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"I'll find my way home while exploring the galaxy"

Day Four: Mandawa's Surprises

We awoke from the ashes of food poisoning, or at least I did. Poor Wylie was still going through the motions. I had some time in the morning to explore the hotel grounds and admire all the beautiful detail, color, and murals everywhere.

I decided I needed to get my blood circulation going and take a walk, maybe even take in a few of the famous sights of Mandawa. In my research of India back in New York, I had not heard of this place, so I wasn’t expecting too much to be honest. The hostel manager, Kali seemed very enthusiastic to show me around, so I grabbed my phone and a few ruphees and we were off.

Upon leaving the hotel grounds, I was immediately entranced in this beautiful high pitched Hindi chanting, which seemed to echo and bounce in every direction of the village. In his broken English, he managed to tell me that because it’s festival season in India (the entire country is preparing for Diwali, the Festival of Lights), everyone in Mandawa prays out loud to honor the upcoming festival. I wish I had my recorder on me, but I’m sure I’ll be hearing more of these hypnotic sounds as we get closer to the holy day.

We walked down the main strip of town onto a wider dirt path, which began to wind uphill towards a well known haveli (A haveli, after the Persian word ‘enclosed space,’ is a grand and ornate genre of architecture that housed the rich and powerful Indian families between the 1770s and 1930s). There were very few people except maybe a boy on motorbike, a grazing cow trying to get some shade in the powerful heat, and the occasional villager on foot.

We stopped upon a beautiful golden door with a smaller slit, which we entered to make our way into the courtyard of the haveli. To our left was an entrance to a local’s home and to our right was the locked door into the famous mural. A small tip is usually given to gain access to the mural. Kali took me inside and told me that the original builders used 3 kilos of gold to adorn the paintings, usually depicting religions themes, especially stories of the life of Lord Krishna. It’s crazy to think people actually lived in these spaces, and really cool to see that ancient traditions are continuing to influence modern architecture in the city.

From the haveli, we made our way to the massively deep water well that used to supply water to every part of the village. Kali painted a picture of women bringing their water baskets to fill from the well, and taking shade under the dome when the temperatures reached sweltering heights. From the perspective of the well, we could see below onto a giant yard and home, which Kali said housed 3 families. I was immediately drawn to the three adorable goats hanging out on the yard.

As we walked down to see the goats up close, two little boys came running out of their home to come take photos with us. After a spontaneous photo shoot, they each shook my hand – their heartwarming manners took me completely out of surprise. As we continued on our walk, Kali also mentioned that a lot of famous Indian films are shot in Mandawa for their picturesque havelis, and soon a film would be coming to this exact home.

The next stop was a hotel under construction, haveli-style. The same owner who constructed Paaveli Hawana (the hotel we were staying at) owned this property and in 6 months, the hotel would be complete. Kali would be managing this site as well, so knew the property inside and out. He showed me the location where the pool would be erected and took me upstairs to the rooftop, which revealed a panoramic view of the entire city. 

As we were nearing the end of our walk, Kali pointed out another haveli’s small windows. Apparently, this placement and size is designed to keep women shielded from the public eye, but allow women to peek out on the street for special religious proceedings. It’s disorienting to hear something so conservative when our hotel’s mural depicts topless Indian women in kama sutra stories, but I guess that is the evolution of culture here in India.

Kali was a wonderful host, and we left Mandawa a bit after noon to head to Bikaner, about a four-hour drive. We arrived at a hotel that Sono frequents a lot, which was just perfect for the night. A cozy, colorful room in what appears to be a fort – more exploration on that tomorrow.

I decided I needed to get my blood circulation going and take a walk, maybe even take in a few of the famous sights of Mandawa. In my research of India back in New York, I had not heard of this place, so I wasn’t expecting too much to be honest. The hostel manager, Kali seemed very enthusiastic to show me around, so I grabbed my phone and a few ruphees and we were off.

Upon leaving the hotel grounds, I was immediately entranced in this beautiful high pitched Hindi chanting, which seemed to echo and bounce in every direction of the village. In his broken English, he managed to tell me that because it’s festival season in India (the entire country is preparing for Diwali, the Festival of Lights), everyone in Mandawa prays out loud to honor the upcoming festival. I wish I had my recorder on me, but I’m sure I’ll be hearing more of these hypnotic sounds as we get closer to the holy day.

We walked down the main strip of town onto a wider dirt path, which began to wind uphill towards a well known haveli (A haveli, after the Persian word ‘enclosed space,’ is a grand and ornate genre of architecture that housed the rich and powerful Indian families between the 1770s and 1930s). There were very few people except maybe a boy on motorbike, a grazing cow trying to get some shade in the powerful heat, and the occasional villager on foot.

We stopped upon a beautiful golden door with a smaller slit, which we entered to make our way into the courtyard of the haveli. To our left was an entrance to a local’s home and to our right was the locked door into the famous mural. A small tip is usually given to gain access to the mural. Kali took me inside and told me that the original builders used 3 kilos of gold to adorn the paintings, usually depicting religions themes, especially stories of the life of Lord Krishna. It’s crazy to think people actually lived in these spaces, and really cool to see that ancient traditions are continuing to influence modern architecture in the city.

From the haveli, we made our way to the massively deep water well that used to supply water to every part of the village. Kali painted a picture of women bringing their water baskets to fill from the well, and taking shade under the dome when the temperatures reached sweltering heights. From the perspective of the well, we could see below onto a giant yard and home, which Kali said housed 3 families. I was immediately drawn to the three adorable goats hanging out on the yard. As we walked down to see the goats up close, two little boys came running out of their home to come take photos with us. After a spontaneous photo shoot, they each shook my hand – their heartwarming manners took me completely out of surprise. As we continued on our walk, Kali also mentioned that a lot of famous Indian films are shot in Mandawa for their picturesque havelis, and soon a film would be coming to this exact home.

The next stop was a hotel under construction, haveli-style. The same owner who constructed Paaveli Hawana (the hotel we were staying at) owned this property and in 6 months, the hotel would be complete. Kali would be managing this site as well, so knew the property inside and out. He showed me the location where the pool would be erected and took me upstairs to the rooftop, which revealed a panoramic view of the entire city. 

As we were nearing the end of our walk, Kali pointed out another haveli’s small windows. Apparently, this placement and size is designed to keep women shielded from the public eye, but allow women to peek out on the street for special religious proceedings. It’s disorienting to hear something so conservative when our hotel’s mural depicts topless Indian women in kama sutra stories, but I guess that is the evolution of culture here in India.

Kali was a wonderful host, and we left Mandawa a bit after noon to head to Bikaner, about a four-hour drive. We arrived at a hotel that Sono frequents a lot, which was just perfect for the night. A cozy, colorful room in what appears to be a fort – more exploration on that tomorrow.

 

Tiffany Wen