Tag Archives: travel in India

View from the Hill Fort, Kesroli

This is the view from one of the round towers of the fort on the village side. We look down in lordly splendor as perhaps its original owner did – although, in the 14th century, the sights and sounds would have been very different! Later, as dusk descended, we saw dozens of headlights on the road Read More…

This is the view from one of the round towers of the fort on the village side. We look down in lordly splendor as perhaps its original owner did – although, in the 14th century, the sights and sounds would have been very different!

Later, as dusk descended, we saw dozens of headlights on the road below as the locals returned home from the day’s work on motorcycles and tractors. The fact that they apparently had paying jobs elsewhere, and vehicles to commute to them, indicates an astonishing and heartening level of prosperity in this part of rural India. 60% of India’s population still lives in villages, but it seems that fewer and fewer of them subsist on farming alone.

Chittering Chipmunk

Another example of Indian urban wildlife. I’ve seen these all over north India, but had always assumed that chittering noise was birds. This exemplar lives at the Red Fort, Agra – more photos of that to come! You might also like: Cheeky Crows View from the Hill Fort, Kesroli Parrots at Humayun’s Tomb Scooter Taxi Read More…

Another example of Indian urban wildlife. I’ve seen these all over north India, but had always assumed that chittering noise was birds. This exemplar lives at the Red Fort, Agra – more photos of that to come!

Parrots at Humayun’s Tomb

Screechy, colorful parrots are common in both urban and rural India. Their bright green feathers make a particularly nice contrast to the ancient red sandstone of monuments like Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi.   You might also like: 2011 India Trip: Timeline Cheeky Crows View from the Hill Fort, Kesroli Chittering Chipmunk

Screechy, colorful parrots are common in both urban and rural India. Their bright green feathers make a particularly nice contrast to the ancient red sandstone of monuments like Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi.

 

Diwali Celebrations

Diwali is the Festival of Lights, so the market in Alwar was full of light-making apparatus: candles (above), fireworks and diyas (above): add a wick of twisted cotton and some oil to make a very ancient kind of lamp, shown in action below: (Yes, I was startled by the firecracker going off.) ^ The hill Read More…

Diwali is the Festival of Lights, so the market in Alwar was full of light-making apparatus: candles (above),

fireworks and diyas (above): add a wick of twisted cotton and some oil to make a very ancient kind of lamp, shown in action below:

(Yes, I was startled by the firecracker going off.)

^ The hill fort was lighted with both diyas and electric bulbs, more on the side which could be seen from village below…

…which was in turn lit up. I could see people moving about with lighted diyas on a tray, placing them atop their walls and roofs. There was a cacophony of music and fireworks, and in the distance we could see much bigger fireworks from Alwar and elsewhere.

Earlier in the evening we had wandered into a room signed as the “TV lounge,” which we hadn’t bothered with because we had no interest in TV. We were surprised to find that it was the former royal hall of this mini fort-palace:

I didn’t know what the white cushions on the floor were for. Later on, all became clear: the room was set up for a puja, with a small altar on the table containing a poster of Saraswati, Ganesh, and Lakshmi, and offerings of sweets and a coconut. A Brahmin priest was brought from somewhere, and all the guests of the hotel were invited to participate, sitting on the cushions along with the staff. The participating guests were an older Sikh couple, a young Indian couple whose religious affiliation I could not determine, and ourselves. We all took turns to wave a tray of offerings with a smoking lump of camphor in front of the altar, while the priest led us in Hindu hymns (from a book, which I thought was cheating – Brahmins are supposed to know everything from memory). One of the hymns was about loving all your fellow men, which the priest gestured should include all of us.

We were each given a sweet and a choice of “dried fruits” (including nuts) from a fancy package, and a multiple thread dyed red and yellow was looped several times and tied around each of our right wrists. (I’d seen balls of this thread for sale in the market earlier and wondered what it was for.) The priest marked each of our foreheads with a thick red paste and stuck a few grains of rice into it; when I washed the paste off later, it smelled like the powdered poster paints we used to use in school.

We should perhaps have tipped the priest, but we’d been summoned to the puja from drinks on the terrace, and didn’t have any money on us. No one seemed to mind.

A(nother) sumptuous dinner followed, and the fireworks went on into the night.

Diwali sugar candy

Diwali Market in Alwar

When we reached Alwar it was, as expected, bustling with holiday crowds. The Diwali tradition in Rajasthan is to perform a puja (worship) of Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, in which sweets and coconuts are offered first to the goddess, then to the guests. So everyone’s shopping included: We were mystified by the stuff shown Read More…

When we reached Alwar it was, as expected, bustling with holiday crowds. The Diwali tradition in Rajasthan is to perform a puja (worship) of Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, in which sweets and coconuts are offered first to the goddess, then to the guests. So everyone’s shopping included:

We were mystified by the stuff shown at top, until someone offered us a taste – pure sugar candy, apparently.

Petha, a gumdrop-like sweet made from melon and sugar. Photo by Brendan Gregg

^ This is petha, candied melon, traditional in this part of India. Later, in Agra, we saw shops offering petha made from other fruits. Don’t worry about the bees, they don’t eat much.

^ The festival is decorated in garlands (malas), both real and artificial.

photo by Brendan Gregg

Diwali is also a time for giving gifts, more or less lavishly depending on the local economy and your family budget.

^ Sweets are the biggest tradition, and may be dressed up in…

^ fancy boxes.

photo by Brendan Gregg

^ And, if you’re short on idols for at-home worship, you can stock up. Ganesh is also traditionally worshipped at this time, along with Saraswati, goddess of the arts and learning.