Monday, 31 August 2020

5 things to do in Mandvi - By Shameera Somani

Mandvi located on the Kutch coast is potpurri of maritime history, scenic beaches, migratory birds, colourful markets, an old town with beautifully ornamented homes and authentic Kutchi cuisine. Located on the banks of the Rukmavati river Mandvi is not as famed as its sibling city of Bhuj but in the bygone era, it was a thriving port and at the helm of trade and commerce. If you happen to be in Bhuj set aside a day to explore this coastal town and enjoy its unhurried pace of life, pristine sandy beaches and get seeped in its rich history as you dig into a Dabeli or the Kutchi burger.

Around Mandvi-

Dive into heritage at the Vijay Villas Palace

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Lagaan are some of the Bollywood movies which have been filmed in this palace which was built in the 1920s as a summer retreat of Rao Vijayrajji. Stroll through the numerous rooms of the palace and marvel at the regal furniture, décor and impressive collection of collectibles that were gifted or brought by the royals from around the world. The walls lined with photographs will provide a sneak peek to the lifestyle of these aristocrats, their hunting expeditions and connections with the erstwhile heads of states and other dignitaries. Do take the spiral staircase and head to the terrace from where you can get a panoramic view of the neighbourhood. The Vijay Vilas Palace has its own private beach which can be visited if you chose to shell out a couple of extra rupees.    

Visit the ship building yard and museum for a dose of maritime history.

Mandvi is home to a ship building yard more than 400 years old signifying its rich maritime history. It was the primary port of Kutch and Gujarat before Mumbai superseded it. Even today on the banks of the Rukmavati river you will find craftsmen building dhows/wooden ships by hand. In the long-gone era, Mandvi was a buzzing port as ships sailed to and from Africa, South East Asia, Middle East and South India. A little ahead of the ship building yard near the Customs Office is the Sagar Ship Museum where in all likely hood you will find octogenarian Shivji Bhuda Fofindi hunched over a model of a ship. The small museum has ship models, vintage photographs, marine instruments and other paraphernalia. A newspaper clipping proclaiming that Shivji was instrumental in building a replica of Vasco Da Gama’s ship is proudly displayed on a shelf along with several other curios. Do strike a conversation with this wise old man who will gladly share some of his experiences and stories from his travels.

Eat your heart out at Osho dining Hall 

If you are a foodie and like a fusion of varied tastes, then savouring a Gujarati thali at this simple no frills dining hall is a must do. At Rs.130 the sumptious thali here is a steal and more than compensates for the stark interiors. A large steel platter with four small bowls will be laid in front of you in which dal or lentils and vegetable dishes will be served. For starters, it will be a spongy dhokla or some bhajias/fritters. Fried puffed puris and rice will be the cereal options to go along with the veggies and dal. For accompaniments, you will typically have fried slit chillies, chutneys and a colourful salad which is a medley of assorted vegetables like grated beetroot, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. Jalebis or sweet yellow pretzels which are juicy, crisp are simply irresistible if you have sweet tooth . A glass of chaas or buttermilk to wash it all down is an essential element too. The place can be overcrowded during the meal times, but it will be well worth the wait and you will soon forget about it once the appetizing meal is served. This dining hall is in a by lane of the old city, so you may have to ask a couple of shopkeepers for its location or better still use your mobile phone GPS.

Take a camel ride at Mandvi beach

Mandvi beach is the picnic spot where both tourists and locals flock in large numbers and spend a day at the beach swimming in the sea, doing water sports or what the locals like doing most eating. The stalls located on the beach serve the Kutchi Dabeli which will remind you of the burger of the West or the Maharashtrian Wada Pav. The beach can get very crowded during holidays and peak seasons. More than anything just hop on to a camel which has been beautifully decorated with bells and embroidered saddles and hold on tight as the camel lifts itself up. After the initial fleeting feeling of having butterflies in your stomach just relax and enjoy the ride along the beach watching the windmills, the sand and the sea. 

