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Shiva copyWe have a slightly later start today and meet Rattan, our driver, after breakfast at 9.30. We have already decided to have a morning off sightseeing and ask Rattan to come back at 1pm with a guide. The idea is to visit Eklinji and Nagdar. Eklinji is an active temple, Nagdar is a very old ruined temple no longer in use. This gives us a free morning to catch up on diaries and laze about on the gardens overlooking the lake.

Rattan arrives just after noon with Madan, our guide. Madan is a young guy, no older than us I think, and is easy to get on with. The drive to Eklinji is approx. 25kms, half an hour, into the hills. Since today is election day most/all shops will be closed and the traffic is much less frantic. Into the hills we pass a number of small villages and then get to Eklinji. On the way a woman tries to catch my attention and shouts “Hallo Papa!” which we all find funny. The temple is in the middle of a small village, or maybe it’s the village that has grown up around the temple. There are a few hawkers, very few now, and rows of little shops on either side of the street. Unfortunately we’re not allowed to take our camera in, so these notes will have to do.

The Maharana of Mewar, to whom the temple belongs, still visits the temple every Monday for perform his rituals, so we hope to see him today if we’re lucky. The temple complex is accessed via a gate, beyond which we have to leave our shoes. The passageway into the heart of the complex is lined with a row of local women selling flower garlands and other things which serve as offerings. Through a second gate into a square which is packed on every side with lots and lots of little shrines (well, temples) in varying sizes. A large one stands in the middle, with several “middle” sized ones dotted around it here and there.

There are a few people about, not a single tourist, only Indians, making their way into the large temple. We’re in luck with the timing. The Maharana is on his way and should be here any minute. Inside the temple is as ornately carved with figures as on the outside. We first walk round to the front (“altar”) where two attendants are collecting the offerings. We offer the flower garlands bought earlier. Madan as a good Hindu adds some coconut and something else to it, for good measure. Then we join the crowd which is building up in the centre of the temple. Ness has to sit down at the front with the women, while I stand at the back with Madan among the men.

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Ness with Patel (caste) women at Eklinji
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The island palace
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Bang lassi, cheers!

Then the Maharana’s son and attendants arrived and pass behind the silver screen to start preparing the rituals. The Maharana himself is already at the back, having entered from somewhere else. First he waves some things around, then the curtain concealing the god, i.e. a statue is the actual god, is drawn back and two men at the front start ringing two bells in a quick “bong bong”. The crowd starts chanting. Whilst there is no discernible mantra and everyone sings their own mantra, there is no cacophony and it sounds melodic in a monotonous sort of way. People are craning their necks to get a glimpse of the god in order to benefit from the reflection of the divine that shines from it. The Maharana, accompanied by the chanting and bell ringing, goes about his business waving things around and doing who knows what. This goes on for some time. Then the ringing and chanting stops, the curtain remains open for a bit longer, closes, and people start drifting off or go round to get a closer look at the god. Madan tells us to wait where are so we get a good view of the Maharana as he leaves. People start greeting him with bowed heads and palms pressed together for a greeting of namaste or something else. We do likewise and get a glimpse from the Maharana, a clear reaction on his fierce-looking face shows he has seen us, some western tourists, greeting him in the same fashion, which Madan says is very good news.

We then do a tour of the rest of the complex. We observe the Maharana up to his rituals again in three small shrines (Ganesh, Kali and Shiva). The little curtain closes when he makes an offering but then re-opens again soon. I’m given a small white flower in return for an offering at the temple (main one or mini one, can’t remember now).

Outside the temple we buy some water and a few pictures of the temple, clearly taken from a building overlooking the complex. The picture of the god is actually taken from a poster depicting him!

I take a few pictures of the street outside the temple and one of Ness with some Patel women, from the caste of milkmaids. Then we drive back in the direction of Udaipur, towards the temple ruins of Nagdar, a short distance down the road. Compared to the “live” temple, these ruins are rather boring. Madan explains the meaning of various elements of the temples and their history. I think he is surprised that we aren’t taking more pictures – of what, old stones? Another two or three visitors arrive but otherwise the place is deserted. Not even a hawker in sight!

Then we drive into town for a quick visit to a palace garden. Again not all that much to write about though very pretty and all that. Then it’s onwards to the City Palace for a boat ride on lake Pichola and visit Jagmandir, where Shahjahan lived for a while.

By this stage we have developed a bit of a rapport with Madan and he is beginning to realise that we’re not the usual type of tourist he gets. When I say I like lassi, he asks whether I’ve ever had a “bang lassi”. This leads to an agreement to try and locate some. Basically it’s a lassi mixed with a big chunk of marijuana (the effects of which I’m noticing as I write this in our hotel room at the end of the day!)

He drops us of at the waiting lounge for the boat ride. After only a short wait while Madan is getting tickets, we join the boat. The tour goes round the lake and towards Jagmandir, an island palace (or palace island?) We walk round for a bit and then have a lime soda overlooking the lake, wondering what this place must be like on a starlit romantic evening or with a big swanky reception.

Back at the car we meet Madan and Rattan and head to the hotel, i.e. into town first. Bang lassi couldn’t be had earlier due to the election restrictions, but now we may get luckier. Madan also suggests some dal bhati churma at one of the local joints. He has realised what we’re after. Some couleur locale at first hand! We’re the “talk of the town” in the little joint, and have a great dal with some poppadums and sweets. It’s a wonderful little place, full of character. I want to take a picture of the three of us but they all seem afraid of the camera, not having a clue how to operate it. Madan manages to persuade one of them to try it. Let’s hope it comes out!

Then we have a chance to try some bang lassi. Rattan has bought some earlier. In a little lassi stall we sit at the back and have a lassi, mine spiked with the bang, Ness abstaining, probably a sensible move. We’re on friends terms with Madan now and he says that he has finally begun to realise what we really like. A few pictures are taken of the place, including of a few small smiling boys [Note: must remember to send them the pictures] who were asking Ness to take their picture. We’re all in a great relaxed and smiling mood. I can’t feel any effect from the bang yet. Rattan and Madan drop us at the hotel, among general cheerfulness. We all seem to be looking forward to seeing each other again tomorrow at 9.30 to visit Ranakpur, a full day trip. For now we settle in our room, polish off the remaining bottle of Kingfisher and update our diaries, as I gradually start to feel a bit high and tingly all over. Yippee, a fantastic day!