Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Gangaur the Goddess

Another amazing day in Rajastan, our last day here.

We got to Jodphur, dubbed the 'blue city', at 5.50am this morning, almost on time. Jodphur is another big ugly city with 1.2 million people and a permanent layer of smog over it, but with a couple of amazing sites. Amidst the smog it's not that easy to see how blue the city truly is (they use indigo to paint the houses as an insect repelent).

After dropping the bags off and a bit of a rest we walked up to the Fort.

The Rough Guide puts the Fort here as India's top attraction and I'm inclinied to agree.

It is a magnificent piece of architecture that has been recently rescued after decades locked up by the current maharaja. Kipling described it as the work of angels and giants, and I am not going to add anything to that, you can all see how impressive it is in the pics.

One thing that caught my attention while listening to the really good Audio Guide was the fact that someone agreed to be buried alived in the foundations to break a curse that a hermit had put on the building works that had just started.

By one of the seven gates, all built on a right angle to prevent attacking elephants gaining momentum, we found some handprints. They are the handprints of Maharaja Man Singh's widows. They had followed the Rajput code of honour and killed themselves by their husbands pyre in 1843. The widows actions were in clear defiance of the British Law of 1829 that had outlawed the practice, 'sati'.

I could not help to wonder what drives Indians to suicide.

Recently I read in the Indian Times that a 16 year old girl had taken the extreme measure of killing herself after an argument with her brother over which TV Channel to watch. I remember the journalist wondering what makes us so obsessive about seizing TV control. I just wondered how nuts you need to be to kill yourself for something like that, or how little value you put on human life to do that.

I also photographed the gear they used to smoke scented tabacco and to drink opium. I had never realised what a big part of the Raj society it played. I knew that the British Empire had given it to the Chinese to exert control over its population but in Rajastan it's still a great part of the social fabric today, for weddings, funerals etc...

Warriors drank it to get visions of the Eternal City and to build courage to go into battle. That to me sounds like BS. They just got high as a kite and didnt realise what was going on.

But my favuorite bit of history I learned today was about Gangaur the Goddess. Married women asked her to protect their husbands when they went to war, while young and single pray to her to bless them with a good husband. I went on my knees and prayed there for hours.

I even lit a little candle (that's my catholic upbringing). So everyone start praying as I have been told she is ever so powerful and helpful.

Pray for a happy marriage to Gangaur the Goddess...

In general the place exhumes beauty and wealth, but in a fairly elegant way. However, there was a room, Phul Mahal, that the audio guide described as breathtaking and the ultimate in oriental opulance. It's name meant 'the palace of love'. However for me, it was just more proof of the love this country has for camp. Somehow I thought of Graham Norton, it would have been perfect for his set...

Once we finished in the palaces we went down to the recently reopened gardens. Among the lush vegetations and sitting next to a worryingly empty tank one building kept popping into my thoughts: La Alhambra in Granada. The sheer size of the majestic fort here dwarfs La Alhambra by comparison. However, the detailing and the upkeep of the gardens are far superior in the Andalutian palace.

To end the walk around the Fort we were treated to the circling flight of a harriet over us.

As we left the Fort and walked over to the marble cenotaphs a few hundred meters away I noticed that more and more birds of prey were circling. Eventually I realised that a local was throwing meat to the birds and attracting tens of them. It was an amazing view, but probably not the most ecological as it will create bad habits for the birds...

Tomorrow I'm off to Ahmedabad, one of the 10 most polluted cities of the world and our last stop before beginning a 21 hour journey down to Goa for a few days on the beach...

No comments:

Post a Comment