Admire the flamingoes at Mothwa beach

If you are a nature lover, ornithologist, a wildlife buff or photographer then head to Mothwa beach in Dhrabudi which is located 13 kms away from Mandvi. Away from the hustle bustle of Mandvi beach, this secluded, pristine beach with sand that just slips through your feet will charm its way into your heart. You will see locals mending their fishing nets, drying some fish or just going about doing their daily chores. Winters are especially great as you will spot migratory birds like flamingoes, brown and black headed gulls, herons among others. Enjoy the spectacular sunset when the sky changes into several shades of flaming red, yellow and ochre, with flamingoes gracefully wading through the waters in search of fish. Or simply sit on the beach and enjoy the gentle breeze wander over your face and spend some moments reflecting on life, nature and the beauty around you.  


Nearest Airport and Railway Station: Bhuj is the nearest airport and railway station. From there it is best to hire a cab and head to Mandvi. 

Distances: Bhuj- Mandvi 60 km/ I hour.

Where to Stay: There are a couple of resorts and hotels around Mandvi. Alternatively stay in Bhuj and do a day trip to Mandvi. 

Travel Trip: Do carry sunglasses, a hat and drinking water along with you. 

Thursday, 27 August 2020

5 Must-Have Street Foods in Jodhpur - By Shameera Somani

Shopping and sightseeing in Jodhpur can tire you and at such times munching on some street foods can perk you up with a boost of energy. While you will get the traditional daal baati, ghatte ki sabzi, bajra flatbreads, laal mass as a part of the main meals for that ‘choti bhukh’ / small appetites do try these street foods while in Jodhpur. 

  • Makhaniya Lassi: Sri Mishrilal’s outlet is close to the Clocktower and sells the famous Makhaniya lassi. Curd, sugar, cardamom and saffron are all churned to make a thick lassi which is served with a dollop of fresh butter.  Since no water is added this lassi is creamy, and you can actually eat it rather than drinking it.
  • Mirchi Badaa: Whole green chilli is stuffed and coated in a gram flour mix and then deep-fried. It looks like the usual pakora on the outside, but it is only when you bite into it that the green chilli reveals its fiery taste. The tamarind and mint chutney make for perfect adjuncts for it. 

  • Omelette: Near the corner of the Sardar Market gateway is a famous omelette shop that sells different varieties of omelettes and has been featured on ‘Lonely Planet’. The father-son duo has been making cheap, delicious omelettes for almost four decades. Stacks of egg trays take up more space than the cooking area. A single pan is used to make assorted varieties of omelettes. At any time of the day, it is crowded, and although there are a couple of stools kept on the street, these are always occupied. 

  • Kachoris: For the marwaris, kachoris are comfort food. It is a flat disc made of flour dough filled with assorted stuffing and then deep-fried. If you have a sweet tooth, then do try the mawa kachori which is richly stuffed with mawa, semolina, cardomom, cashew, and nuts. It is served with sugar syrup. If you are a conformist, then the savoury pyaaz ki kachori / onion kachori is what you will swear by. Janta Sweet Home on Nai Sarak and Arora Namkeen outside the Sadar Market is known for their kachoris and mirchi badas.

  • Chai: The Bhati tea stall is crowded as die-hard chai fans gather to get their fix of tea served in small glasses. A medley of spices like cardamom, clove, cinnamon and ginger are simmered with tea leaves, milk and sugar to give you some masala chai that will surely lift your spirits up. 

Pictures : Rafiq Somani

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

5 Things to Shop in Jodhpur - By Shameera Somani

The bustling markets of Jodhpur have a riot of colours, glitter, shimmer and shine. They exude the local culture and are a delight to shop in.  You must take lots of cash and empty bags to shop and carry your stash. You will most likely find something to match your taste and style, whether it is over the top or subtle and subdued. It is retail therapy that will give you a dopamine rush and leave you craving for more. So here is our list of what you can’t miss picking while in Jodhpur.

  • Tie and Dye: If you love Bandhej/Bandhani or Leheriya fabric in ombre shades or contrasts, then do head to the Tripolia Bazar or Nai Sarak. Suits, sarees, dupattas there is so much on offer that it can get confusing what to shop and what to skip. The ‘gota’ borders make an excellent embellishment for bandhani. 

