In this essay I am going to take you to the other beautiful cities of Rajastan, to Jaisalmer and Udaipur. Their location is indicated on the map above.
My journey in magnificent Rajastan was continuing through to the heart of the desert. I left Pushkar and by a 10 hour bus journey I arrived at Jaisalmer that is another jewel of Rajastan. Jaisalmer is a city in the west side of the state, located 575km west of the state’s capital Jaipur. On the far west it is bordered with Pakistan.
Jaisalmer hosts the ancient Jaisalmer Fort (above) that we can say is the icon of the city. Just like I did, you can choose a budget guesthouse in the fort located on this hill top and enjoy your moments with the great view of the city and the desert below you. The big gates welcome you inside the fort. As you enter you are already in the unique atmosphere surrounded by many little alleys that are home to the palace, temples, houses and markets.
Jaisalmer is nicknamed as “The Golden city” as many of the houses and temples in the fort and the town below are built of finely sculptured yellow sandstone. The fort contains the royal palace with its massive walls. The surfaces of all the spaces in the palace are decorated with unbelievably delicate carvings. Seeing all this amazing architecture you feel like you are traveling in time. I highly suggest you to visit the museum here.
The fort also has several Jain temples inside its area. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that believes in the path of victory in crossing over life’s stream of rebirths by destroying karma through an ethical and spiritual life. Of all the major Indian religions, Jainism has had the strongest ascetic tradition. And now it has over 5 million devotees in the world. These temples date back to 12-15th centuries and store many precious ancient literature of Jains.
The temples are famous for their exquisite work of art and architecture built out of yellow sandstone. Every tiny space in the temples are covered with ornate carvings of women, men and animals. There are many figures of dancing women on the pillars. You get amazed wandering around thousands of intricate statues.
The ceiling of one of the temples is adorned by near life-size statues. The craftsmenship here is really unbelievable.
While wandering around the alleys I saw some paintings right next to the entrances of the houses (like above). Then I learned that these were wedding invitations! They said this interesting tradition has been in practice since the pre-independence era. The painted invitation remains forever on the wall, unless there is another marriage happening in the family.
You can try delicious bhang (marijuana) lassi at the government authorized shop close to the entrance of the fort. Packs of bhang-infused cookies and chocolates are also available for takeaway and can be savored during the trips in the desert.
Jaisalmer, being an arid desert region, has extremes in terms of temperature that varies greatly from day to night. The summers start from March and temperatures can go up to 50 °C. As I was here in April, the temperature was already so high. In the day time I wasn’t going out around the noon when the sun is so high up and at nights I was sleeping at the roof terrace of the place I was staying.
Jaisalmer lies in the heart of Thar desert that is the great Indian desert. So I took the chance to go futher and camp over night at the sand dunes. The sand dunes are around 50 km from Jaisalmer city. You go up until a point with a car then get on a camel and proceed further to a proper point for camping. They call this camel safari.
These 3 young men helped our little group of four people and guided us into the desert, set up our camp, cooked a humble but delicious dinner for us and took care of our needs. I found them so naive.
The most remarkable part of Jaisalmer experience was the times in the desert. It was my very first desert experience and I highly recommend everyone to try it. Although the weather was around 40 degrees, the wind was comforting me. I enjoyed to walk on the dunes and let myself hear the silence of the desert. The view of the sunset was stunning. After the dinner I laid down on a mattress and started to watch the amazing view of the night sky. I kept on gazing at the stars and the spectacular milky way for hours, even in between my sleep.
These days I was going through a process of deep grief out of an unexpected staggering experience that came into my life recently. (To understand the integrity of my story you can read my previous essays of India.) I guess this was the greatest pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I was on fire inside and outside, watching the ashes of the lower self, my ego. I was coming to know that sometimes we fail in life because there is always a learning in it.
I sat for meditation at the dawn next morning. The most beneficial way out was to observe the pain mindfully, without attaching and without pushing it away. It was time to purge the unnecessary loads. Within my capacity I let go of the suffering, all the burden, excessiveness to the wind.
The universe is simply an energy game. Sometimes the energies intertwine in such a way that show you can not control anything. All the things you have attached slip through your hands. There is nothing left for you to hold on to. Now everything is totally brand new and unknown. This unknown quality enables the fears to emerge. The only thing that is left for you is to surrender.
