Archive | April 2011

Mandawa Haveli Hotel Frescoes

The next morning this was the view from my room into the courtyard, which was open to the sky.

The hotel was so magnificent that I had to explore it in depth. This was the magical India that I hoped to discover on this trip, and I was savoring every detail.

The more I explored, the  more stunned into stupidity my brain became. All I could say to myself as I discovered ever more beautiful frescoes in every corner was, “Oh, my GOD! Are you KIDDING me??! Oh, my GOD!”

Mandawa Haveli Hotel

We originally had been scheduled to spend the night at a hotel in Jhunjhunu, but Prem thought it would be better to continue to Mandawa, which was another two and a half hours down the road. This was the first of many times when his suggestions to change the itinerary greatly enhanced the trip.

When we pulled up to the Mandawa Haveli Hotel where we were to spend the night, I thought I was stepping into a scene from an Indian fairy tale. Two magical places in one day! I was thrilled, charmed, mesmerized!

The view from the tiny reception lobby down to the front gate was as stunning as looking up to the reception.

A haveli is an ancient private mansion. Some of them, like this one, have been restored and turned into hotels. There is often a courtyard at the center. There was likely a fountain here at one time, and the recessed square filled with water which would help to cool the air.

Havelis were painted inside and out with colorful and incredibly detailed frescoes.

The restaurant was as beautifully painted outside…

as it was inside. The daal with spinach soup was delectable, and the service excellent.

My room was tiny, barely big enough for the double bed, but who cares?

More important was that the bathroom had sparkling and modern fixtures.

Rani Sati Temple

After a long day’s drive over some rough roads, we arrived in Jhunjhunu in the late afternoon.

There was still time for me to visit the Rani Sati temple before the sun went down.

I left my shoes at the shoe room, as one must do when entering any temple. Once I passed through the first gate, I felt like I was entering the Magic Kingdom.

The festive ambience was heightened by beautifully painted decorative gates garlanded with marigolds.

I hadn’t been there long when a pretty lady and her daughters walked by. I admired the daughter’s sparkling fuchsia colored salwar kameez. They didn’t speak much English, but they understood the compliment. It prompted the lady to take me by the hand and lead me all around the temple complex. She pointed out various sculptures and symbols for me to photograph. I rang the small overhead bells in a corridor along with the daughters. It tells the gods that you are there.  They smiled at me when they saw that I knew to do this.

They took me into the white marble temple, where no photography was permitted. Inside the temple the air was filled with the scent of incense. People were praying, singing,  dancing and playing music that reminded me of the kind of music the Hare Krishnas in California used to play in the Summer of Love. Had these lovely ladies not taken me with them, I wouldn’t have felt right intruding on the religious celebrations.

One of the daughters applied a red tikka to my forehead with vegetable color which was on a plate near the shrine at the front of the room. Prem told me when I returned to the car that it was a good luck sign.

Leaving Delhi

The next morning Prem and I left Delhi early. Traffic was crawl and go for nearly four hours.

Think your commute is bad? Bet you're not hanging out of a vehicle like this.

During the snail’s pace of traffic, Prem taught me a few words of Hindi.

I was happy when we finally got off the freeway and onto a rural highway where this village woman was washing her buffalo. In India, they accent the second syllable:  boo-FALL-lo. Buffalos are not the same as holy cows. Still, I didn’t even see buffalo meat on any menu anywhere. They’re kept mainly for their milk. I also didn’t see any buffalos hitched to carts or doing any kind of work, but I did see holy cows made to work.

Holy cows are everywhere, except they were removed from Delhi. They don’t have owners, and no one takes care of them except for when they do. They don’t have to work except when someone makes them. Wish I understood the holy cow rules better.

Outside of the urban areas, more interesting and eco friendly modes of transport are found.