  • Mojari: For traditional footwear like juttis and mojaris, the Mochi Bazaar/Cobblers Market is a good bet. Available in endless colours and patterns these hand-stitched leather beauties team well with traditional attire. They can sometimes cause a shoe bite but will soon mould to the shape of your feet. Another option is to pick the ones which are open from the rear.   

  • Traditional Jewellery: Jhumkas, necklaces, anklets, bracelets, bangles made with beads and mirrors and silver adorn the local brides and women. Bangles in lac adorned with mirrors are popular at the famous Bibaji Churi Wale. Do pick up the Rajasthani Borla Maang Tikka reminiscent of Deepika Padukone in Padmavat. The roadside stalls near clocktower sell a lot of this traditional jewellery, so you will have to pick and choose to match urban tastes. 
  • Handicrafts: If you are a connoisseur of handcrafted items, then shopping for these in Jodhpur will excite you. Metal or woodwork, fabric or leather, whatever your preference you will find loads of handicrafts. Puppets, paintings, embroidered or patchwork wall hangings, wooden elephants or metal artefacts the list is endless. Sojati Market, Tripolia Bazaar are the best places to shop for these. Do pick souvenirs for family and friends as you will find something to suit your budget. Lalji Handicrafts has a vast collection of antiques, furniture, curios and is the go-to place if you’re looking for something exquisite. 

Monday, 3 August 2020

Friday, 28 February 2020

Champaner and Pavagadh: The Forgotten Gems of Gujarat by Shameera Somani

Champaner Fort Entrance

Champaner, a city built in the 8th Century by Vanraj Chavda of the Rajput Chavda dynasty, was a former capital of Gujarat. The town flourished at the base of the volcanic origin hill called Pavagadh which was and continues to be a pilgrimage site. Sultan Muhammad Begada of the Muzaffarid Dynasty conquered Champaner in 1484, made it his capital and rechristened it Muhammadabad. He spent 23 years in building this town after which the Mughal emperor Humayun seized it in 1535 and looted its coffers. Soon the city was forgotten for three centuries until its ruins were discovered by archaeologists. Tools retrieved from Champaner and Pavagadh indicate that the site was inhabited as early as the Stone Age.  
Gujarat never ceases to amaze. So, what better than spend Christmas holidays exploring the culture and heritage of Gujarat. My fascination for visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites had just begun (2014-2015), and a quick internet search revealed not one but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Gujarat. (This was before Ahmedabad had been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage City.) One of course was the Rani ki Vav in Patan district, and the other was Champaner and Pavagadh. The name Champaner sounded familiar and seemed to ring a bell. Yes, Champaner was the fictional location of Aamir Khan’s cricket-themed movie ‘Lagaan’. It wasn’t shot in Champaner but Kutch another must-visit destination in Gujarat. 
To add to the excitement was the Gujarat Tourism’s ‘Fragrance of Gujarat’ advertisements which had Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan promoting various Gujarat locations. To be very honest it was the Rani ki Vav that was the main draw but since Champaner and Pavagadh were also a heritage site we thought it was a bargain like the ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free’ sales promotions and best explored in the same trip. 
When we mentioned to friends and acquaintances, some who were from Gujarat, that we were visiting Champaner and Pavagadh they seemed to be having a quizzical expression like “Excuse me, where on earth is that?’ My husband would then explain my interest in World Heritage Sites and the reason for wanting to visit these places. He, of course, would later check with me whether I was sure that I wanted to visit these places which were unheard of to the average travellers. A net search too hadn’t revealed much about this place other than Wikipedia and a couple of blogs. As always, I removed a printout of all that I wanted to see with pics and details and kept my fingers crossed. 
After landing in Vadodara late evening, we checked into our hotel and after a quick meal decided to retire early to bed. The next day we were all set to visit the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, which is an hour’s drive by road from Vadodara. Champaner consists of forts, mosques, cenotaphs, palaces, step-wells and numerous other structures that thrived at the base of the Pavagadh hill home to ancient temples visited by pilgrims till today. What is remarkable about this site is that ‘it is the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city’. 
As we alighted from our hired cab, we could see the ramparts of the Champaner fort. As we strolled through the walled gates of the fort, we realized that there were hardly any tourists around, not even a guide. We seemed to be at a loss as there were no signboards and no ticket window to purchase entry tickets. Soon alarm bells rang and numerous thoughts raced through my head, “Was this a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Was our trip going to be like a dud firework with no spark and false claims? Had the cab driver brought us to the wrong place?” We hurried out of the fort and asked our cab driver where we could see the mosques and monuments that this town was known for. Seeing our baffled appearance, a frail lanky guy standing close by introduced himself as Kishan - the guide who could show us around. Since we were lost and left with no option, we decided to hire his services. 
Shehar ki Masjid
Kevada Masjid
The first monument we visited was coincidently the first mosque built by Sultan Begada called the Shaher ki Masjid or City Mosque. The mosque built in the 16th century was the private mosque of the royal family. It had five domes, with two minarets and arched doorways. It was in an admirably well-preserved condition. Kishan then took us through a narrow road that was overgrown with prickly shrubs to the Kevada Masjid. On a raised plinth was a rectangular cenotaph with a series of pillars and a three domed roof. Behind it was the Kevada Masjid which looked like a miniature version of the Shehar ki Masjid. The central dome of the mosque was missing so we could see the blue sky above us. The circular opening of the yellow and pink sandstone mosque, which provided a glimpse of the azure sky made an odd but incredible photo composition.

