2nd day in Karauli
Jan 30, 2005
After breakfast we walked the short distance into the town to see the family's historic city palace, which was closed by the government at independence in 1947 and gutted over the ensuing years.
On the way to the City Palace we stopped to watch the morning ceremony at the nearby open-air Krishna temple. The worshippers first presented offerings to Krishna, then a Brahmin (priest) presented him with mint tea while two others beat loud and fast on hand-held gongs. The tea remaining in the pot was tossed across the clambering worshipers, followed by the tea leaves. Those catching the leaves shared with the others, and all ate a bit. Then everyone walked in a counter-clockwise procession around the temple, praying on the floor, against the walls, wherever. Meanwhile, the doors in front of Krishna were closed so that he could rest. Last, the doors were re-opened and prayers continued more privately as we continued on our way.
Occupying the crest of the hill, the palace is large and in disrepair. It must have been even worse in the past, since the maharaja's family told us they had put a year's worth of work into it recently. Restoration continues being done, but the pace is slow and the scope is enormous. We looked at what there was to see, which didn't take long. Most interesting: the collection of howdahs, ornamented platform chairs designed for regal rides atop elephants.
There's really only one narrow street to follow downhill, so we did. Along its length were little stalls of every imaginable sort, pig wallows, cows, noise, and a festive wedding procession. Bright lacquer bracelets are a local industry, the thick rod of colored material heated over a small charcoal brazier, then rolled and stretched on a flat slab, formed over a wrist-width stick and bejeweled. We worked our way back to the hotel for lunch, squeezing our way past the wedding procession where we became almost as much the center of attention as the handsome groom on his horse.
All along the way we were greeted by friendly children waving and calling out "Hallo! Hallo!" while the adults nodded to us pleasantly. This apparent warmth, coupled with the complete lack of people begging, reflects Mrs. Maharaja's determination to make the town tourist-friendly.
A sub-group of us returned to the bazaar after lunch with a local man hired to help keep us from getting lost (which I'm not sure was all that necessary). On the way home, Susan befriended a group of children who eventually noticed that she was carrying a small bag of chocolate bars. Good play turned into a genuine mob scene, with Dave finally able to rescue the remains of her sugary loot from the kids' relentlessly grabbing hands.