Friday, 21 February 2020

Travels in India, 2020 - The Wedding Crashers

Over masala omelettes and chai on the rooftop the following morning, we asked Vikram what the early morning marching band was all about and were told that it was wedding season. Weddings in Rajasthan are lavish affairs, costing hundreds of thousands of rupees and lasting at least three days. The band who'd awoken us at 8am was heralding the start of festivities in a nearby house. 


We took advantage of our accidental early start and, despite the bracing 9°C temperatures, decided to set out on a walk. Gorgeous Rao Jodha is a 72-hectare desert rock park situated in the shadow of Mehrangarh Fort, lovingly restored and planted with native species to show the natural diversity of the region. The park is criss-crossed with nature trails taking you up to the city walls and around Devkund Lake with loads of bird and butterfly spotting opportunities. So peaceful it's hard to imagine that it's slap bang in the centre of the bustling city of Jodhpur (population 1,033,950). 





One of the sights I was most excited about visiting in Jodhpur was Tunwarj ka Jhaira, a geometrically perfect stepwell recently rejuvenated after decades of use as the city rubbish dump. The clean lines and clear, fish-filled water had us both mesmerised, we loved it so much we spent at least a couple of hours a day drinking in its beauty. It was also a bit of a suntrap and usually, by midday, we were able to take off our coats and bask in 21°c of delicious sunshine.


The stepwell was built in the 1740s by a queen, Maharaja Abhay Singh’s wife, continuing an age-old tradition that royal women would build public waterworks. As with all step wells, the steps follow the fluctuating water table down to provide easy all-year-round access.  


Can you imagine how hard it must have been for the womenfolk of old Jodhpur negotiating these steps daily, filling up their water vessels and carrying them back up the steps with them precariously balanced on their heads? No wonder the ladies in all the antique portraits I've seen have incredibly toned arms.





During the restorations, the excavations went down over two hundred feet to expose hand carved treasures in Jodhpur’s famous rose-red sandstone; including intricate carvings of dancing elephants, medieval lions & cow water-spouts. 





 The well’s original system consisted of a Persian wheel driven by a pair of bullocks circling the platform on top, which drew water up to two different access levels and a separate tank.


I was determined to pose inside this spectacularly carved niche, which once housed Hindu deities, although it scared the life out of Jon, who hates heights with a passion. He had to cover his eyes as I scaled the lichen-covered steps in my bare feet and leaped across to reach the ledge at the top. The things I do for blogging!


The area around Tunwarj ka Jhaira had also undergone regeneration with some seriously cool boutiques, cafes and hotels surrounding the well. Every day we had lunch in the Stepwell Cafe, a grand 18th-century building offering a delicious Indian fusion menu, with stylish Mid-Century furniture and moody blue grey walls lined with antique photographs of Jodhpur. 


A short walk away is the Victorian-era clock tower, an old city landmark. Mr. Iqbal has been responsible for the maintenance of the clock since 1968.


 Surrounded by the vibrant sounds, sights & smells of Sardar Market, Jodhpur's commercial heart is a series of crowded alleys and bazaars selling vegetables, spices, sweets, silver, and handicrafts. I had to giggle when Bablu, assistant manager at the Gouri, described the textiles on offer as being Walmart quality, he wasn't wrong there.



We were surprised at the lack of Western tourists out and about in Jodhpur, I think they must spend all their time closeted in the uber-posh £410 a night hotel which backed on the Gouri Heritage. As a result, the touts were out in force trying to get the only two daft-looking foreigners in town into shops selling stuff we really didn't want.


While neither of us needed any spices I was beyond excited to touch the bike which featured in one of my all-time favourite films, The Darjeeling Limited. Shot mostly in Jodhpur in 2007, co-writers Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola & Lydia Dean Pilcher popped into MG Spices during filming and were offered the use of the shopkeeper's Honda.


Do you get a better insight into a country when you stay in a five-star establishment or a cheap and cheerful lodging-house? While I'm sure posh hotels are all well and good I bet you wouldn't get the hotel manager suggesting he bunks off work and the three of you go and gatecrash the neighbour's wedding like Vikram did.


As neither of us can barely string a sentence together in Hindi it was brilliant to have Vikram ask the driver if we could have a ride in the bridal carriage before the bride got there.













The highlight was being handed over the reins of two pom-poms bedecked camels and leading the wedding procession through the streets of Jodhpur. One of the most memorable nights of my life!