Nagina Masjid
Usually, heritage sites are overcrowded and bursting with crowds with hardly any elbow room to move around but here we were all by ourselves and could leisurely click pics and admire the details. Champaner was a total contrast where we could soak in the ambience and not be perturbed by distracting crowds eager to click selfies of themselves rather than absorbing the priceless monuments. Nagina Masjid was next, which too had a cenotaph with no dome, but the pillars and four walls were intricately carved. The mosque got its name from ‘Nagina’ meaning jewel from jewellers who visited this mosque in search of designs and patterns that they could replicate in jewellery. The double storeyed mosque had intact domes and a balcony overlooking the neighbouring rustic terrain. As we left the mosque, we soon found ourselves on a kaccha road amid a herd of goats, a rare treat for city dwellers like us. Champaner does have an old-world charm about it as if frozen in time. 
Cenotaph at Nagina Masjid

Jami Masjid Carvings
Jami Masjid
The pièce de résistance of Chamapner is the Jami Masjid where the faithful assembled for the Juma Namaz or Friday prayers in the afternoon. This two-storeyed mosque, an amalgamation of Islamic Hindu architectural style, served as a reference model for later mosque architecture in India! The mosque had three entrances leading to several prayer halls supported by 200 pillars. The east entrance is the most extraordinary with detailed cravings and perforated stone lattice or jaali work through which sunlight filtered inside creating dramatic silhouettes. The jharokhas or enclosed balconies overlooking the gardens were suggestive of the architecture of the havelis of Rajasthan. 

Having explored the mosques of Champaner, it was time for us to explore Pavagadh hill. For a couple of rupees, private jeeps will ferry you along with other pilgrims to Machi en route to Pavagadh. Alternatively, you can travel on your own but will have to shell out more. Seeing us city folks the jeep drivers started demanding exorbitant sums of money, and since it was a short drive, we decided to share a jeep with the other pilgrims. What we hadn’t bargained for was that the driver, wanting to make a fast buck, packed in as many pilgrims as he could not be bothered if there was any room for more or not. Rather than get flustered, we decided to make the most of this ‘joy ride’. After getting off at Maachi, we took the ropeway called ‘Udan Khatola’ to go up the hillock although youngsters often choose to trek. 

Temple at Pavagadh
It was not uncommon for our generation that grew up listening to the elderly talk about village melas or carnivals that they visited as a part of a pilgrimage. They would share anecdotes of how they purchased a toy or some bangles, ate farsan/ snacks and possibly show you a sepia-toned picture clicked at one of the makeshift studios complete with a painted backdrop and oversized flowerpots. Well, Pavagadh was just that. It was as if grandma’s story had come to life! The winding road was lined with shops that sold pooja items like marigold garlands, incense and coconuts, food stalls displaying mounds of different types of farsan, and a photobooth for pilgrims to click pictures with all the necessary paraphernalia-a painted backdrop of the temple, kitschy plastic flowers in oversized pots, life-sized tiger statues... This place indeed had an old-world charm about it and transported us back in time. 

