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How pink is your city

How pink is your city
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Jaipur. In this weather!’ exclaimed a friend as I updated him on my ‘very-cool’ job at hand. ‘Who cares! I get to go to Jaipur and you get to rot in Delhi!’ I said and set the alarm for an unearthly 5:30 am so as I could join the rest of the people by 7:00 am. Life’s not fair.

All Delhiites will know that Jaipur is a neat 5-6 hours away (give or take a few depending on the traffic) and travelling during the monsoons can make it better (or worse) depending entirely on the potholes. All diversions notwithstanding, our team of eight reached Jaipur well on time.

The old parts of the city live  up the famous pink colour, more a pale brick red than pink if you ask me!

After an incredibly heavy lunch we were out to catch what we ideally came to Jaipur for - the Teej celebrations. As the brochures told us well in advance - Teej is held every year during the month of Shravan and marks the advent of monsoons in  this part of the country. Teej is also dedicated to Goddess Parvati and celebrates the day she was united with Shiva.

Teej is intrinsically a festival for women so we were surrounded by bright Laharia sarees, mehendi and a lot of excitement. The procession organised for Teej (held over 30 and 31 July this year) starts from the City Palace winding its way through Tripolia Bazar and Chhoti Chaupar ending at the Talkatora Stadium (the water body was restored specially for the festivals this year and will be a significant part of the celebrations now onwards).

We found place for ourselves and our cameras right at the Tripolia Gate so as we could see the procession come out of the City Palace up front. The crowd and the humidity kept growing but the excitement was palpable. The traffic on the busy street was diverted and Jaipur was ready for the festivities.

The first to come were the Kachhi Ghodi dancers followed by the Kalbeliya artistes. Next came the Behrupias, Gair dancers, Chakri dancers and the Mashak Vadan performers. Special bands in their regalia made way for the camels, oxen, horses, elephants and the royal colours. The idol of Teej Mataji was carried out amidst much splendor as the crowds paid their obeisance. Women in bright pink carrying kalash on their heads were the last to head out of the city gates and proceed towards Talkatora.

The entire procession passed in front of us in a little less than an hour, but it was one of the most exciting times of my life. The stunning beauty of Rajasthan flowed out in royal colours over the Pink City and one could not help but stare in awe. The most beautiful part of Teej is the fusion of the religious and  cultural in an incredible celebration. Organised by the tourism department of the state (RTDC - Rajasthan Tourism Development Corration Ltd), these Teej celebrations make sure that no tourist (local or otherwise) feels left out. While Indians can marvel and identify with the religious significance of Teej, the foreigners can sit back and enjoy the sights and the sounds. Something for everyone.

The motto of the state being - Padharo Mahre Desh, don’t be surprised if you are pampered silly and fed until you cannot even think of any more food. That is exactly what happened to us.

Our next day in Jaipur was reserved for some sight-seeing. We headed off towards Jantar Mantar and Amber Fort after breakfast. While the weather wasn’t being kind to us, we distracted ourselves with the science of Jantar Mantar and the stunning views from Amber Fort. Following a lunch at Nahargarh Fort, we headed over to meet Shailendra Agarwal, Principal Secretary, Tourism, Art and Culture.

Agarwal is not from Rajasthan, he tells us as we sit in his office, but 25 years in the state has made him fall irrevocably in love with it. He calls Rajasthan the ‘keenest festival celebrator’ and he’s absolutely right. This is one state that revels in an incredible number of celebrations - cultural and religious both. Be it Rajasthan Day or Vijay Dashmi, the cattle fair at Pushkar or Teej - Rajasthan celebrates all with equal fervour, said Agarwal. The younger generation has lost touch with their culture and tradition and one of the reasons why the tourism department focuses on festivals is to revive the sense to the youth.

Agarwal informed us that the government has some very interesting plans in the pipeline what will keep tourists coming in all year round. Rajasthan has been primarily all about its forts till now and archeological attractions get only a very limited number of repeat tourists, the focus therefore will be on activity-based tourism alongside the regular historical circuits informs Agarwal. Desert Safaris are already in place, so now the new circuits will involve rural tourism (handicrafts based), heritage tourism and even a special circuit for bird-watchers in  Keoladeo Ghana National Park at Bharatpur.

And of course the incredible Palace on Wheels that needs no introduction whatsoever!

Tourism depends a lot on visibility, says Agarwal. Since chief minister Vasundhara Raje is very keen on tourism, a lot of circuits have been sanctioned in the current budget announcements and work is on to get them up and going, he explained. Travellers can look forward to all of these incredible plans soon!

Just as it begun, Jaipur ended. I, for one, can’t wait to go back again. In better weather conditions, however!
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