Ahmedabad: Ghandi Country

We find ourselves way behind on the blog once again. No matter, we’ll try to do a few short entries in succession to catch up.

We take a deluxe bus from Udaipur to Ahmadabad. (Deluxe as in ‘air-conditioned’, ‘clean-ish’, ‘costs more than five dollars’ and ‘doesn’t look like it’s been rolled down a mountainside’.)

We treat ourselves to a stay in the House of MG Hotel.

Nice place

Formerly the home of a Gujurati textile magnate, it’s very comfy. We especially like the Lotus Pool.

Lotus positions

The hotel is at the edge of the old city. The old city is a rabbit warren of streets with many examples of interesting local architecture, including buildings with intricately-carved wooden balconies and decorations. Sadly, most are crumbling into rubble.

500 years ago, Ahmadabad was founded with city walls and gates. The walls are mostly gone, but the gates remain.

This is the Teen Darwaza gate.

We are persuaded to visit the Jama Masjid mosque. I point out that I’m wearing shorts (unsuitable for visiting places of worship of any kind – friendly reminder to a million Western tourists.) The gatekeeper kindly provides a loaner pair of trousers.

Serving the faithful since 1424

My shorts are a problem again when we visit the Hutheesing Jain Temple.

No doubt built with Jain dough

Fortunately, the gatekeeper has pairs of pyjama-like pants for the use of immodestly-dressed visitors.

Denis yuks it up for the camera…
…just like Mr. Trudeau

Among Ahmadabad’s claims to fame: Ghandi spent years here at the Sabarmati Ashram. This was his base for toppling the Raj.

2019 is the 150th anniversary of Ghandi’s birth. There are signs and billboards throughout the country.

On the grounds of the ashram is this interesting wood sculpture carved out of a post.

Keep walking

One of Ahmedabad’s biggest attractions is the Calico Museum of Textiles. We try to go, but the process of actually trying to visit this museum is so complex and Byzantine, we eventually give up. Maybe next time.

Sight or Insight of the Day

One day, we take a tour with a car and driver, arranged from the hotel. We drive to this place, the Adalaj Stepwell.

We’ve visited these – stepwells – elsewhere in India, but this is the largest and most ornate we’ve seen.

Well, well, well

It’s five storeys deep.

Looks like an opera house.

Typical for India, lots of amazing stone carving.

Bundi and Udaipur

We take a local bus from Jaipur to Bundi.

This gentleman is dressed in typical Rajastani fashion.

Bundi is a delightful little place. (By Indian standards, of course.) We stay at the Haveli Dev Niwas.

Because this is not the tourist season – it’s fiery as the pits of Hell out there – we are the only guests.

There is usually a breeze in the rooftop restaurant. Nice view, too.

Bundi Palace is in the top-right corner

An interesting detail in our room is the leftover pulley from what was once probably a punkah setup.

The punkahwallah sits outside and pulls the cord to keep the punkah moving in the room.

Give us a job. I can do that.

The lanes of Bundi have ‘character’ without the nightmarish aspect of bigger Indian cities.

How Now, Beige Cow?

We purchase tickets at the gates of Bundi Palace.

To quote the Lonely Planet guide:

‘ This extraordinary, partly decaying edifice – described by Rudyard Kipling as ‘the work of goblins rather than of men’ – almost seems to grow out of the rock of the hillside it stands on. Though large sections are still closed up and left to the bats, the rooms that are open hold a series of fabulous, fading turquoise-and-gold murals that are the palace’s chief treasure.’ 

Like most of these palaces, this one has massive gates.

Hathi Pol, or the Elephant Gate

I model my new block-printed shirt from Jaipur.

Such are the gates of paradise‘ – William Blake

The builders of these palaces surely knew about the cool breezes you enjoy at this height.

View of Nawal Sagar Lake from the palace

The Chitrasala Palace, part of the larger complex, has painted murals and a garden in the front.

This is the Chogan Gate – the main gate into the old town.

Chogan Gate

As usual, we visit the market.

Woman selling bangles

We make our way back to our lodgings against the current of traffic.

Rush hour in Bundi

After cooling off, it’s time to enjoy the sunset over Nawal Sagar Lake.

Well, the sun is surely sinking down…’

Next stop is Udaipur. Time for another character-building bus trip.

This is a common sight in the bus stations of India.

Standing room only – and then some

We arrive in Udaipur after dark. We stay in another haveli, the Jaiwana.

They have a nice dog, a beagle named Milo.

Making friends with Milo

Next morning, the first destination is the City Palace.

I think this is the bathroom

There’s usually a great view from the heights.

Udaipur from above

There is a surprisingly orderly system for visiting the palace.

The Sultan of Swings?

Everyone follows a clearly-marked tour path.

Inner courtyard

Except for a few minor logjams, it works quite well. We emerge out the other end of the palace.

Ornate balcony

We leave the City Palace and take a boat tour on Lake Pichola.

Leaving the palace

Maria models her block-printed top from Jaipur.

A jarring presence

We pass through the market. Here are some enormous cauldrons stored in a nook. We think they’re for making chai.

The combination of lakes and mountains makes Udaipur a visual treat.

Lake Pichola

You get a different perspective from the boat.

The City Palace from the water

A woman does her laundry down by the water.

‘It’s better than the Magdalene Laundries.’

One of the islands on the lake contains a fancy hotel.

We stroll around the gardens while waiting for our return boat ride.

This lizard leaps across our path from a nearby bush before clinging to this stem.

Leapin’ lizards

Sight or Insight of the Day

While in Bundi, we see these lovely murals painted on the walls of the Chitrasala Palace.

Depictions of Krishna seem to be a popular theme in Rajastan.

Krishna sits up a tree playing the flute after stealing the clothes of the gopis (milkmaids)

It’s a shame that India has thousands of monuments in need of maintenance or restoration. We suggest (Indian) universities with faculties of archaeology/antiquities begin a program in which classes ‘adopt’ a particular site to maintain or restore.

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Some courtly goings-on

For a start, these sites could use more personnel to simply be present to prevent vandalism and provide more oversight: many of these places are full of dark corners where the stench of urine would fell a full-grown rhinoceros in its tracks.

The gopis and Krishna’s girlfriend Rhada dance to his flute

India can obviously afford it. Any nation that has tens of billions of dollars to spend on nuclear weapons can easily spare a few crumbs for the preservation of its heritage, right?

(By the way, about those nuclear reactors we provided? You’re welcome.)