Saath Kaman
Lakulisa Temple
After a quick meal, we explored the surroundings and the Lakulisa Temple made of black stone, dating back to the 10th-11th century, which is now in ruins. The walls of the temple had carvings of sculptures of various gods and saints. Blocks of the temple with detailed carvings were strewn around carelessly. It is this apathy that makes my heart weep of what a treasure trove we have in India but regrettably it is not valued and respected. The Kalki Mata temple and the Jain temples were located even higher up the hill, so we decided to skip them. There is a fascinating legend that Tansen’s rival, the gifted singer Baiju Bawra who hailed from Champaner was born mute but was blessed with a beautiful voice thanks to Goddess Kali.   

It was time for us to take the ropeway back to Maachi. A not to be missed attraction here are the Seven Arches or Saath Kaman. Most visitors miss it since the way to it is somewhat complicated. There were six arches made with neatly cut blocks of sandstone (while one was destroyed due to unknown reasons) that provided support to the ramparts of Pavagadh fort. 
Llila Gumbaz ki Masjid

Once back at Champaner, our guide took us through fields to show us the last mosque called Lila Gumbaz ki Masjid, built on a platform having three domes but fallen minarets. Had it not been for the guide, we would have never found this mosque on our own because it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere.
As we were walking back, we spotted a hamlet with huts, wells and a water handpump. Women were washing clothes and utensils, as children happily played with mud and water. The simplicity and starkness made one realize that very little is needed to survive and enjoy the simple pleasures of life which we so-called ‘modern educated folks’ have only complicated. 

Tribal Pithora Painting
Our guide then took us into the kaccha home of a villager. On a whitewashed wall was a tribal Pithora painting in vivid colours of horses, camels, elephants, and other elements of nature. Explaining the significance of the art Kishen narrated how when a family encountered a challenge, the village head priest was approached, and the problems or difficulties described. A solution was provided to the family and in response to which this painting was made. The Pithora paintings are a ritual signifying that the family’s wishes had been granted or a problem solved. They are thus a representation of peace, prosperity and wellbeing. It was now time for us to return to Vadodara. There were other attractions too that we wanted to visit like the helical step-well and smaller mosques, but our guide said he was clueless about their location. In fact, so impressed was he with my printout, of all the attractions that I had carried, that he requested if I could give it to him as it would come in handy to show to other tourists!  

Champaner and Pavagadh are the forgotten gems of Gujarat, where the sere landscape is scattered with a treasure trove of mosques, tombs, arches, step-wells, citadels, pilgrimage sites unknown to a lot of people but worthy of more attention.
If you’re looking for an unconventional day trip that provides a glimpse of Indo-Islamic architecture, history and heritage, village life and a dash of spirituality, then the Champaner -Pavagadh Archaeological Park located at an hour’s drive from Vadodara is definitely worth exploring. 

Intricate carvings of Jama Masjid

Friday, 17 January 2020

The Drive to the Fort City of Kumbhalgarh & more - By Shalini Sinha

Having spent a couple of days in Udaipur, Kumbhalgarh – the birthplace of Maharana Pratap was next on our itinerary. Kumbalgarh is about a 2 and half hours’ drive from Udaipur (approximately 85 km).
City Palace, Udaipur

The Drive:

We started for Kumbhalgarh just after breakfast (around 10:30am). The car punctually reported at our home-stay at Udaipur. It is advisable to either drive on your own or take a tourist taxi (as we did) for the onward journey.
Enroute to Kumbhalgarh we decided on visiting Haldighati which is situated mid-way between Udaipur & Kumbalgarh (about an hour’s drive from Udaipur).
As you head out of Udaipur, the landscape changes. It is a very scenic drive with farms & village homes on both sides of the road while in the distance the majestic Aravalis rise as guardians of the land. The air is crisp and fresh. We rolled down our windows and soaked in our surroundings. It tends to get dusty in places especially when another vehicle passes by. The rural roads are narrow  two-laned (or at places just one & half lanes). This is not a very busy route hence you will not experience any traffic snarls or delays.

