India Adventure #10: A Crazy busy day in Udaipur

Dec 29

Early morning yoga in Udaipur still meant getting up before seven. And despite the inside location, only a short tuktuk ride away from our homestay, it was cold. The yoga took place in the meditation room of an old hospital dedicated in 1885. The opening section was an effective cardiopulmonary warm-up. The instructor was firm and knowledgeable. She corrected us at times, when needed. “Smile more and stretch more” was her mantra.

When we went to get our shoes from outside the room, four were missing. Noam spotted a dog on the roof, who promptly ran away once noticed, and the four shoes were found where the dog had been. Melody and Noam each had a wet shoe from dog saliva, with Noam’ soles pulled out, but unfortunately, Zev had one sole bit in two. He was not pleased.

Without any acceptable alternate solutions, the group headed out for a tour of the city, while Koren and Zev headed to the mall to find sneakers.

Jagdish Temple and some of the Hindu theology we learned about:

Lallit and three tuktuks joined us for the day, starting with a Pancha Et Mundi, a white temple right at the edge of the market we explored the previous day. This temple is 350 years old and better known as Jagdish Temple. It remains active (evident by the rag-like flag flying from the highest point. Five of the 33 million Hindu Gods are represented within: the centre is for Vishnu, the God of preservation, and the temple is most known as a Vishnu Temple; the front left is for Ganesh, a God of good luck and new beginnings, his elephant head at most entrances; the back left is the Sun God, which makes the sound Ohm; the back right is the Goddess Durga, the most prominent mother Goddess; the front right is for Shiva and his wife Parvati. The horse carvings represent power but are unusual on a temple. The elaborate carvings are typical outside Hindu temples. But Jain temples are very plain outside with carvings only on the inside, not to show off.

The three main Gods are Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer/regenerator. This cycle represents the life cycle, including reincarnation, until enough karma is collected to elevate to Nirvana and escape further human lives. 

Each of these main Gods is married: Shiva to Parvati, and she represents power; Brahma to Sirvasati, for education; and Vishnu to Laksmi, for wealth. Women were originally equal to men, but after the Mogul influence, women were protected and kept behind veils.

The five mothers are very important in Hindu culture: your own mother is first; Durga is second; third is the cow; fourth is basil; fifth is the Motherland.

There are forty-five regions in Rajhastan, thirty-two states in India (of which Rajhastan is the largest), and seven city-states (including Delhi) managed by the central government.  

Hinduism birthed Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism in India.

Cable Car Adventure:

After the temple, we braved the now-busy streets in a tuktuk and waited for the cable car to take us to the top of a hill. The system was very orderly, with benches on which to sit in a tiny park while awaiting our number posted on an electronic sign. Then we filed into line, with metal barriers so narrow we could only stand single file. From the front of the line, the next group of people to board waited on benches by one of the two cars. The view of the city from the cable car ride was beautiful in scope.

From the top, we walked along a stone path towards the mouse temple. Lallit met a young man along the way who then spent a few moments with two sleight of hand magic tricks with balls and coins. It was predictable but he was skilled enough I could not see the tricks. The kids were amazed.

This temple is not the one where the floor is absolutely teeming with live mice, but there were a few in cages at the entrance. Although an active temple, it was not too impressive. There was a large tree within the temple, watered often by people to ensure they will have water in the afterlife. This tree was for Shiva.

Each of the Gods are represented by specific animals or plants. Vishnu is the eagle, Shiva is the snake or bull and the tree, Brahma is the swan. Many of the Gods are dead ancestors elevated to God status based on their good work on Earth. Teva thought the ancestor God prevalent in Udaipur and seen by this hilltop temple was creepy, perhaps based on his caricature face and smile. He did make the comment prior to knowing it was the picture of a God, but I would support his sentiment.

Instead of waiting for the cable car again, Noam and Teva really wanted to walk down the stair paved path from the top. Apparently it is a good ten minute walk up. With play along the way, we got down in about eight minutes and Noam realized the bottom of the path was not at the end of the cable car. So, we walked back up, hoping to catch the others before they left the top. About ten minutes and most of the way up, we heard the others calling to us from the cable car to go back down. Despite being on the wrong side of the valley, the tuktuk would be awaiting us there. So, we walked back down, which was the back-up plan all along, and found a tuktuk driver at the bottom of the path. We did not recognize him but did figure he was the right guy based on some stilted english about one and two (we were in three tuktuks as a group). And so we ended up driving to meet the others at a midway point.

All along we kept hearing about Koren and Zev meeting us, but each time either the news was false, or heavy traffic (they were in a jeep so could not squeeze through impossible spaces) had sabotaged their plans to meet us. But when we arrived at the restaurant, they were already there. It was well after three and all of us were quite ready for lunch!

A busy afternoon and evening:

The line-up at Krishna restaurant suggested it was popular and good. The dal thali lunch was excellent. We could even tolerate their regular spice. This family style service, where everyone gets the same thing in little bowls (for the wet foods) on a larger plate or directly on the plate (for the more formed foods), is very typical food and service for Rajasthan. It was especially fun seeing the waiter crumble the ball of dried chickpeas onto the centre of the plate, creating a pile of carbohydrate with which to use your hands to pick up the rest of the food. Many did not like the salty lassis very helpful for cooling the mouth. When we left at four, it was hard to imagine needing more food before tomorrow!

We skipped siesta to head to The Queen’s Maidens’ Park, which included the “Rain without clouds” fountain. All of the water jets and fountains are fed by the main lake, eighty feet higher in elevation, so that no electricity is required to run the fountains. In fact, with the clap of the hands, the guide signals the man just out of sight to turn the crank and turn up the fountains to maximum for a minute or so. We got a tour of the extensive gardens, with several different areas, an art gallery (many of a particular stylized sideways people historical paintings, but several really beautiful abstract paintings with wonderful use of colour), an old swimming area with historical plaques, and a rainforest area. For several hundred years, and until the last century, this large park was the only place women in the royal family were allowed to go outside and have fun. Until it was opened to the public, no men were allowed inside the gates at all.

We drove to a natural folk history museum and had a short tour of the museum, displaying different customs, masks, turbans, and mendhi from many different villages and tribes within this state. Then we watched a performance outside that lasted a wonderful hour and included a large puppet show and some cultural dancing. The puppets including some dancing, a trapeze act, elephants, and a funny number with a woman who kept turning into a man and then back into a woman. Apparently the real story involved a man trying to have an affair with his sister-in-law. I kept trying my best to interpret the Hindi for Noam’s (and Michelle’s) benefit.  Some was correct but most was likely far off the truth. The live band and singers for the puppet show and then the dancing really added to the atmosphere. The three women dancing performed well synchronized dances with string and little cymbals all over their bodies. Then, for the finale, a man in a dress did his version of the female water-carrying dance we had seen at Araveli. In the end, he was running around the stage with nine water jugs on his head, after standing on glass or a metal plate or cups. Amazing!

As expected, no one (except the boys) was hungry for dinner at eight thirty, but we walked to the Khamma Ghani restaurant and ate. We had a low table at the waterside, seated on cushions in a restaurant seemingly entirely outdoors, including the kitchen. The lights were beautiful in the night. The paneer was a real highlight, and the chicken grilled over a fire on skewers appears to be a speciality. We rolled home and fell into bed at ten thirty. 

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