See you soon.

PS For more photos see HERE.

58 comments:

  1. Oh, that totally explains the marching band! That grotto is amazing - so glad they excavated it! How daring and brave of you to leap (LEAP??!) to that niche for a photo - the things we do for blogging! I love "The Darjeeling Limited" - and you got to see the bike from it! Awesome! Wow, what a fancy wedding! And you got to lead the camels? #lifegoals

    Amazing post, Vix!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marching bands, camels. horses, silver carriages and illuminated brollies - Indian weddings might be loud but they're ridiculously good fun!
      I'm a massive Wes Anderson fan so nearly died of joy touching the spot where Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason's Schwartzman's bums had been! xxx

      Delete
  2. Rao Jodha looks so peaceful and quiet, it's hard to imagine it's so close to a busy city centre. And although my head is spinning from just looking at you posing in that niche, Tunwarj ka Jhaira looks utterly amazing. I've been trying to imagine you leaping across to that ledge and my mind boggles! I've never seen The Darjeeling Limited, so I guess I need to rectify that. Gatecrashing that wedding must have been so exciting and now you'll be in their wedding photos too, especially as you got to lead the camels! How amazing is that! xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rao Jodha reminded me of yours and Jos's tranquil walks although I don't think I'd fancy it in the 45°C heat of a Rajasthani summer.
      You ought to watch The Darjeeling Limited, if only to drool over the vintage luggage and exquisite menswear (the story's amazing, too!) xxx

      Delete
  3. Just wow! The step well looks spectacular and you were very brave to go to great lengths to get that photograph.
    What a fabulous experience to be involved in the wedding. I hope you manage to get the video rotated, I'd love to see it. X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Much as I loved the Taj Mahal there was something about that stepwell, we used to sit for hours gazing at it - I think the fact it was designed by an 18th century queen made it even more mesmerising. xxx

      Delete
  4. Fab Vicky you really need to get these in a book for times to come x

    ReplyDelete
  5. Of course you got to go to a wedding and lead the procession! That wouldn't have happened if you'd been staying a 4* hotel! The wedding carriage was astonishing...

    I just adored the stepwell; how fascinating and how tempting to dive in and swim! I loved its simplicity and geometry - I can see why you would want to spend hours there. I'm with Jon on the height thing; you were very brave (or mad?) to step out on that plinth for a photo - what if it had given way underneath you? I am shuddering even thinking about it. Anyway, you're safe and sound and looking fabulous, too. More please!
    xxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When we arrived at Gouri the staff embraced us and said, "You're not guests, you're our family" and that's exactly how it was, no subservience or being overly polite, we really did feel felt like we were staying with family.
      Apparently people do dive in and swim in the stepwell in the warmer months - not sure I'd be that brave, the fish it in were massive! xxx

      Delete
  6. what a fabulous pic up those scary old steps! We were in India many years ago and literally got hauled in to a wedding in a market place in Mumbai of 2 14 year olds… (probably because in those days tourists and video cameras were not easy to find) it is quite unforgettable, the noise, excitement and colour. Looks like you were in the right place at the right time for your wedding experience. I am loving your wardrobe, the jacket from Anokhi is earning its keep and everything looks so good with the backdrops.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Looking at that photo now I'm wondering what on earth I was thinking!! Poor Jon!
      That wedding was incredible, the colours and the noise were something else.
      My Anokhi jacket (and the Anokhi dress underneath) were worth every penny, best splurge ever! xxx

      Delete
  7. I looooove your post Vix! It's so an exciting adventure for me. India is on our to visite list in future. But first Thailand, where my Mum live. The best way to visite is living near the locals, not in 5 star hotel resorts. So wonderful
    they are :).
    Thank you for this wonderful journey, I am looking forward next post. By the way, you look gorgeous in your amazing dresses.
    xxx Tina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your Mum lives in Thailand? No wonder you know the best places to go!
      I much prefer staying with the locals, its the best way to get a real insight into a place rather than read guidebooks and biased reviews.
      India is magical - 28 visits and I still love every minute we spend there. xxx

      Delete
    2. Oh yes my Mum lives 10 month a year in Thailand. We stay with the locals and have local friends. It's great to travel with locals. 28! wow We will travel to India in future. Maybee... Mum have friends in Sri Lanka also.

      Delete
    3. Your Mum sounds like a fascinating lady!

