Girls Only to India: Shimla & Rajasthan Royals travel blog

It turns out the younger brother of the young manager of the palace we are in is a polo player! He played for the schools India team which won the Challenge Cup played at Eton last year!!!!

In contrast, after breakfast, we do a walk round the village with one of the villagers who also works for the family. The Maharajah used to control 8 villages. Now many of the staff come from families who have served at the palace for generations, & are proud to have done so.

There are many shepherds in the village, wearing the traditional off white shirt & dhoti and with marvellously wound red turbans. An obliging villager we come across shows us how it is wound. Just incredible! We also visit a shepherd's house and his wife agrees to let us photograph her amazing bangles. They are white, of plastic and run from her wrists to the middle of both upper arms. Denoting that she is a married shepherdess. They are not removed at all, unless her husband dies.

The people in the village are so friendly and welcoming. We happen on a ceremony for the change of dress after the 12 day mourning period for a 90 year old lady. Only women or male family members can enter the courtyard with the women. We are invited in for chai, which is boiled up for us then milk, sugar and cinnamon is added. It is like drinking a liquid pudding! Many photos are taken with much coy giggling. The women are also preparing food for the expected 150 people coming later for the full ceremony. A massive pot is waiting for all the ingredients, which are being prepared. We feel very privileged to have been included.

As we continue round the village there is a gentleman sleeping on a cot, whom we are told is 110 years old! Needless to say we do not disturb him.

Schoolchildren are appearing out of houses with huge backpacks. All looking very tidy and smart in their uniforms. We are as much a curiosity to them even though they must have seen other tourists. Giggly girls and cheeky boys - children are the same the world over.

There are many Jains in this area. Jain is an offshoot from Hinduism & the followers can only be merchants or bankers as their belief is to lead a non-interventional life-style. Not really sure how that works! There are many new smart houses being built in the village by the Jain who run a business elsewhere. They use the house in the long holiday break to come back to their home village. Otherwise they are left empty! There are also a few Brahmin in the village so a good mix!

The Maharajah comes out to see us off. He is passionate about keeping the family residence going and about retaining the traditional values within the village. We might think it still a bit feudal but the hotel provides a lot of work to the villagers in all sorts of ways.

We set off again, this time to Udaipur!! We pass several Wish Trees where people have hung bits of material and made a specific prayer. We stop at The King's Abode in Ranakpur. Another new hotel, very chic and classy with huge well maintained gardens. We go on up into the beginning of the Arwali Mountains. They divide Rajasthan into the arid NW and the fertile SE. The road is winding upwards and we stop for a view back down the valley but it is quite hazy.

We stop briefly at a local government school (as we missed the Bishnoi Village visit). The children are all sat on the floor & the teacher does not have a desk. They all stand politely as we arrive at their door. The classes are mixed age groups, around 24 in a class. The first class, aged 14-16, has an assignment in English written on the board. The youngest group were 6-10 in the same class. Challenging for the teacher & the children!

At last we reach Udaipur. Back to a busy, noisy, grubby city but with 5 lakes, all man-made! Hotel Shakarbadi is owned the King of the Udaipur area. It is also the Stud Farm for the local Marwari horses. Another lovely hotel set on one of the lakes. Our room is a sort of lodge overlooking the lake - oh no! Moxie alert!!!

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