Pushkar – A Spiritual Town
I had planned a trip to Rajasthan, a state in the North East of India and, on landing in the capital Jaipur, I headed for Pushkar, 150km away. Pushka is a town bordering the Thar Desert and is a famous sacred site for both Hindu and Sikh pilgrims. It is a small town with many temples and lakeside ghats (stone staircases) where people bathe during celebrations. For religious reasons in Puskar, you are not allowed to eat eggs, and meat and alcohol are prohibited.
Pushkar is famous for the “Pushkar Camel Fair” which happens every year in October or November. Over a period of seven days, people come from far and wide to trade horses and camels. The first impression is that it sounds like it is just a cattle market, but it is, in fact, much more than that. Over the years, the Camel Fair developed into a local celebration and big touris attraction.
There are all sorts of activities to keep people occupied. A funfair is set up with a lot of rides and attractions; there’s camel riding, lots of dancing and music and contests such as horse dancing and who has the longest moustache. All in all, the event attracts in the order of 200,000 visitors during the entire fair.
During my stay in Pushkar, I met some Rajasthan’s Kalbeliya Gypsies, one of the nomad communities of India. They are minstrels and make their living by performing music and dance displays for tourists and also by making henna. Traditional gypsy music is an important part of the aural tradition of the region, an art form that has been passed down through the generations. In 2010, UNESCO officially incorporated the traditional folk songs and dances of Rajasthan’s Kalbeliya people into its Intangible Heritage List.
Jodhpur – The Blue City and Sun City
I have wanted to visit Jodhpur for a long time now. It is the second largest city and situated pretty much in the centre of the state of Rajasthan. It is a popular tourist destination owing to the beauty of the palaces, temples and forts and for the incredible desert around the city.
Jodhpur is widely known as the Blue City or Sun City. It is nicknamed ‘Blue City’ because the houses are painted in blue in the older areas of the city. There are two reasons for this, firstly the colour blue reflects most of the heat and keeps the homes cool. The colour blue is also associated with the Brahmins, and the houses are said to belong to that particular caste. The city is also known as the ‘Sun City’ because it enjoys bright and sunny weather all year round.
I was staying at the Toorji Ka Jhalra (Toorji’s Step Well) and got up very early in the morning for a walk. Dogs were still sleeping and enjoying the last moments of quiet before the hustle and bustle of the city took over. I came across a woman sitting alone, reading her book and I stayed for a while to enjoy the moment.
A short walk took me into the city and the marble mausoleum of the Jaswant Thada memorial. Situated on the top of a hill, here you can enjoy views out over Jodhpur and the Mehrangarh Fort.
Mehrangarh Fort is one of the most beautiful forts I have ever seen. Built around 1459 by Rao Jodha, it is one of the largest forts in India, and architecturally it is magnificent.
Awed by the fort’s insolent beauty, I toured the many rooms of the fort and its museum. I learned all sorts of fascinating facts about things like elephant howdahs (seating placed on the back of an elephant), palanquins, the Armoury and the Turban Gallery. The fort also contains a collection of absolutely beautiful paintings. Around the fort, there are all manner of man-made water features and reserves built over the centuries to sustain the lives of the people.
Walking in the streets of the blue city was the highlight of my visit to Jodhpur. As a photographer, this is a very special place as evidenced by the long history of famous photographers who have come here to create iconic images. The blue buildings stand out giving photographs a powerful and unique identity. It was a joy to get lost in the small streets and witness the everyday activities of the people as they go about their daily lives.
Jaipur – The Pink City
Jaipur, the capital of India’s Rajasthan state, is one of India’s most magical and beautiful cities. It is a large, vibrant city. Jaipur Airport was the point of arrival and departure for my return flight from Singapore and, with such easy connections, it is very accessible. As a result, It is very “touristy.”
The name ‘Pink City’ came about owing to the colour of the buildings. Every building within the walled historic centre is painted a terracotta “pink” a colour which is attributed to its royal family history. Building colour has become a legal requirement and, as a result, most of the buildings in and around the centre of Jaipur are pink these days. Interestingly it was noticeable that people’s attitude and hospitality is as vibrant as the city’s pink hue.
Jaipur is an interesting city with lot’s of things to see and traditions to learn, another reason why it is so popular among tourists.
On my first day, I set off on a tuk tuk. My first stop was the world famous Jal Mahal (Water Palace), a majestic palace set in the middle of the Man Sagar lake and a showcase of the Rajput style of architecture. The views are stunning and offer a myriad of photographic opportunities. The place is very popular among Indian tourists who stop to feed the pigeons giving it a very family-friendly energy.
Before sunset, I went to see more stunning architecture at the Amber Fort, located a few kilometres out of Jaipur in the village of Amer. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is the main tourist attraction of Jaipur and tourists were swarming in and around the structure. The fort is massive and has many interesting facets. As I stood watching the people coming in and out and flying pigeons, strangely, I found it a very poetic moment.
The following day, I went to the stunning Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), a palace built from red and pink sandstone. Sitting on the edge of the City Palace this is an iconic place; it is very photogenic and (as I fully understand) very popular among Instagrammers and bloggers. It really is so beautiful. If I had to choose a single image that perfectly embodies the mood of the pink city it would be a picture of the Hawa Mahal with its beautiful facade and row after row of windows. This awesome building is open to the public.
This is a city where streets are alive with living heritage, with artisans using their traditional skills making and painting fabric, making carpets, sculpting stone and crafting jewellery.
India is famous for its ‘stepwells’, and the never-ending plethora of fascinating designs are excellent for photographic creativity. So I went to see the Panna Meena Ka Kund stepwell, one kilometre away from the Amber Fort in the northwest part of Amer village.
The entire structure is built with steps in a yellow colour. Sadly I was frustrated when someone told me I was not allowed to walk down the steps to the water. I joined the locals and walked back to the fort along a small road, a lovely end to the day.
After a long and very rewarding trip, I wanted to finish off with something very special, so I stayed for three days and two nights in the incredible Alila Fort Bishangarh. As you can read elsewhere in this issue, the experience at this hotel is an unforgettable one and a worthy end to an excellent trip. Jose Jeuland is a French photographer based in Singapore who specialises in documentary and commercial photography. During his journey in Rajasthan, Jose was using a medium format camera.
FUJIFILM GFX, The North Face gear and a Manfrotto bag and tripod.