Sat, Feb 28

This morning was an earlier morning. We were on the road by 8am because we had another tomb to visit just outside of Agra before we really hit the road to go to Jaipur. It was a very interesting drive, with lots to see and a million “National Geographic” pictures – most of which were impossible to capture because of being in the car. It doesn’t get boring, though, which is a definite bonus.
We visited Fatehpur Sikri , which Emporer Akbar also built. He lived there only a short time (moving the capital from Agra to here), however, because there was a water shortage. It was quite magnificent. There was this one room where there was a second floor, but not really…it was only a middle pedestal with four walkways leading out to it! It amazes me what they were able to do using stone!
The drive was rather long, and I was dying because I have this awful cold happening at the moment. Not enough vitamins, I think!! In any case, we did eventually get to Jaipur, and picked up our guide. His English was excellent and told very good stories. He was really into astrology and explained horoscopes and stars quite well. I’m going to have to look up astrology when I get home – because of its importance in many of the traditions here, such as weddings, building, auspicious signs, etc… Our guide was excellent at providing personal insight into these traditions, which definitely added to the overall understanding of what we were seeing.
With this guide, we went and saw the Jantar Mantar, which means ‘funny things’ in English. They are amazingly detailed contraptions that were used to study astrology long ago. It is currently still a 6 year university program, even though it is not believed by all. Their sundials were detailed enough to be exact to 20 seconds! It was amazing. They also had individual dials for each astrological sign that could help to determine the nature of people being born, when they should marry, who they should marry, what they are missing, what they need, etc. As I said, because he was really into the astrology thing, he gave excellent explanations!
We then visited the city palace – right next to the Jantar Mantar/Observatory. The palace is not going to be open tomorrow for the first time since independence (when the King of Jaipur was no more in power and the grounds were opened to the public), and the community is in uproar. Apparently, the ‘king’ gets a tax right-off because his estate is open for the pubic to see. However, because he is getting paid privately for this wedding tomorrow, and won’t have the palace open, the guide – among others – is going to complain about the injustice of him having the tax benefits! It was actually kind of cool to see the palace in the process of getting all ready for the wedding. There were hundreds of flowers being organized (although mom and Allison thought it looked more like a funeral than a wedding!), and carpets were being laid out in the courtyard. The most amazing thing for me is the architecture and the incredibly intricate designs everywhere. There were really beautiful brass doors as well.
On the way out we saw a snake charmer and got some excellent pictures. Apparently the snakes don’t actually respond to the music. It is something I have never really thought about before, so I don’t know much about it, and our guide wasn’t clear in explaining what the snake actually responds to when it moves like that, but it was quite cool either way!
We then went to two ‘commissioned’ shops that the guide wanted to take us to! It is a big deal here, but at least this guide was honest about saying that he got a portion of the sales, if there were any. And, actually, they weren’t nearly as pushy as some of the other places had been. We first went to a jewellery store where they had semi-precious stones and silver. There wasn’t really anything unique enough to make me excited at all. I should probably get something that is silver while I am here, because it is cheap workmanship and is typically well done. I’d have to find something quite interesting, however. The second shop was another textile/carpet shop. Here, however they showed us how they did their block printing and we actually got a free hand-stamped elephant! It was the most exciting because it was free!! He eventually wanted a tip, but we only gave 10 Rs for all four of us…which in a way makes me sad…but when they are so pushy all of the time, it gets to you anyway! It is tough no matter which way you look at it. None of us bought anything at the store, which was also nice – less stress and decision making!
I went to bed instead of going out for dinner, and it was absolutely wonderful! A good Neocitron later, I pretty much had the best sleep since I came to India.

-AJ

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