      Delete
  8. How cool was that? Definitely a travel/life highlight. It looks like so much fun!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Amazing photos again, omg the stairs..! You fit in perfectly. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Devkun Lake does look so peaceful. It is always nice when there is an oasis near a big down. With over a million inhabitants, Jodhpour must be quite a busy city so it is great there is such a place, both for the locals and tourists I would say. It is also good to know one can see butterflies and birds there, I do love animal watching. Devkund lake and the around looks chanting and beautiful.

    Tunwarj ka Jhaira is a gorgeous place, so intricately build. I think I remember something about queens being in charge of building city baths and water sources. I can imagine all that climbing to get to the water wasn't easy on the ladies. My husband's late mother would carry barrels (literally wooden barrels) of water from the river to the mountain where they kept their cattle- two times a day minimum! These wooden barrels are actually a part of a national costume. Imagine how hard those women had to work. It wasn't any different from the women where I'm from, there are few natural water sources on island Hvar so they had to collect rain and carry it home. We aren't aware what a blessing it is having water always available to us.

    The shots you took there are amazing. So brave of you to have climbed all that way to get that perfect shot....and you look so beautiful in your ethnic dress. Jon looks like he is having a nice time too. Wonderful shots. The photos of the wedding were wonderful too. Indian weddings are famous around the world for their glamour and wonderful customs, I'm sure it is a blast being able to crash one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That desert park was a lovely surprise, an ocean of tranquility in a busy city although, as the streets of Jodhpur are so narrow, there's thankfully not a great deal of heavy traffic around. xxx

      Delete
  11. fantastic!!!
    you were part of a rajastan wedding!!! extremely cool! what a wonderful experience. in our delhi congress hotel we witnessed a sikh wedding - from far of cause, we were lightyears under their class - just cold see the guests walk across the lobby to the enclosed garden- they looked like the maharadjas courtiers.
    i´m in awe with that stepwell - such a beauty made out of stone. and a very useful beauty! the photos of you on that little balcony are stunning.... but poor jon...... ;-D
    xxxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't believe we participated in that wedding, riding in the carriage and leading the camels through the streets, I couldn't have dreamt that! xxx

      Delete
  12. your colorful outfit fits right into the wedding. Beautiful place

    ReplyDelete
  13. mwhaha, so delightful to see you enjoying all the atmosphere, the fabulous landscapes and buildings and the amazing picture of you in the carved niche (even if I'd also cover my eyes!, it looks really dangerous!!)
    Totally lovely that you could gatecrash the neighbour's wedding and see all the colorful stuff!. Gorgeous!
    besos

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still can't quite believe I climbed into that niche, those photos make me feel a bit giddy looking back at them! xxx

      Delete
  14. Wow, the stepwall looks incredible. How you managed to pose for that in the carved niche is beyond me. You sure are brave!

    You crashed a wedding?!! Oh my goodness, that must have been fun leading the camels and posing in the carriage! X


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still can't believe I got to lead those camels around the streets or that I climbed into that niche. India makes me a different person! xxx

      Delete
  15. I'm dying! I can't believe (and yet, coompletely can believe) you crashed a wedding! Lucky you got out of there without someone trying to marry you and Jon as a 2 weddings for one price deal.

    There's NO way you'd have got me into that niche, and I'm not afraid of heights!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was totally crazy, abandoning our dinner and running off to take part in a strangers wedding. God knows what they thought about a weird foreign woman leading the procession - Jon would have been more than up for trading me in for those camels! xxx

      Delete
  16. You both blend in so beautifully to your stunning surroundings. It's a real breath of fresh air to come here and read your travelogue. x

    ReplyDelete
  17. I LOVE that you crashed the wedding! I think you are the only blogger in existence who could say that they got to lead some pom-pom bedecked camels in a wedding procession in India. That is one for the memory books for sure. I wouldn't have been able to watch you jump to that ledge either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I spent most the trip giggling to myself and wondering how on earth I manged to lead an Indian wedding procession through the streets of Jodhpur, I certainly didn't see that one coming! xxx

      Delete
  18. All the photos look fantastic. The Tunwarj Ka Jhaira stepwell looks so amazing. I'm a wee bit freaked out seeing you in that little carved niche. What a great experience to have gate-crashed that wedding! Can't wait for more of your travelogue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Suzy! The stepwell was my favourite thing, I was totally mesmerised by it and astounded that it wasn't packed with tourists either. Where on earth do these people go? xxx

