A Palette Full of Colours from Rajasthan

meeting room, Meherangarh fort, Rajasthan

Rajasthan, the desert land with its exotic natural landscapes, architectural grandeur and rich cultural heritage, has always been my dream destination which I happened to explore last year. It was a happy journey through the land that offers warm welcome to tourists from all over the world. Given the recent incidents of atrocities against women I found it is one of the places in India where women travellers can feel safe. People here, are pretty accustomed to seeing visitors. Rajasthani people love their tradition and at the same time they are respectful to tourists.

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My journey in Rajasthan started from Jaipur and ended in Jodhpur. The cities like Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur have immense historical importance and numerous stories to tell. Today, the Pink City Jaipur is a fusion of modernity and tradition. The old architectural edifices and the historic palaces will remind you of the rich cultural and artistic excellence of Rajasthan. Mount Abu with its pleasant weather and beautiful vacation homes is a popular holiday retreat for local businessmen. Jaisalmer gives you a feel of rustic Rajasthan while Pushkar is a spiritual journey.

However, Pushkar is also a good place for shopping. You can buy dress materials, Indo-Western as well as traditional Rajasthani dresses, silk scarves, local made tote bags, mirror-work purses, hand-crafted showpiece, jewellery and many more at reasonable rates. If I try to express my thought about Rajasthan it’s not possible to sum it up in a single article.

For me, Rajasthan means celebration of colors (in every aspects of life starting from accessories to artifacts to home decor).

umbrella, rajasthan, handicrafts, embroidery

trinkets, handicrafts, rajasthan

ganesha, artwork, handicraft, rajasthan

royal palace, mehrangarh fort, meeting room, jodhpur, rajasthan

Rajasthan means architectural extravaganza.

jaipur city palace, architecture, rajasthan

Rajasthan means a royal aura.

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Rajasthan means rich tradition.

turban, tradition, rajasthan

Rajasthan means soulful folk music.

Rajasthan means enthralling folk dances.

folk dance, ghoomar dance, Rajasthan, Rajasthani folk danceImage: wikimedia.org

Rajasthan means amusing puppet shows.

puppet, puppets, rajasthan

Rajasthan means beautifully adorned camels on the roads.

Rajasthan means spicy foods to stimulate your taste buds. I think Rajasthanis have a perpetual love for chili in their food. 🙂

Mirchi Vada, Rajasthani food, Indian cuisine

Image: cooks.ndtv.com

In short, Rajasthan means diversity in natural, spiritual, artistic and cultural way which a traveller must experience once in life.

P.S: For more info and images of Rajasthan Travel check these out: 

Jaipur – the ‘Pink’ City of My Dream
Amer Fort – the melting pot of Rajasthan’s heritage, art and architecture
Pushkar – a Spiritual Quest
Rambling in the Ruins of Chittorgarh
Sightseeing in Udaipur – The ‘Venice of the East’
An ‘Extraordinary Day’ in Mount Abu
Jaisalmer – the essence of earthly Rajasthan

Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Bhawan Palace – the brightest gems of Imperial Jodhpur

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A Day out in the Alley of Potters called Kumartuli

Idol making in Kumartuli, Kolkata

Narrow lanes, hand-pulled rickshaws, tram lines and red-brick houses with louvre windows – yes … I am talking about a typical North Kolkata neighborhood.

kolkata, north kolkata streets
North Kolkata Streets

It’s that time of the year again, with Durga puja round the corner, we (Deblina and I) planned to explore Kumartuli, one of the cultural precincts of Kolkata. It was a Friday morning that we headed towards Kumartuli. From Shobhabazar-Sutanati metro station we took a rickshaw to Kumartuli, where clay sculptors were busy in making idols. Bright sunshine on my shoulders and the deep blue sky above were telling that autumn is on the threshold and with only one month left for the Pujas idol making would be in full swing.

Autumn sky
Sunshine in my eyes…

It was my long cherished desire to visit Kumartuli, the alley of the potters, where gods and goddesses are born (read created) in the skilled hands of mud sculptors who are in the profession of clay idol making for several generations.

Idol making in Kumartuli, Kolkata
Idol making is in full swing.

Well, coming back to where we started our journey. We had to take a hand-pulled rickshaw. As soon as I boarded the rickshaw childhood memories thronged my mind. Such rickshaws were aplenty on the roads of Kolkata those days.  We used to ride rickshaws often, especially in the evenings while returning home after a shopping or a visit to some relative’s place. The rickshaw puller is almost running pulling the rickshaw, and the sound of the bells hanging in his hand … ting ling ting ling (this bell worked like horns) and a small lantern hanging at the back of the rickshaw, just like the rear light of a car – the images are still so vivid in my mind!

Hand-pulled rickshaw in Kolkata
Hand-pulled rickshaw in North Kolkata

However, with the comfort and ease I am trying to sketch the picture of hand-pulled rickshaws, right now, it was no that easy during the ride. I sat stiff and terrified, thinking all the time, what if the rickshaw puller loosens his grip and we’ll land up up-side down (LOL!). Finally, we reached our destination and I was relieved to get down from the rickshaw. 🙂

As we moved on down the lanes the brick walls and structures were like closing in on us. I have never seen such narrow lanes and by-lanes in my life. Much to my astonishment, artisans live in there, with their families and have set up their studios for pottery and idol making! Well… studio, not in its literal sense.

