maharajah of the road

Day 10

Maharajah of the road

Muscle cars


Day 10

- Text +

From Jaisalmer to Manvar

Manvar is a desert resort situated mid-way between Jaisalmer and Jodhpur (Rajasthan, India).

It is a medieval city catapulted through a time warp into the 21st century. There is a quiet, unhurried grace about this desert settlement and its people and a sense of kinship that can be traced to Bapji, otherwise known as Gaj Singh, who in another time would have been maharaja. Its an unprecedented tourist destination offering a rare opportunity to enjoy Rajasthan’s desert life, culture, wildlife & beauty. Manvar Safaries offer great outdoor adventure and a taste of the Thar desert. Visitors can visit tribal (Bishnoi) villages, see desert wild life, watch local craftsmen at work and enjoy the beautiful sand-dunes. The jeep safari can be extended to a nearby village where visitors can witness thousands of wild Demoiselle cranes being fed by the local population and also see some beautiful red sandstone. Today Manvar nestles close to the ground almost blending with the surrounding landscape - it has not only become a tourist destination but also an economic hub around which a large portion of the neighbouring villages draw their sustenance.

Sunday 25th January 2009

All timings according to Indian Standard Time – IST


We woke up this morning to directly go to the Jaisalmer fort area. This should be fun, as everyone is really looking forward to do some serious souvenir shopping. Something that wasn't really possible on this exciting, but fast paced trip(yeah, what would you expect otherwise, its a road-trip with 10 mustangs!).


We are all sitting at the lobby post breakfast, waiting for the production bus to come take us to the fort area. Oh, looks like its arrived. All of us are pouring into the bus now.


We have passed through a quaint set of by lanes, all lined with houses made up of the same beautiful yellow stone. What we find quite amazing is that unlike other cities of historical heritage and lineage, in Jaisalmer, the intricate carving is not limited to the older houses. New and modern looking houses and bungalows also have finely carved pillars and windows. On enquiring, we are informed that this is due to the highly porous and easily sculpt-able quality of the yellow sandstone, coupled with the highly durable nature of the yellow limestone, and the fact that both are cheap, and easily available (quarried locally) all structural needs for building material are fulfilled within these golden rocks, hence, a golden city, with a golden fortress that we will be seeing very very soon.


We have been walking through the fort, and it is just unbelievable. The quality of the filigreed carvings come as a surprise even to those of us who have had the opportunity to see fabulous examples of intricate carvings in other cities around the world. Each direction we walk to, we are shown carvings of such highly intricate strength of detail, that we are all well amazed. Walking around, with the helpful guides, we are shown some of the recommended hotels and sight seeing spots, and given a brief background of the same. Small things that would be everyday things to the locals come as a great surprise to those of us who are foreign to this country and its culture. As we pass by a heavily carved doorway, we notice that a strange thing hangs off the top of the front door. Its a bunch of skinny green peppers with a lime in the middle. On enquiring, we are told that it is the traditional indian totem to ward off bad luck, or the evil eye. The entire piece consists of 7 green peppers with a yellow lime in the centre. How unusual. The fort area is quite intriguing, to the student of sociology, there are cyber cafe's (internet centers), and international tourists standing shoulder to shoulder to temples and building dating back to before the 12th century. The seamless concoction of the old meeting the new, which has been the consistent factor though our travels to places of historical or tourist value.


