July 4th - Jaisalmer --> Jodhpur

Tempio Balaji About 300 Km to go from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur. While transferring, Gajju stops at a Temple dedicated to Balaji, which, we get to learn, is the same as Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. We nickname it the flags Temple, because in front of the building there is a tree covered with small red flags attached by faithfuls as offers to the god. Gajju buys a red bracelet (a devotion symbol) and enters to worship the gods. We have a small tour inside the temple, which contains modern statues of various Hindu gods and of Omother Hindu symbols (among which a Om and Shiva Lingam decorated with flower offers). The Temple is modern, and is very different from the ancient ones we visited in this tour (but after all aren't modern Churches very different from the old ones?) The statues are not so beautiful as the ancient ones, they are very simple, brightly coloured and a little kitsch or naif, but they are witnesses of the day-by-day simple but deep devotion of these people to their gods and believings.

After this short rest we go straight to Osiyan, location of a beautiful complex of Jain Temples, lavishly decorated with sculptures and carvings. After paying only 50 Rp for the camera we are allowed in con ricche sculture anche all’esterno. Franco: Here we have a chance of studying the ritual operations we observed here and in other Temples which are used for worshipping by local people and not only visited by tourists.. OsyanI try to explain what we believe was going on, and I beg your pardon because I may have misinterpreted something, non being an expert on this kind of things. In the Temple complex areas we always saw a lot of little stalls selling more or less everything, but mainly specialized in coloured flags and scarves, small sugar sweets, fruit (bananas and small coconuts).The first times we thought they were selling these goods as in our country fairs, for the people to enjoy and celebrate. Here instead, this kind of goods is used to make offers inside the Temples. The stalls usually don't sell flowers, which are sold by women sitting on the floor in front of the Temple's entrance. Offers can be bought separately or pre-bundled in little trays containing a selection of all those kinds bancarellaof goods. The faithfuls buy the offers and then they queue in lines to visit the single deities represented in the Temple (We queued with them, trying to understand what was going on). When they arrive in front of the worshipped statue or icon, they give their offers to the priests attending the god. They very quickly (because there is usually a long queue of faithfuls) take the offers, opening the sackets or trays if needed, get the flowers and throw them behind, on the floor near the statue, take some sweets, open the coconuts and tear them into pieces and throw some of them together with the flowers and the rest. After this ritual, the priest take some of the offers they got from the previous people, and give them back in the hands of the offering person. What the priests give back is always a little less of what they took, so that some of the offers remain with th e god. The offers people got back from the priests are "blessed" in some way, and they are not used to make other offers to other gods, but they are kept by the people, and then given away to other faithfuls, as a symbol of sharing and fraternity. When I was entering one of the beautiful Osyan Temples, climbing the external staircase, I offertewas given some sweets and I accepted (afterward I ate them, you have to do your thing completely or you don't do it at all!) but only after studying the whole ritual I understood what was behind this offer, and I was happy I was treated as one of them.

Coming back to our car I had also a nice surprise. Gajju heard that that day was my birthday, and while we were visiting the Temple went to buy a present for me! After some days and several hours spent in the car together, chatting about everything, he got to know my tastes, so here he comes with a couple of music CDs, containing MusicRajasthani traditional music! This way I learned that in India you may purchase regular music CDs containing MP3 tracks, so I had more than 8 hours of indian music in one single shot (I was very happy for this present, but when I put them on my car's reader I realize Maddalena doesn't share the same enthusiasm for Indian music... ).

After our stop in Osyan, another long ride to Jodhpur, the blue City. In the ancient times only brahmins were allowed to paint their houses in blue, to distinguish them from the lower casts ones. Today (probably also for touristic reasons) all inhabitants are allowed to do so. They also say this colour protects the houses from heat and fron insects. We take our first look to Jodhpur panorama from the hill were the Jaswant Thada cenotaph is erected Jaswant Thada(a cenotaph is a a funeral monument in mamory of a dead, but not containing the dead's corpse). They couldn't choose a mora appropriate place for a memorial monument. Atop a hill, the blue City laying below, its noise only a distant buzz, a cool breeze whispering and a nearby small lake for meditation. It's really magical. After getting the entrance ticket, we take a sit in the trees shadows, near the lake. A girl dancing to the music of her little brother welcomes us, begging for some small change. The mounument is a magnificent white marble building, beautiful both in its outside walls and architecture, and in its interiors, very neat and simple yet of a daunting beauty. The basement on which the Mausoleum is built is red sandstone, as usual, and all around there are peaceful gardens and small garden paths. The imposing mass of the Fort is close nearby, but it looks faraway.

