Marwari Havelies

Road trips are always close to my heart. They bring back beautiful memories. Recently we had a chance to go on a road trip to Rajasthan, India. Three things are closely associated to this state - Thar Desert, Pink City and Marwaris!

Being born and bought up in Madurai, we have seen Marwari community flourish in wholesale businesses, which include cosmetic, fashion jewelry, gift items, electrical items and a lot more. Generally, they live in large joint families, wear colorful clothes, often include sweets in their meals and make lovely pan/bedas. Apart from this I had no idea about their lifestyle back in their native land.

When we started off from Sikar to Bikaner, we heard that there are beautiful havelies on the way. Haveli, means town houses or mansions. After talking to a couple of locals on the way, we headed to Fatehpur in search of Havelis and went few kilometers into the village. At one point we saw beautiful dilapidated walls, wells and some old buildings. We were guided to drive further down a narrow lane to see a Haveli. As soon as we entered the lane, this is what we saw:

Contrast Havelis

I fell in love with these contrast colored Havelis. As you can see, murals of the Haveli on the left is predominantly painted with white, black and green where as the Haveli on the right has beautiful murals in bright indigo, red in an yellow back ground. Attracted by the iconic elephant drawing, I walked towards the white haveli.

Linking this picture to Our World

The whole area was deserted, and we started soaking in the beautiful paintings despite the scorching sun. The lovely paintings display the lifestyle of the rich trading community.

Beautiful archways, intricate windows and doors
We were about to leave that lane wondering what could be inside this palatial mansion. Just in time, we saw a lady coming out of a modern house opposite to this haveli. This time around the language barrier was not there as our friend who was travelling with us could speak good Hindi! We learned from this lady that there was nothing inside this haveli but she told us that there were people living next door, which is also an ill-maintained old haveli. She suggested that we could request the people living there to get a glimpse of live haveli. 

Living Haveli

This rambling beauty had traces of murals that stands as a testimony to it's glorious past. Motorcycles outside gave us hope that people living there are modernized and would be welcoming travellers. As I touched the small door it gave way showing something from a different era.

We asked this lady if we could come in and take pictures, she nodded her head and rushed inside. I took that 'nod' as yes and shot the picture above. Within seconds she came with another elderly lady who shooed us away and shut that door! What did I expect? A royal welcome? Of course not! It is their home and they didn't want curious travelers to invade their privacy. 

The formidable doors stared at us and I felt that it was fiercely guarding it's secrets! With resentment we started walking towards that yellow based indigo haveli, in the hope of getting better luck. Sure we were rewarded, yes we had reached the right place to learn the story of havelis. More details and colorful murals in the next post :)


Taj Mahal - Elusive Illusions

Taj Mahal, synonymous with the 7 wonders of the World and symbol of love, you can never appreciate it's charm and beauty until you see it in person. Seeing Taj Mahal in a picture or a video doesn't give you a clue of what it is in reality. You need to walk in through the Royal Gates to experience and appreciate the sheer beauty. 

We hired a professional guide and a photographer too (so that we can get those classic couple shots, without attempting crude selfies). I carried my DSLR to capture my own angles. In this post I have attempted to show how I saw the Taj through my lens. 

From afar, through the arch of the Royal entrance, white marble arches of the Taj looked so close. Take a look at the collage to get an idea of what am trying to say.

Royal Entrance on the left and first glimpse of Taj on the right
But as we kept walking towards the Royal archway, we felt that the Taj Mahal was slowly receding. It felt as if the Taj is taunting us to come closer to see her. The minute we entered the arch, the elusive marble wonder came into full view.  

It was nothing like what I have seen in photos or in the movies. I was spellbound and I think I was holding my breath in awe and realized that I was blocking someones way, until my husband tapped on my shoulder and asked me to move along. 

Multi tasking mind some how had stopped functioning and only my visual sense was working, in fact overtime! For the first few minutes, I was just gaping, without even taking any pictures. When I tried to focus my lens, something felt odd. Now, I noticed that the minarets were shrouded with safety nets and construction ladder. Restoration work was going on. 

Our world

While walking towards the Taj, I was wondering how nice it would be to view Taj without any scaffolding around the minarets. The guide was quite informative and with great passion he told how the Taj looks at different times of the day and during different seasons of the year. He recommended that we should come during Jan to Mar, that too plan for the exclusive Full Moon night view. 

Then the guide jovially said that, now Taj is getting a face scrub with a pack of multini mitti. It is true that the Taj is severely affected by acid rains and pollution, and the white marble is tainted. So, the archaeological department of India takes restoration initiatives once in few years by applying mud pack made of multani mitti, which is a popular Indian face pack!  

After wrapping our footwear with covers, we finally entered the Taj. The more you look at it the more you wonder how they would have made it without any modern machinery. The exquisite floral carvings and engraved marble inlaid with semi precious stones is a royal treat!
Jali Work and Marble Inlay with semi-precious stones

Marble Engravings

Marble Inlay work
The Taj is made of translucent white marbles from Makrana, Rajasthan. Seeing is believing. So, our guide promised us to show how it glows when light penetrates. We entered the mausoleum. It was dark. Our guide suggested that all we had to do was tip the volunteer, who was standing guard next to the restricted area, with just Rs 10. We agreed. The volunteer had a pen torch and he lit it against the marble wall. To our excitement, the wall was glowing like radium! He slowly moved the torch light around the walls and pillars, everywhere it was glowing! 

Photography is not allowed inside the mausoleum, but no one is there to stop one from taking pictures. Encouraged by people clicking around, I too dared to capture the inner beauty.
Jali Work made of single piece of marble!
On the way out, our guide showed us the beauty of honeycomb structured wall. Take a look at the collage.
Honeycomb structure
The top part of the collage shows the general view and when you peep in through a honeycomb, it acts like a wide angle lens and you get a beautiful view!

After stepping out of the mausoleum, our guide asked me to count the sides of a pillar. I counted it obediently and said 6. He denied, took me closer, oops it was a 3 sided pillar. I was caught off guard by yet another optical illusion.  
Optical Illusion
I guess I will be visiting the Taj several times in the next few years as we have relocated to this part of the world and pretty sure that I will discover something new every time.     
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