Fort Kochi to Jodhpur
We were driven very early in the morning to Ernakulam airport for our 9:00 am flight to Bombay. There, we had to catch our connection to Jodhpur. A tight squeeze but we didn’t have to worry. Someone was waiting at the bottom of the stairs of the plane, we were put on a bus and driven to our next plane. It couldn’t have been easier.
In Jodhpur we were greeted by our driver for the next couple of days, who took us to Bal Samand Garden Retreat, where we were going to stay until the 16th.
We were given a wonderful room with front and back patios. Gayatri* had been informed of our arrival and was on her way to see us. Our invitation to the “World Sacred Spirit Festival” was already waiting for us.
Gayatri came with little daughter Vaara. Vaara is about the same age as our second granddaughter. She chased, with Hari, after all the peacocks, who were roaming the enormous lawn in front of our room. She still had to figure out who I was, but the ice broke soon. We had tea on our little patio. Afterwards it was time for a nap. We had been awake since 3:45 that morning.
*Gayatri is the daughter of Hari’s nephew, the present Raja of Askote.
As her own grandfather has passed away, she considers Hari (second brother of her grandfather) to be her Bubu (Grandfather) and following tradition, I am her Ama (Grandmother). She is married to Yuvraj Shivraj Singh of Jodhpur, the son of Maharaja Gaj Singh II. Photos of their wedding in 2012 are also on my blog at this link.
Refreshed we had a great dinner in the hotel’s restaurant and around 10 o’clock that evening our driver drove us to the Mehrangarh Fort.
We were directed straight through and escorted to the Zenana Deodi Courtyard where a performance was already on the way, Shye Ben-Tzur and Jonny Greenwood. We were invited to join the Maharaja’s table and were joined there by the Maharani and later also met their daughter, Shivranjani Rajye. After this performance had come to an end, we all walked to the Sringar Chowk, were Suphala was going to show her magic on the tabla.
The whole performance was fantastic. She was joined at some point by Rajasthani musicians. The music, the rhythm, the atmosphere. It was magical. And we got to enjoy all this as guests of, and sitting with, the two Highnesses. Quite an honour. The music lasted until way past midnight. We were driven back to our hotel, still totally in awe of our first experience of the “World Sacred Spirit Festival”.
Next morning the first performance (Dawn Devotional) would be at 7:00 am. A little too early for us. We will leave for the fort around 10:30 am or so.
Saturday, February 14
After a very delicious buffet breakfast I wandered around the gardens a bit before getting ready to go to the fort for the remainder of the day.
Around 11:00 am our driver, Hanuman Singh, drove us back to the fort for today’s performances.
The performances were all in different locations of the fort, giving enough time between concerts to wander from one location to the other.
The fort is gigantic. Over the years it has been, thanks to the Maharaja, restored beautifully. So many historical buildings in India become ruins due to neglect and/or lack of funds. It cost capitals to maintain buildings like these. In Jodhpur there are yearly 3 large events in the Mehrangarh Fort. This brings tourism to the city which in turn is good for a healthy economy.
One of the concerts this day was in a large courtyard. An open courtyard, smartly covered overhead with a thin cloth that let enough light in but kept the heat out. Another event was held on a lawn, surrounded by high trees, providing the necessary shade. Yet another one was at the edge of a lake. The atmosphere was amazing, the music, all very different, vivacious. We enjoyed it so much!
Towards the evening the Maharaja made his entrance again, later followed by his son Yuvraj Shivraj Singh, Gayatri and Vaara.from left to right: Yuvraj Shivraj Singh, Yuvrani Gayatri Rajye, Vaara Rajye, Suphala, Shivranjani Rajye
Around 10 pm the Sufi concert started. They use to have the Sufi dancers at this festival but we missed out on that this year. But Madan Gopal Singh is an amazing singer, poet and performer. It was so beautiful. Sitting in the very first row we felt like one with the singer and musicians. Towards the end we joined the Maharaja at his table for some food and wine, while listening to the music. The evening closed with extremely loud electronic music. Chairs were moved to make space for the public to dance. From our very special spot it looked like one gigantic mass of people with waving arms.
After a few songs we had had enough and we walked quite a distance through that enormous fort, together with His Highness, to the waiting cars; the Mercedes for the Maharaja, the Toyota Qualis for us.