It was as if the universe was shaping me in India. Harshly and compassionately at the same time. When you be truthful to yourself, when you have the courage to see everything as it is, then these times become a stepping stone. For you to come closer to your reality, for you to remember who you really are.
The spacious desert was soothing me with its silence and purity. I was cherishing my aloneness. We often find ways to run away from our suffering and we feel better. Then we realize this relief doesn’t last, there is no lasting satisfaction there. Because they all have limited ability to cure what is going on inside. Because they are not permanent, they change. In aloneness ego is shattered because it has nothing to relate to. Then the everlasting peace starts to become visible. This is freedom. Celebrate this opening Deniz. Dance with the universe.
Then my journey brought me to another significant point in Rajastan, to Udaipur by a 12 hour bus journey. Udaipur is located in the south of Rajastan, 400 km southwest of the state capital Jaipur. Right after my arrival I found a cheap but a nice hostel that had a great terrace open to the view of the whole city. The sun was rising. After leaving the desert behind me I was welcoming the new day this time near the lakes.
Udaipur is known as the “City of Lakes” because of its sophisticated lake system. It has seven lakes surrounding the city. The interconnected lakes form a system which supports and sustains the groundwater. The old city is located by the Pichola Lake (above).
City palace that is one of the most remarkable historical attraction here, stands on the banks of Lake Pichola. It is a massive series of palaces date back to 16th century.
The lake side was the best place to hang around as there are many beautiful spots here. And also it was refreshing to be by the water due to very hot temperatures. Traveling in Rajastan in April already forces you to start your day so early and come back to shady spaces in the noon time. In the late afternoon you are again able to go out as the temperature starts to become bearable. There is an advantage to travel in the off season as there are less tourists and the prices of accommodation and food are cheaper.
Jagdish Hindu temple is to me the most beautiful attraction of the city. It is seen behind the simple but artistic wall of a house above. Carved depictions are really impressive here. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, that is one of the 3 principal deities of Hinduism. Vishnu is the preserver aspect of God that protects dharmic principles whenever the world is threatened with evil, chaos, and destructive forces. I asked for guidance and support from this force that dwells in us all. I prayed for the preservation of the wisdom I’ve realized so far.
When entering a temple Hindus ring a bell. The reason for this is to inform God that one has come at his feet. And this high sound with its frequency enables the person to leave behind all the restlessness, turbulance and complexity behind. It invites the one to the core of inner silence.
Udaipur is also well known for handicrafts such as paintings, hand loom works, silver arts and terracotta.
Monsoon Palace, also known as Saijan Garh Palace is located on top of Bansdara peak on the east part of the city. This peak is a part of Aravali range that seperates the region from Thar desert. This hilltop has a great view of the city’s lakes, palaces and surrounding countryside. (above) The northern part of the district consists generally of elevated plateaus, while the eastern part has vast stretches of fertile plains. If you spend some of your time at this side of the city I highly recommend you to see the peaceful lakes around, especially Bari lake. (above)
Monsoon palace is a beautiful example of Rajastani architecture which I really adore. Above you see the front entrance. The palace was build basically as an astronomical centre to keep track of the movement of monsoon clouds. It was also serving as a resort for the royal family.
Our paths crossed in Udaipur with my friend Baran that I know from Turkey. We spent two quality days together. He was a close soul to me that I could tell about my inner journey so we shared a lot. I really appreciate his friendship and I am grateful for this heart warming encounter with him.
At the end of all of my sharing to my friend, I came to the same conclusion that pouring out my soul doesn’t really work for me as it does for most of the people. It makes me even more tired. It gives me the sense that I am treating the illusion (of my lower self) as if it is real. This escalates my grief. There is a learning in this as well for sure. Neither expressing nor supressing, but my way of experiencing the opening is through meditation, through inner inquiry.
Letting go is not quite easy sometimes. It is not easy to watch all the magnificent moments of the past fade away and die in the depths of the past. This is perceived as a loss by the ego and that creates resistance in you to accept. Then this feeds your grief. It was the time to be courageous to let go.
“The sun will stand as your best man
When you have found the courage
To marry forgiveness
When you have found the courage
To marry love.”
Hafiz, the great Persian poet