Travel Tip: There are no pit-stops along the way so it is advisable to carry your bottle of water and some snacks (especially if you have children travelling with you).

First Stop: The Haldighati Museum:

About an hour or so later we arrived at the Haldighati museum. This museum is dedicated to the erstwhile Rana of Mewar - Maharana Pratap. At the museum you will find the life of Maharana Pratap’s depicted through paintings and wall sculptures.
Haldighati Museum

The museum tour is an immersive experience. The audience is first shown a short informative movie about the infamous battle of Haldighati which was fought between the Mughal army and the army of Maharana Pratap. This short film is followed by the immersive tour where you are led in a group from one room to the next. Each room depicts a scene from the battle. The guide narrates a bit of the story leading to the scene followed by a taped recording and sound and light display of what conspired. We meandered from room to room awestruck by the beautifully hand-sculpted exhibits. It is like walking through a history book in three dimensions. A must visit especially if you are travelling with children (we enjoyed it too). 

What More?
The premises has a small lake with paddleboats. We did not do any boating or further sight-seeing here. There is a small souvenir shop where you can pick up some small souvenirs if you haven’t already. Haldighati is known for its rose perfumes and they have an outlet selling this product too. 
Sugarcane Juice extraction

We did stop for some sugar-cane juice here. The juice is pressed by a unique cow-press. The children enjoyed watching the cow go around the press extracting the juice. 

More Information:
  • The immersive experience tour lasts approximately an hour.
  • Food and drinks are not allowed inside. 
  • There is a SBI ATM on the premises and it is advisable to keep some change cash for the onward journey to Kumbalgarh.
  • The “Chetak Samadhi” the final resting place of Chetak is located close by, but we skipped visiting this memorial.
  • Camel rides and tea-stalls & small food stalls are located just outside the museum.

Next Detour: The Haldighati mountain-pass:
At this point it is important to mention that the place Haldighati gets its name due to the unique turmeric coloured soil found in this region. This mountain-pass is situated in the Aravalli hills and connects the Rajsamand & Pali districts. Our driver drove us to this pass (now a metalled road passes through this pass). One can stop here to take a few photographs before proceeding onwards.
The twin Persian wheels

Enroute to Kumbalgarh: 
At this point Kumbalgarh is about an hour away. We wanted to drive leisurely through the picturesque rural setting of the farm hinterlands traversing both sides of the road. The landscape is dotted with irrigation wells, sugarcane farms and lush wheat fields. We chanced upon a farmer irrigating his field with unique cattle powered water wheel (Persian wheel). He sat on the bough manoeuvring his bulls to go around the wheel which kept the irrigation in cycle (see picture attached). The children were fascinated by this and we stopped to get a closer look. The farmer obliged the children with a ride on the wheel for a small tip. This was a unique experience for us all. We realised that the folks around here are very friendly and obliging. Hence make the most of this drive to soak in the unique vibes of rural India. 

Arriving at Kumbalgarh:
The last stretch of the journey is a winding drive. The hills unveil themselves in all their glory. The air becomes cooler as you ascend the ghats. Soon resorts, hotels and restaurants start dotting the landscape and you know you have arrived at Kumbalgarh.

Kumbalgarh – Sightseeing and more:
We arrived at our destination at around 3:15 pm, couple of hours behind schedule. There was a nip in the air, and unlike the temperature at Udaipur we realised that at night the temperature would plummet further. After some hot tea and pakoras we contemplated whether we ought to attend the light & sound cultural show at the Kumbalgarh fort. It is highly recommended, especially if you want to learn about the history of the region. The show commences at 5:15 pm but we wanted to relax after the drive and decided to give it a miss.

