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rglongpre’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 19 Jan 2008

Location: Ranakpur and Rohet, India

MapUp early for breakfast before we left for Ranakpur where we were to see the Jain Temple. En route we stopped a number of times for photos. We finally got to visit government public schools. It was very evident that the students were very poor. In the small elementary school that was at the bottom of a small hill in the school grounds, the primary students said their morning prayers as we arrived for the start of their school day at 10:30. The students go for two terms, each lasting for six months with the summer term the day starts at seven in the morning. The summer term starts in April. The students got to sit on the floor, no desks. A few students had small slates for writing on. It was sad that we didn’t have any pencils or other school materials to give to the students. We had never planned on being able to visit a school while in India, so we didn’t come prepared for it.

We got to see road construction through mountains and saw workers using the most basic kinds of tools for some of the tasks. Women had wok-like bowls which they filled with roadside dust and rubble which they used to fill potholes – it just was beyond belief. The villages and hovels we passed spoke of poverty we could never have imagined. Because of the constant drought and dust, we noticed that the clothing the people wore were dull in colour and often made of a coarser material, a warmer material. As we neared Ranakpur, we entered mountainous monkey country, and saw black-faced monkeys along the roadside sitting on curbs that edged the road from the valley below.

The Ranakpur Jain Temple was a fairly large temple, the largest we have yet seen. There were also a few minor temples on the site that we visited before we went into the main temple. Of course I took too many photos as usual. I will add commentary to the photos on the blog site rather than here as there was just too much. The temple is a live temple in that it is used daily for prayer. A number of the Hindu visitors wore white much like what Gandhi had worn. When we finished visiting the temple, we toured some of the grounds and went up a hill where I got a few good full shots of the temple. On the hill were a fair-sized troupe of monkeys that sat still long enough for photos.

Finished at the temple we drove a couple of kilometres where we had a good, but expensive lunch – way too much food! The drive to Rohet, a town of three thousand, took another three hours. During the drive, Sachin told us the three important things needed for driving in India – good brakes, a good horn and good luck! Maureen had asked about it being dry in India and he misunderstood and began talking about driving in India. The hotel in Rohet is the home of the Maharaja who ruled the town and twelve surrounding villages since 1622. We checked into the hotel, dumped our stuff off in our room and headed directly out for our jeep safari.

Set in the dry desert scrub of Acacia trees and other sparse vegetation we were able to see antelope with long spiral antlers as well as another animal that seemed like a desert animal that is large like a moose and has horse-like features with the face that is a bit like a cow with the male having very small the antlers. This animal is called a glugus (spelling check later). We also saw wild peacocks.

Our first home stop was at a Bishnoi family cluster where father and mother with their married sons and their wives and all the grandchildren lived together in little round huts made with mud and dung. The roofs were made of straw-like material. There was one hut set aside for the man to live in when she had her menstrual flow and for a month after they had their baby as they weren’t allowed “relations” with their mate during this time. This people of this caste are caretakers of the land and are vegetarians. They also don’t cut down live trees. Apparently there are about twenty such family groups living in this part of Rajasthan.

The second home we visited was in a village, a Brahmin village, the highest caste in India. Regardless of the caste, they don’t live a high class life. They too are poor. We saw how they made a flat, thin cheese round which is used in soups for their source of protein as they are vegetarians. At the end of our tour in the Brahmin village, we attended an opium ceremony (opium clear drink – 10% opium and the rest water). Apparently they use opium to allow them to endure the tough almost desert life, a hard life. We returned to the hotel just as darkness settled. Tomorrow we are off to Jaisalmer, a long drive that will take us through desert country.