Studios at Kumartuli
Studios at Kumartuli

Their studios are far from what we think or have seen… with scarcity of space, no AC, no fans and small windows refusing the daylight to enter, artisans keep working all day and night during this season. As for equipment and materials, they have clay, straw, ropes (made from coconut fiber), bamboo sticks and two hands – two skillful hands that can transform the shapeless mound of clay into a beautiful and awe inspiring idol of goddess Durga.

clay sculpture
Transformation from mounds of clay to beautiful idol.
goddess Durga
Goddess Durga

Hats off to those artists whose talent will never be recognized… who will never get the chance to bathe in the light of success and recognition.

As we made our way down the alley I was amazed to see half-done idols with a variety of size and features … large, small, medium; with traditional wide-eyed face revealing anger, or with a soft compassionate look more like a simple, native Bengali beauty; posing like warrior against the demons or blessing like mother.

idols of goddess Durga
idols of goddess Durga

We had only a few hours in hand with so much to see. We could only explore a part of the entire area in one hour. Since it was a working day we had pending jobs to do at the office. We set out from Kumartuli, reluctantly. Just as we were walking along the street we saw a tram approaching, much to our delight and we instantly got on it. Sitting inside the tram I felt nostalgic. It has been a long time since I last enjoyed a tram ride.

tram
enjoying tram ride

Trams are rare to see on the roads of Kolkata nowadays. The thought that Kolkata will be losing its heritage one day pains a lot. The metro has transformed a lot with a number of lavish shopping plazas, bustling multiplexes, flyovers and BMW, Skoda and Chevrolet plying the city roads.

Slowly the tram reached the terminal at Bagbazar. From there we caught the bus to Kalikapur, where our office is located. As the bus was passing through Shyambazar crossing I caught a glimpse of the statue of ‘Netaji’,

Kolkata
Kolkata has transformed but the spirit remains the same

basking in the sun, amidst a number of enormous hoardings and signboards trying to cover up the skyline, the bamboo structures for pandals on the roadside, posters of political rallies and the same zeal and enthusiasm for the Pujas reminded me, ‘Kolkata ache Kolkatatei” (The spirit of Kolkata still remains the same)!

Durga Puja 2009: What I Miss about the Pujas

The wait is over! … All the speculations, assessments and consolidated efforts of local Puja Committees have finally come to an end for this year with another happy and joyous Durga Puja, one of India’s biggest and most coveted festivals! I was eagerly waiting for the Pujas; bought new clothes, planned a lot with my sisters. And now it’s over … those four days have passed so quickly just like a beautiful dream destined to dissolve in a few moments.

Durga Puja, the celebration of goddess Durga’s home coming, is grand.  I don’t know how to describe the grandeur of it in mere words … Puja is all about shopping, wearing new clothes, meeting old friends, eating good food, and enjoying together.

The true essence of Dura Puja is found in West Bengal, India, where the festival is held at large. It is celebrated with utmost zeal and enthusiasm in this part of the world. But the festival of Durga Puja is not the same anymore that we used to see a few decades earlier. The mood might remain the same but what I notice the most is the changing trends of Puja celebration.

Durga Puja 2009 :  Photo by Moon Roy
Durga Puja 2009 : Photo by Moon Roy

Theme based Puja is the latest trend, especially in Kolkata. The entire set up, decoration and the idol of the goddess is built following a specific theme, say folk art. A whole new wave of commercialization is evident with so many awards offered by different organizations for the best Pujas around. Cultural clubs organizing big budget Pujas aim to outshine each other with all the glitz and glamour of decoration.

I appreciate this change. It is because of theme orientation that we could see the exquisite art works of tribal temple located in remote corner of Meghalaya or the Chou art of Purulia, West Bengal right here in the heart of Kolkata.  But what I miss is the simplicity and purity of the Puja.

To me, Durga Puja and autumn reflects each other. Crystal blue sky, thin white clouds and waving Kash on the field herald the beginning of the festive season in Bengal.  Mother Nature is in full bloom with lush greeneries all around.

Kolkata was a lot greener in my childhood. There were big trees and lawns all around our neighborhood. The change could easily be observed in green foliages, blooming seasonal flowers and occasional drizzles from clear firmament. Greeneries are missing today; pieces of white clouds in the blue sky alone tell us that Puja is on the threshold!

Photo by Moon Roy
Photo by Moon Roy

The combination of autumn and Durga Puja makes me feel nostalgic. I remember my childhood days – rising early in the morning only to pick Seuli from the garden in front of our old house. The garden bed turned white with flowers covering the grasses underneath the tree. Every morning my father and I entered the garden and pick flowers until our baskets got completely full with Seulis. This was one of the routine tasks in the mornings during the fall.

Image courtesy: Flickr
Seuli : Image courtesy Flickr

Those were some of the best moments I had shared with my father.  My father is no more and those golden days will never come back except autumn returning every year with a new beginning for the Pujas and lots of joy and happiness.  It reminds me how much I miss my childhood days. And I miss you a lot … Baba!