      Delete
  19. Oh how great it is to have your back and relating tales of your travels. The picture at the well was worth the risk... it is classic Vix. And you're not a crasher, your are serendipitous attendee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Serendipitous attendee" - I like it! xxx

      Delete
  20. What a wonderful post, love the photo of you in the carved niche. What an honour to be handed over the camels'reins, how generous of them!! This highlights one of the best things about travel, that although we come from such different cultures, people are basically the same the world over, we all want to be happy! After all the bad news we are continually bombarded with, these posts really restore my faith in humanity!! Looking forward to the next post! X Diana (Croucher)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Diane! Thanks so much for reading and commentating. You're so right, people are the same the world over, travelling certainly restores ones faith in humanity! xxx

      Delete
  21. I'm glad I got to see the stepwell in your photos and not in real life. It looks amazing but I would never be able to walk down those steps with water at the bottom. I could feel myself going wobbly just looking at the pictures. The picture of you in the niche is gorgeous.

    How wonderful to go to a wedding while you were there.
    Hugs-x-

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sheila! Can you imagine having to climb up and down that well to get water every day? Indian housewives in old Jodhpur had a tough life! xxx

      Delete
  22. The stepwell is beautiful, it looks so peaceful with the clean cut white stone.
    You really were immersed in the culture, fancy being invited to crash a wedding, glorious! :) xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I absolutely loved the stepwell, I'd go back to Jodhpur tomorrow just to gaze at it! xxx

      Delete
  23. Imagine if we picked up the tradition of having a band play outside your house on the wedding morning, the neighbours would have a fit.
    There’s such a contrast between the park and the city it’s hard to believe they are so close together and the story and pics about the steps was really interesting.
    I bet you made the day for wedding party. How wonderful to have you two gorgeous Brit’s there.
    I like the sound of Vikram, he seemed like a happy fun chap xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you imagine the moaning on Facebook if weddings were celebrated with the same enthusiasm as they are in India?
      I wish I'd taken a photo of Vikram - he was such a handsome man - I think I might have him on video - I'll have to check! xxx

      Delete
  24. A pom-pom-clad camel is something I can firmly say I've never seen before (or led around!) but my life is definitely enriched by seeing this! I definitely agree about seeing life better when you don't have the expensive luxury experience! That's so cool about the wedding and so nice of the manager to join you and egg you into such subversive (and therefore interesting!) activities!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I met a pom-pom bejazzled horse in Gujarat but I think those are the first similarl;y adorned camels I've met! xxx

      Delete
  25. What an amazing experience! Your photo with the camels is something to treasure for ever. I'd get it blown up and put on your wall xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I kept tittering away to myself for days afterward, what an experience. xxx

      Delete
  26. Can someone please get you and Jon on the telly following your India adventures?! It would be way more entertaining than some of the celebs we see. I didn't know what a stepwell was, but wow, it does look magical. I love that last shot of you and the camels, how amazing to get caught up with the wedding. Xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They'd need subtitles to understand us!
      I do get annoyed with all those celebrity travel programmes, the same old lazy cliches and how they stay in the most extravagant places. One of the Kerala hotels the pensioners stayed in on The Real Marigold Hotel series cost £500 a night, hardly within the realms of the average retired person's income! xxx

      Delete
  27. What an amazing wedding. One of my friends recently went to a three-day wedding in Bengal - the bride is British Bengali, the groom is British English with not many family, so my pal basically filled in as a 'male relative'. He had a fantastic time.

    I'd definitely prefer to stay in a place with character - given the choice between bland modern luxury and personality, I'll pick personality every time. The place you stayed is gorgeous.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How fantastic for your friend to go as a "male relative"! I wonder if we could hire ourselves out as guest extras to make up the numbers?
      When I was researching places to stay in Jodhpur I couldn't believe how drab some of the posh hotel rooms looked. The Gouri was a visual treat! xxx

      Delete
  28. Those Stairs are terrifying and your death defying leap to get that Shot on the Niche would have paralyzed me! You are a braver Woman than I! And your Hotel Manager making the Wedding inclusive for you is definitely something you'd never experience at some posh Hotel!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Looking back at that photo I do wonder what on earth came over me! xxx

      Delete

Thank you for leaving a comment. If you have a blog I'll pop over and return the favour.

Lots of love, Vix