Our next stop is in fact the Mehrangarhreally fantastic Mehrangarh Fort. It is perfectly preserved, clean and well organised. For the first time in the tour we get the chance of renting an audioguide, And it's even available in an Italian version! This allows us to better undertsnd what we see inside the Fort, which is really very big and complex. The Fort is built in red sandstone and it has got plenty of courtyards and palaces, with rooms full of pracious collections of ancient weapons, dresses, there's even a collection of elephant saddles and seats, and a wonderful one displaying the ancient royal cradles! The palaces' walls have the usual wonderful stone laceworks, the windows have coloured glasses and the corridors heve finely painted ceilings and vaults. Passing from one room to another, the eye is catche by the wonderful view of the City downhill, which makes a perfect panorama. The tour is two hours long, and Franco really shot hundreds of photos. At the exit there's a small child dancing to the music played by his father, while his mother was feeding a smaller brother. We give a tip to the dancer, and avoid the rubbish vendors who make a crowd around us. Just out of thw Fort's walls we join Gajju again. He knew Franco wanted to buy some spices here, because Jodhpur is famous for this kind of good. Gajju shows us the stall of M.V. Spices, the most famous spice shop. Franco speaking: Many of you (all the experienced travellers, for sure) know the Lonely Planet guides. We love these guides. Our first Lonely Planet was bought in 1980, written by Tony Wheeler himself (Yes, once he was really travelling on a shoestring!) and is called "Sri Lanka: A travel survival kit". It accompanied us in our fisrst trip abroad in Sri Lanka for one month (probably our best trip ever). Since those long past times Tony Wheeler and Lonely Planet editions have done a very good career (better than mine, for sure), and nowadays they are a real tourist travel empire. Like king Midas, te Lonely Planed guide changes everything to gold. It is sufficient for a hotel or a shop be cited there, and they will immediately earn a lot more of tens of similar ones (Something like the Michelin Guide for the restaurants). It remains anyway a good travel companion, and I never forget it when I travel abroad. That said, I am a lover of Indian spices, and those herb concotions which could put an iceberg to fire with only a few teaspoons are one of my favourite seasoning for meat and vegetable dishes. The Lonely Planet guide suggest you buy your spices in Jodhpur, and the name of the shop they suggest is M.V. Spices, so I was happy to have a chance to buy the right stuff in the right place. M.V. Spices, has a stall here at the Fort, and a shop downtown Jodhpur, in Sadar Market Sadar Marketwhich we will visit in a while. Since it's the same shop, I decide to buy a good deal of those fabolously scented powders, for my personal use and also to do some presents for poeple who had asked me for Indian Curries. After carefully smelling and choosing some different Curry mixtures, Garam Masalas and teas I was a bit surprised for the price which was a bit higher than expected (1000 Rp for about 1 Kg of stuff) I asked for a discount, and got some more tea as a present. We pay and go away (... to be continued hereunder)

Down from the Fort, Gajju drives us in the town centre, where the busy Sadar Market is located, at the very heart of the city. We start to wander among the narrow lanes, swallowed by the busy crowd, lost amidst coloured stalls covered with fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses, flours, rices, bowls filled with every powder of every colour you can imagine. The spicy scent is breathtaking and stunning, and we do nothing else than following the crowd flow. Franco speaks again: Here is the second episode of the curries saga. When we stumble upon the M.V. Spices shop in the market, we realise that prices are considerably (about 30%) lower than the ones we paid outside the Fort, while being the very same shop. The spices at M.V. Spices cost anyway about 30% more than the ones of the other stalls around, but this is clear, it's the "Lonely Planet" tax you have to pay to buy in the suggested shop, and you have a choice of doing it or not, anyway. A bit puzzled I go inside and ask the gentle girl inside the shop why we paid a lot more than here at her other stall. After checking with a phone call to her colleague outside the Fort that we were not cheating, the girl is evidently embarassed and says that that day at the Market there is a "special discount" which is not going on in the other shops, but I can see no evidence of that. I obviously can do nothing else than express my disappointment to what I consider an unfair treatment, not suited to a shop up to its fame, being advertised in books and on the Internet. I say allright, I'll write everything in my report n my sit when at home, and here I score a good point, the girl gives me the difference in cash, I thank for the correctness and go away. All in all, now I can assure everyone that the spices were very good, and likely to be worth the 30% more of the other ones around, but 60% was a bit too much indeed wink !! .

In the Market, as in our market several years ago, you can see people doing traditional jobs: tailors, basket makers, wood carvers, dyiers working side by side in tiny spaces. While roaming in this maze, suddenly we come to the Clock Tower which is the centre of the centre, and a reference point when you get lost in the alleys. All around us people bicycles tuctucs cows sarees other people dogs carts horns blowing buzzes clanging noises wild scents colours flies heat and the head begins to turn giddy. It's time to go back to our Hotel, the Karni Bahwan. Nowan can take away from us our half-an-hour in the swimming pool. It's a small one, in a beautiful setting in a garden surrounded by bouganvillea plants and flowers Naturalmente la nostra mezz’ora in piscina non ce la toglie nessuno, e ci rilassiamo tra il verde e le bouganvillee tutto intorno! A cold beer befor dinner, and then we ask Gajju for a good restaurant to celebrate Franco's birthday. Without thinking twice he drives us to the "On the Rocks" restaurant, a very characteristic place where you dine in a beautiful garden. CenettaThe food is very good and is also good value for money. Here and there in the garde there are rock sculptures and park bench in shape of camels. I couldn't resist having a picture sitting there! Very good restaurant, go there if in Jodhpur you won't be disappointed. OK, now back to sleep..

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