A journey of a thousand years

On the road to Udaipur, India. Today we got up early to begin our ten-hour drive from Jodhpur to our new home, Udaipur. I have to share a very typical exchange which took place when our driver was not there at 8AM, as we agreed. The concierge called him and reported that, “I told him to come at 7:45 but he heard 8:30.”

Audiologists call that “selective hearing syndrome.”

At any rate, our trip included two slight detours, the first of which was Ranakpur Jain temple or Chaturmukha Dharanavihara. This massive Jain temple complex was built in the late15th century. Light colored marble was used for the construction, which occupies an area of approximately 60 x 62 meters. There are 1,444 marble pillars, carved in exquisite detail, which support the temple. The pillars are all differently carved; no two pillars are the same. (It is also said that it is impossible to count the pillars, but somehow someone knows there are 1,444.)

The carvings are just amazing and every vista is different and complex. The rotundas each have different motifs, and one could easily get lost admiring the next column, and constantly looking up to admire the way the light is directed through the temple. A true master work, no matter how many columns there are.

The grounds include smaller temples and are filled with gardens, occupied by families of monkeys, who helped make it seem even more exotic.

The next major site came nearer the end of our long and rocky drive, the Kumbhalgarh Fort. This is the second-largest man-made object visible from space, with a 22-mile wall, making it just a bit smaller than that thing in China. This again was part of the massive building work of the 15th century, and it is actually in the clouds during the monsoon months.

True confession: As the walk to the actual entrance from the gate where we stopped is a kilometer up a steep incline (security precaution, you know) we opted out from seeing what is surely a marvelous sight. Our driver kept stressing that “young people like it lots.” We were tired and eager to get to our hotel – another two hours away, and, well, we just copped out. But here are some shots of the outside!

Now, why would I call this the journey of a thousand years? Yes, the trip did feel like it took that long. But as we traveled, we were in very remote areas of rural Rajasthan. The roads were terrible and we were constantly dodging goats and cattle, along with lots of other vehicular traffic. But what was startling was the life we saw being lived on those roads. Women were carrying buckets to communal pumps for fresh water – and carrying lots of other things on their heads as they walked gracefully from place to place.

We saw lots of young children playing in front of their homes – as opposed to being in school. Closer to small villages, we did see school children in their uniforms. Lots of men were squatting under shade trees, solving the problems of the world, and people of every age and description were tending their animals. Would it have looked much different years ago? Somehow it seems the improvements of time have been few and far between in some parts of the country. Hard to photograph from a moving car, but it will be harder to forget.


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