Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Jaipur.....the pink city

So today we did a tour of Jaipur. As the capital of Rajasthan, which is the state which holds the majority of the Thar desert, the landscape is completely different. The country is much more arid and the climate is hot! Highs of 35degrees today! The city is also much prettier than anywhere we've been so far. The roads are tunnelled through vast hills and an old wall surrounds the whole city. Our first stop of the day was the Amber Fort. Situated at the top of a steep incline, there is one means of transportation which gets the slew of tourists to the entrance.....elephants!!

I mentioned in yesterday's blog that I would be riding an elephant today and I did! I find them to be such amazing animals and was so excited. The reality definitely lived up to expectations and this put me on a total high for the rest of the day. Elephants in India are revered and are considered to be highly auspicious. The elephants at the Amber fort were decorated- their trunks and faces were covered in natural paints and this is because they also participate in weddings in Jaipur. Apparently it is considered to be a bad start to married life to not have an elephant in your wedding procession as they symbolise prosperity!! Our elephant was called Lakshmina and she (all the working elephants are females as the men are too temperamental) was playful soaking our tour guide (Manderkini) in water when she approached!

At the top, we disembarked (with some difficulty) and reviewed our surroundings. The first thing we noticed was the vast number of touts, who seem to be present EVERYWHERE in India. In Jaipur today though, they were particularly aggressive and determined to sell their wares. As mentioned before, as Western tourists we are considered by most to have unlimited resources and of course we most definitely WANT to buy the various tat which they are touting. It definitely becomes wearing after a while, and even though we might actually want to buy certain souvenirs, it is incredibly difficult to do so as if you buy one thing, 10 more people swarm on you identifying you as an 'easy target'.

Past the touts, we entered the Amber fort and it was fascinating. The views of Jaipur were amazing and the building itself was stunning (another awesome Indian monument). Our tour guide today was our favourite so far. She really managed to bring to life Indian history, and as a woman she had some really interesting perspectives on the way of life for women in India in the past. She pointed out the stark contract between the ornate, well-ventilated and large rooms of the men and the grim, small and sweltering chambers of the harem (women's chambers).

Over lunch, this conversation naturally progressed into a discussion of the place of the Indian woman in today's society. I was actually really surprised to find out that about 65% of marriages in India are still arranged. Manderkini was really vocal on her views of East vs West culture and it was clear that she believed that the West has been a negative influence on India in terms of things like dress and sexual promiscuity. It was really interesting to hear her views on certain issues and she had opinions on everything ranging from education to abortion to raising children without being married.......

Jaipur is a beautiful city....we also visited Jantar Mantar observatory and learned about the prevalence of astrology in India. When deciding names for her children who are 8 and 4 Manderkini consulted an astrologer in order to decide auspicious names and apparently most people in India would do the same. Again, I was completely unaware of the significance of this which is still apparent in modern India.

Next was the City Palace which is still the residence of the royal family of Jaipur (a figurehead title as the family no longer have any power- the King is 14)! Here we could really see the colonial impact which the UK had on India during the times of the British Empire, another facet of Indian History which I should really know more about.

Tomorrow we're moving onto Jodhpur and its about a 6-hour drive starting at 7 in the morning so i'm now going to hit the hay.......

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