Day five seems like an age ago now, but I shall attempt to recount it anyhow.
We drove to Karauli – a place that isn’t mentioned in the guide book so until I get home there isn’t much I can tell you about it. Our accommodation was the stunning Bhanwar Niwas Palace, a heritage property that used to belong to the royal family of the area. Our tour leader told us that each province had its own royal family, but the details of how this ended I can’t recall (although this wikipedia article appears to have more information). The same family still own the ‘palace’ but are no longer royal. The money they make from tourism keeps the place afloat.
The entrance hall was stunning, six sofas lined the sides of the room with huge glass tables rowed down the middle. Nestled amongst the sofas were antiques and hunting trophies including a tiger skin… The grounds were huge, around 50 acres if I remember correctly, and included a stables, cow shed, numerous garages housing vintage vehicles, a disused fish farm and plenty of fields.
On a tour of the property we found some ladies digging a well in the fields. The way they carry huge amounts of weight on their heads is amazing. We decided to give it a go with an empty container, but it didn’t prove so successful. Chris couldn’t balance it at all. Fe managed to balance the container but taking any kind of step was far too much – much to the amusement of the local ladies.
The rooms in the hotel flanked a huge courtyard and were as impressive as the rest of the property. I thought mine was plush until I looked in Mave and Brice’s room to see they had a huge bed surrounded by scarlet curtains, a separate seating area and massive bathroom.
The house and grounds could have keep us occupied all day but a tour of the local village was a must. Walking through the manicured gardens and out of the gates into the village was sobering. The whole place was filthy. Every piece of waste ground was littered with plastic rubbish amongst which cows and dogs were foraging for scraps. As we walked through the village locals stopped and stared or shouted hello. Kids came running out of houses to get a better look and ask us where we were from.
We walked up though the centre of the village past shops making the traditional Indian bangles. The bare bangle was covered in a kind of wax then heated over an open smouldering fire, the hot bangle covered in the hot wax was then rolled in the stones used to decorate them and left to set.
The final stop on our tour was a Krishna temple for the evening Arti (ceremony of light). Loads of people were arriving and piles of shoes were left all around the large marble entrance hall. Our shoes were passed through a wire fence and stored away for safe keeping (at a cost!). Inside the temple women sat on the floor in circles waiting for the event to begin.
The prayer ceremony began with the now familiar clanging of a metal objects – the significance of this I will have to discover later. Then the doors behind which the Krishna representation sat were opened and the people began waving lighted wicks before the sacred images. This is said to infuse the flames with the Deities’ love, energy and blessings and is performed by sadhus (Hindu monks) and pujaris (attendants to the Deities).
We stood at the back of the temple and watched in silence until the prayers were over and the ladies again formed circles and got out the small symbols on string and began chanting – apparently this is particular to Krishna temples, you won’t necessarily find this chanting at temples where they worship a different god.
At some point I will write more about the different gods (there are around 2,000 in Hinduism) and their meaning / significance, but this is definitely a post for when I have the internet to ensure my facts are correct.
After the prayer ceremony we jumped on tuk-tuks back to the ‘palace’, but the traffic was insane. We basically sat stationary next to a 4×4 unable to move as motorbikes and people pushed past us in an effort to progress to their destination. I have been in crazy traffic in India but this was something else. There simply wasn’t enough room on the tiny streets for all the traffic trying to use it. So much so when we finally made it out the other end our driver stopped to make sure those following us also got out!
We had a fabulous buffet dinner in the courtyard back at the ‘palace’ then a reasonably early night because of another early start the next day.
By now the pace of the trip, the late nights, incessant fumes and pollution plus air-con were starting to take their toll on me and a sore throat and the start of a head cold were looming! I needed rest before the ‘new’ tour started. But that wasn’t to be….