is still alive in the streets.
When walking through one of its streets, we heard the cheerful music that came from a terrace. It was attracting us. So we went to see what it was. At that moment some young people entered, who invited us to go. It was the celebration of a wedding, and at that moment people were dancing. So everyone came up to us and they took us out to dance.
After the visit to Jaipur ended, we went to dinner at the restaurant for a good meal. We return to the hotel and and then go to sleep.
We left towards Agra at 8.30 in the morning and before arriving in Agra, we stopped to visit the Fatehpur Sikri complex.