Hey there, cupcakes!
If you’re planning a trip to Jodhpur, I’m confident that the Guide to Jodhpur I wrote last week has everything you need to know about the things to do and see in the Blue City of Rajasthan.
India’s second largest state is peppered with imposing forts and marble temples. Equally important, though, if not more so, are the rural villages of Rajasthan – places where art, heritage and beauty are kept alive, and traditions are still religiously followed. So this post is for the slow travelers, those who have time on their hands and want to explore Jodhpur beyond what lies on the surface. These are 4 experiences unique to Jodhpur – off-beat things that you may like to experience like I did.
Visit a Bishnoi Village – With modernization touching quaint Indian villages at a rapid pace, taking a tour of a tribal village in India is an experience you need to have before its gone. I’d studied about the Bishnois in school, but never thought I’d actually visit a Bishnoi Village in Jodhpur! The Bishnois are a sect that follow 29 principles (‘Bish’ or ‘Bis’ means twenty and ‘Noi’ means ‘nine’), most of which centre around protection of the environment and conservation of nature and wildlife. If you studied Indian history, you’d have definitely heard of the Chipko Movement, wherein the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Abhay Singh, ordered the cutting of trees for the renovation of Mehangarh Fort in 1730. In protest, hundreds of men and women from 84 Bishnoi Villages wrapped themselves around trees in the hopes of protecting them, but were killed while embracing the trees, by the ruthless army.
The Bishnoi Village Tour in Jodhpur will take you to one of the tribal homes, where you can talk to them, get a glimpse of their humble huts, have a simple meal cooked by them on burning wood and learn about their traditional occupations.
On your Bishnoi Village Tour, you will inevitably hear about (and get to experience) their Opium Ceremony. While the use of Opium is prohibited by the government, the tribe still consumes it for ‘religious’ purposes. Empty opium pods are ground, mixed with sugar, diluted with water and are then poured into ones’ hands to be slurped either 1, 3 or 5 times – auspicious numbers. I found the entire thing quite bizarre, to be honest.
My Bishnoi Tour was organized by my friends at Jog Niwas, however, as someone who is extremely curious about culture and local living, I wasn’t remotely satisfied with my experience with the vendor. My guide wasn’t articulate enough to explain the ways of life of the Bishnoi community well enough, let alone answer any questions I had. It was more like a (badly) rehearsed speech, hence I won’t share his details with you.
Go on a walking safari – If you happen to stay at Jog Niwas, a place I highly recommend, ask one of the owners, Shanane, to take you on a walking tour of the grounds around the property. From deer to Nilgai and dozens of peacocks to swiftly jumping hares, you’ll spot a variety of animals and birds, quite literally in the back yard. “If you see a wild pig, step to the left at the last moment, they can’t change the direction they run in,” was one of the memorable instructions that I received on my walking wildlife safari! It’s funny now, but I was quite terrified back then!
Go on a Jeep Safari – The earlier in the day you start, the more wildlife sightings you’ll see on your wildlife safari around Jodhpur. I spotted dozens of Black Buck, Deer, Peacocks, foxes and other dessert animals. Your jeep will take you off-roading, on bumpy terrain with sparse, dry vegetation. If you’re short on time, consider skipping it entirely, as it may be a hit or miss.
Watch the locals make handicrafts – As part of the Jodhpur Jeep tours, you will be taken to watch three craftsmen at work – a potter, a block printer and a rug maker. All of them were friendly and seemed to have tourists visiting on a regular basis. As a tourist visits, they put in a little work on their product to demonstrate, and it appears that they stop work until the next tourist arrives, when they work on it again. Makes me wonder how long it actually takes to make a rug or saari this way.
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I did try my hand at the pottery wheel, and the potter asked me if I was an air hostess in the process (what? lol!) The block printer seemed to have one goal in mind – selling me a bed sheet, while insisting that he wasn’t trying to make a sale. And the rug maker, who happened to make the some artistically designed pieces, quietened a bit after he saw that I had no interest in carrying a heavy rug with me back to Mumbai.
My tour, which included the Jeep Wildlife Safari, Bishnoi Village and Handicraft Tour took around 4 hours and cost Rs. 1000/- and I’m pretty sure my guide made a commission of the bed sheet I bought at the block printers.
I wish the Jeep tour comprising of the three artisan visits were more genuine, and not so commercial in nature. When one travels in general, there are many experiences that are worth extending your stay for, but these weren’t those kind. So if you only have a few days to spare, the city of Jodhpur itself with its blue painted homes, lovely cafes and majestic forts is where you should be spending your holiday. I also spoke about a 33-item thali that is a culinary experience worth relishing, in my last post, in case you still haven’t checked it out.