We have all finished touring the fort area, and we now move on to the next (much awaited) thing on the agenda - shopping! We are taken to old Havelis (largish bungalows with a courtyard in the centre), which have been converted into curio or antique shops, with stunning collections of interesting collectibles. We visit a silver jeweler's workshop, and actually see how silver is smelted. As the group spends some quality time looking at the variety of interesting objects around, we can walk apart from them for a moment and try and find some interesting legends about the town. A town famed to attract the romantics; Jaisalmer is a lover's haunt. Many a great romance has taken place within its fortifications, and if the guides are to be believed many a heart-broken suicide also. Such is the fate of places of romance. So on asking one of our guides, we come across something quite interesting, the story of Moomal and her lover Mahindra. Moomal, a famed beauty of the city of Jaisalmer, and Mahidra; of Amarkot, in the region now referred to as Pakistan fell in love. He swore to go to any lengths to win her affections, and to prove the point, he would travel many hours each night to meet Moomal. Blissfully unaware of anything but their love for each other, they did not notice that Moomal's sister Komal was jealous of them, and their love. Dressing up in men's clothing, Komal entered Moomals room, and at that point, Mahindra reaches her windowsill. The shock of seeing a man in his beloved's private chambers, shocks and astounds Mahindra, and his heart breaks just thinking of his beloved's great betrayal. He turns away, swearing never to return to Moomal again. As is the wont of lovers, Moomal discovers soon that her lover has abandoned her, and she in turn, heartbroken, leaves home to fight the pain. Dressing u as a beggar person, Moomal finds herself in Amarkot, Mahindra's home town. Discovering the cause for Mahindra's sudden dissapearance, Moomal swears to win him back. Knowing Mahindra's fond fascination with the local dice game of Chopar Pasa, Moomal cleverly pretends to host a Chopar pasa contest, the winner of which would win an expensive bracelet and bags of money. Mahindra, as expected joins with full zeal, However being a clever man himself, when playing against the Moomal in disguise, he notices her slender hands. Realizing the guise, they are united, and discover that the lamp of their passions still burns as strongly as ever. At this point, Mahindra takes Moomal to his parents, to inform them of his discussion to marry Moomal. His father is dead against the idea, and warns them against defying his decision. Lovers will be lovers so Moomal and Mahindra elope, and think that they have finally escaped all the negativity in their lives, and can finally be happy. At this tragic point, Mahindra's father, enraged at his son's disobedience, arranges for them to be killed. And just like that, after all that effort, Moomal and Mahindra are found dead, a few miles from the city gates. Wow, a testament to romance eh?


We are now going to have lunch at the famous 'Trio' restaurant of Jaisalmer. Located near the base of the fort, we have a fantastic lunch, and prepare ourselves for the drive to come. Last minute shopping out of the way, we relish our meal, and then head back towards the hotel.


We are now leaving for the next location. The famed desert camps of Manvar. A much more intense experience than Sianna, being in the actual desert, with sand dunes and thorn bushes everywhere, we can expect great things of Manvar.


We are yet again leaving behind most traces of civilization and entering the bush-lands again.


We have reached the end of our tarmac road, and need to take the 4 wheel drive Gypsy Jeeps to take us across the dunes, to the camp. We leave our cars at the eneteranmce area of the Manvar desert camp, and get into the Jeeps.


We have reached, and what a sight it is... In the middle of the desert we are taken to a veritable oasis of camps, with traditional Kalbelia dancers, camels, and a folk instrumental band as our welcoming committee, we couldn't have asked for more, but we got more! A massive bonfire in the middle of the camp, with smaller more portable fires lit around a handful floor seating tables. Also, everywhere we look, we can see the cherry light of diyas (terra-cotta bowl to light lamps). Amazingly gorgeous.


Dinner is a social affair, with everyone walking around the bonfire, as the waiters come around with appetizers. Shady, our friendly lebanese musician, whips out his gear, and we have a live music festival in the dunes! Everyone enthusiastically goes forth towards the makeshift dance floor. As soon as that ends, Michael, another one of the guys from Detroit cracks us all up with his hilarious stand up routines, while Kyle also of the same region, entertains us to no end with his clever Radio Newsreader impersonation. All in all, it seems like "Get into the cars!!!!" has become the slogan for this trip, thanks to Michael! We all laugh this inside joke away, and head back to our tents, after a night of mirth and merry. So tomorrow will dawn to yet another new adventure, until then...

Maharajah of the Road

equus world