Day 2 Activities in and around Kumbalgarh:

The Morning Jungle Safari:

We woke up early next morning, to discover that due to fresh snow-fall in the Northern regions the temperature had plummeted to the single digits. Our safari started almost an hour later than scheduled around 7:30 am. The guide informed us that the usual sightings were of deers, sloth bears, hyenas, wild boars, macaques and the occasional cheetah. 
When we entered the forest it was still dark. The drive is a very bumpy roller-coaster ride on a single lane forest road which the expert jeep drivers navigate with ease. One has to hold on tight to avoid being bumped around. 
After having driven for about 20 minutes the first rays of the winter sun started filtering through the  jungle foliage. It was an enchanting sight. We sat mesmerised by the myriad hues that unveiled as we made our way through the forest. Large glistening webs, partially frozen streams, dead logs stretched across the river-bed, colourful foliage strewn across the forest floor added to the untainted beauty of the place. We were so mesmerised by the exquisite beauty that surrounded us that we did not miss having not seen a single animal. The drop in temperature had kept the animals away. 

You are not allowed to get off the vehicle at any point, but are allowed to take photographs from the confines of the open jeep. There is a forest pit-stop mid-way through the safari. Here you can hop off the vehicle and grab a cup of hot tea or coffee. The sun felt nice and toasty. From this point on, we sighted some animals & birds. We saw a family of macaques basking in the sun, jungle babblers, kingfisher, cormorant, an eagle to name a few. Our guide informed us that the Reserve authorities will be introducing some Lions to the reserve soon.

We exited the Reserve forest gates around 9:30 am and a 15 minutes’ drive brought us back to our abode. 

Ranakpur Jain temple:
Ranakpur Jain Temples

After resting for about an hour we drove to see the Ranakpur Jain Temple. It is situated about 35 km away from Kumbhalgarh (about an hour’s drive). It is a pleasurable drive through the hilly roads which traverses through villages and lakes and sleepy hamlets to get you to the Ranakpur Jain Temple. Roll down your window glasses, soak in the cool air, put on some nice light music and enjoy the drive.
Kalp-vriksha leaf
We arrived at the temple around 1ish and decided to have lunch at the Cafeteria located on the premises (lunch hours close at 1:30pm). They serve wholesome satvik meals at a small price.
A stairway to heaven

Post lunch we explored the temple precinct. Audio guides are available at a charge. We decided to explore the temple on our own. Cameras & cell phones are not allowed. There are safe lockers available for storing them. Cameras can however be taken by paying a small fee. I will not delve into the beauty of the place. There are a lot of pictures and the history available online too. It is a must visit for all visitors. We spent about and hour and a half here before making our way back to Kumbhalgarh.

The Kumbalgarh Fort:
Magnanimous Kumbhalgarh

We arrived at Kumbhalgarh an hour before the closing of the Fort (Fort closes at 5pm). The sun had started dipping into the horizon and we wanted to catch the view from the top of the fort. It is an arduous climb up the wall and not recommended for anyone with knee problem, breathing issues and for the elderly. Once you’ve reached the top you are treated to the breath-taking view of the entire valley. There are several temples dotting the premises which one can explore. 
The Great Wall of India (36 kms)

If you have missed the Sound and Light show at the fort the previous night you may want to squeeze it in on this visit. The timing is just right & tickets were available when we enquired.
However, we had our dinner plans at the local home of our guide and we skipped the cultural show.
Looking at the Shiva Temple through the Fort Wall

Dinner at a Local Home:

We had some nice evening chai, relaxed a bit and made our way to the local home for a home-cooked meal. Our host’s home  was a simple village home setting. The ladies sat around the fire preparing makki-ki-roti (flattened corn bread). We were accorded a very warm welcome. The family room was set with a durrie (mat) for us to sit. The meal was hygienically prepared with some delectable local produce. We had makki-ki-roti, homemade Rajasthani red garlic chutney, some vegetarian dishes and made to order local chicken curry. It was all flavourful and scrumptious. Sitting around the warm hearth on this cold winter night we completely relished the food.  To finish off the meal there was a yoghurt digestive “dahi ki rabadi” which hit just the spot. We were offered some home made jaggery for those with a sweet tooth. This was yet another unique experience for us.
Our souls were completely satiated with the sights & sounds of this beautiful place and the genuine warmth & welcoming nature of the local folk. 

Shalini and Sanchit
To replicate their experience, click here and we would love to design a travel plan for you that would include everything your heart desires to see in Rajasthan and Gujarat.