maharajah of the road

Day 12

Maharajah of the road

Muscle cars


Day 12

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From Gajner to Khimsar

Khimsar is a small village situated around 92 km on the highway from Jodhpur to Bikaner in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan.

The desert village of Khimsar offers an interesting insight into the rural life of the desert people. The old city of Khimsar harbors several mosques, one of which was commissioned by Emperor Akbar. In summers, the temperature is around 38.1º Celsius and in winters it is around 5.5º Celsius. Hindi, Rajasthani, Marwari and English are the common languages which are spoken here.

Tuesday 27th 2009 January

All timings according to Indian Standard Time – IST


We stayed tonight at the Gajner Palace hotel. Built by His Highness Sir Ganga Sigh of Bikanr, on the edge of a lake, mostly to be used as a hunting lodge for the king, on his Shikaar excursions. The hotel is beautifully built. There are intricately carved windows and large courtyards at even intervals. The entire structure is painted deep warm terracotta red. Stretching over 6000 acres of land, the palace was built to be a royal hunting lodge. The palace has a historical railway station as a part of it, as it was connected to the palace at Bikaner by a railway line in 1922. It is during this time that the Bikaner - Sutlej Railway Canal project was begun, a progressive developmental project by the king. Enough said about times bygone, lets switch back to what’s happening here today! So waking up to the natural sounds of the birds, and walking around the wistfully romantic courtyards, was great. A part of the unit went on little solar powered canoe like boats to look around the lake, and all the birds and animals congregating around it. A fairly unique zoological phenomenon met our eyes. Fruit bats with wing spans of over 6 feet in some cases live in the forest area around the lake. The sight of these massive, almost prehistoric looking creatures shooting out of the trees and almost gliding over the water is hypnotizing. Old Dracula stories come to mind, and we all end up laughing!


After shooting for a while by the lake and the courtyards, we head to a relaxing fun lunch by the lakeside. The chef whips us some interesting local cuisine, and our taste pallets get quite an interesting mix of flavors and condiments. The winner though was the Mango ice-cream. Perfect for this sunny day and the perfect flavor for the country were in!


We are leaving for Deshnoke right now. Deshnoke is where the (in) famous rat temple is located. A unique tourist spot, the state of Rajasthan is famous for this and Desnoke garners large numbers of both devotees and tourists alike. The rat temple is a temple dedicated to lord Ganesha, but, here is the thing, the temple is the home for rats. Yes, rats run around between peoples feet, over the food and offerings left behind, and no one bothers them. The rats are given milk and are allowed to walk over the offerings, which, then are considered blessed! Imagine that... With mixed feelings of curiosity and revulsion, we look at the highway extending ahead, on the way to the temple.


At the temple. Since we can’t walk in with any footwear, the production has innovatively provided us with plastic socks! So looking like a bunch of Ooma Loompas, we troop into the temple, steeling ourselves for what lies ahead. I have no words to describe the sight that is before us. There are rats everywhere!!!!!!! Now, one would think that when going to visit a “Rat Temple”; one would expect the Rats to be around; but it is quite something else altogether to see them scurrying all around the floors and over peoples feet and drinking milk out of the circular offering bowls; a sight that is both fascinating ad nauseating at the same time. On enquiring, we are told that some devotees drink the leftover milk from the milk bowls used to feed the rats! Incredible, things people do in the name of religion… But what most of us are talking about is what the story behind this fairly unusual phenomenon? Well, only one thing to do lets find out!


Hmm... The story sounds strange and fantastic, like a lot of things in this state. So here goes. A woman's young son, her only son; falls violently ill. Even after going to incredible lengths to save him, the young boy passes on into the void... Greif-stricken and hysterical, the woman approaches a renowned mystic (sorceress) and pleads to her, to resurrect her beloved son. The mystic woman feels the woman’s pain, and decides to help her. She travels the various heavenly realms, until she finds Yamma, the God of Death. She demands that Yamma return the child's soul back to her. Yamma tells her that it is impossible, as (according to Hinduism, and its belief of the reincarnation of souls) the child’s soul has entered another body already. Furious at being refused her demand, she cursed the descendants of Yamma, to be denied Nirvana (absolution) and be forced to continue being re-born generation after generation, as rats, that point onwards.... Wow, hell hath no fury, like a woman scorned....


We have left the temple. Quite a few of us are feeling very queasy after seeing all those rats all over. Plus, Bassam pulled a prank on some of the girls, and things got a little hysterical there for a while. Nicole has a stuffed rat toy, which looks a lot like an actual rat. So Bassam took it from her, and threw it on one of the girls and a lot of shrieking followed, with hurried exists out of the temple! But nonetheless, it was pretty stomach churning... the sigh of all those rats, and all those worm like tails. We all feel a little soiled, and want to take long showers to get rid of the feeling. Anyway, that was an experience we won’t be forgetting in a hurry... Into the cars, to Khimsar Fort.


Still on the road. Its a long way off, and thanks to our late departure from the Rat Temple, looks like we might be driving into the dark night today...


We just arrived. Khimsar fort looks very regal and majestic in the night, all lit up. We are all weary and just want to rest and fall asleep. The fatigue is catching up with everyone. So dropping the bags off we head towards the beautiful starlit terrace for drinks and dinner.


Kyle and Camilo decide to stick it out, and paint Dhanno Sweetlime in the freezing Desert cold. Bassam and Pascal come out to give the guys some company. It’s looking good.

Maharajah of the Road

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