What a day, what an experience! Unforgettable!
Links to some of the musicians:
Druk Yul Trio_Lhamo Drukpa, Pema Samdrup and Namkha Lhamo (Bhutan)
Closing your eyes, listening to this trio singing and playing, you feel yourself drifting towards the mountains of Bhutan. So tranquil.
Shashank and the art of the Bansuri Flute
So beautiful. The sound of the flute, floating over Lake Ranisar. Even the birds seemed to enjoy it. Surrounded by the old walls of the fort. An amazing backdrop for exquisite music.
Mandingo Ensemble with Ballaké Sissoko_The art of the Kora, Mali
Char Yaar and a Desert Singing Legend
Madan Gopal Singh and Anwar Khan Manganiyar
Muktiyar Ali and Mathias Duplessy Trio
Sunday, February 15
I opted for an early rise, Hari didn’t, but I really wanted to go to the Dawn Devotional at the Jawant Thada Memorial. Hanuman Singh drove me there around 6:30 am. It was still fairly dark and it was beautiful to watch the day make its entrance over the city. The hustle and bustle of the day had not started yet and the quietness of it all was a treat. The musicians were running a little late so we wandered around, soaking up the beauty of the rising sun. When the music started we settled down to listen and dream. Every day should start like this.
I was driven back to Bal Samand and ready for breakfast even though we received tea at the Dawn Devotional.
Nothing had been planned for the remainder of the day yet. The Dawn Devotional was the last item of musical events of this festival.
After breakfast and a short walk through the gardens we decided to go into Jodhpur and check out some stores there. Hanuman Singh was called again and drove us there. He was also helpful in finding the right stores for Hari who was looking for some specific items.
While driving back we received a phone call from the palace. We were invited for lunch by the Maharaja. So we drove back to our hotel, changed clothes and got back into the car for the drive to the Umaid Bhawan Palace. There we were escorted to the private rooms of the Maharaja and Maharani who joined us after a little while. We all went out on the terrace after Gayatri and Vaara had made their appearance as well and sat there very pleasantly protected from the sun. Lunch was served inside a little later. We chatted while enjoying the delicious food until the Maharaja had to leave for another commitment. The Maharani excused herself as well as the one other guest, a British friend of the Maharaja. Left with Gayatri and Vaara we caught up on family stories while Vaara teased Hari. (Well, he really asked for it). Later on Gayatri arranged for a tour of the Palace which we thoroughly enjoyed. Afterwards we were driven back to Bal Samand where we heard we were in for another treat. With 2 guides we went to see the Bal Samand Lake Palace, the grounds, the stables and the lake. They showed us around, told us lots about the history etc. They also showed us the enormous bats, flying foxes, “hanging” in the trees. During the lunch that afternoon we had learned about these animals. After the tour we were taken to the terrace where a table was set for us to have tea. The only table on the whole terrace! We were overlooking the lake, the sun was slowly setting, birds were flying, and once the sun had gone down the bats came out! My pictures of those really strange animals didn’t turn out well but I have included them anyway. They swarmed over the water, dipping down ever so little to just get a sip. On and on it went. Amazing. This was another perfect day.
Monday, February 16
While checking in on-line the night before for our flight to Delhi I found out that our flight departure had changed from 12:50 pm to a little after 11. Well, that was no fun. Gayatri was planning on coming over in the morning to say good-bye to us. I had to send her a message with the change of flight times.
Morning came. We were all packed up. At the reception they asked for our flight number. They checked and lo and behold, the time had changed again, this time to 1:30 pm. That was better. We went for breakfast and received a message that the flight had been delayed again, now until 3:00 pm. Good news for us, as we were just going to Delhi for 2 nights and aside of meeting with a few relatives we had nothing planned. As we had now an unexpected morning in Jodhpur we were taken for a round through the palace vegetable gardens and plant nursery. Everything is organically grown we were happy to learn. We wandered around, learning a lot as we went, until Gayatri arrived. We chatted on our little patio until it was time for the 3 of us to say good-bye.
After a quick lunch we were ready to be taken to the airport. Refreshments were given there because of the delay. Aside from having chewing gum stuck on the locking part of my seat belt, the flight was uneventful. We landed safely in Delhi and entered a world of pollution!