3°C. Biting cold.
The Karni Mata Temple.
Shivering even after wearing multiple layers of thermals. It was around 9:45 PM when we reached the temple. We managed to enter the temple just before closing time.The Karni Mata Temple is the famous rat temple situated just on the outskirts of Bikaner. As is the custom in every temple, we had to remove our footwear and then enter the temple. The moment I kept my foot on the marbled ground, I froze. My feet wouldn’t move. I fought against my leg’s reluctance and with one giant push, I was inside the temple. Rats running everywhere, some praying to the goddess along with the humans who have entered their holy home. My mum though, was afraid to enter, as she thought that the rats would climb the wheelchair. She did not enter and prayed from outside. While coming back to our vehicle, my mother and I saw a white rat! We could not believe our eyes.(Seeing a white rat in this temple is considered to be auspicious) We didn’t expect the white rat to pose for a photo anyway. It was half past 10 when we came out post the prayers and staring in awe at the temple.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karni_Mata_Temple) . Lucky.
Travel after Fort.
Sorry, it was travel after toast.
The next morning, we had a debate. A debate on either to go directly to Jaisalmer ( the desert city ) or go to the Junagarh fort. The Junagarh fort was not in our itinerary. The fact that this fort has never been conquered throughout history made it a very compelling case for some of the family members to vouch for the fort. I, for once wanted to go and see the Thar as quickly as possible because I was going to a desert for the very first time in my life. My thought was vetoed and the fort beckoned. But, before we went inside the fort, we found ourselves at the museum displaying works of art from the city of Bikaner. The fort was barely a kilometer away from our hotel. Hence we left a little late ( make it 15 minutes from the time we left on the earlier days ). Futile.
Just outside the museum were these cannons, which have the tag “Do not touch”. Sadly, everyone touches because of the tag. The cannons got me wondering if they were actually used in war. Behind the cannons stand the majestic fort of Junagarh. The fort gates opened at 10 AM and we were the first in line as we wanted to complete the fort tour as soon as possible and head for Jaisalmer. Little did we know that this fort would be so complex inside that we ended up taking a guide and spending close to about two and half hours inside the fort. Time Consuming.
And so it began. The long walk up a ramp. The guides raced along to the top with the wheelchair with my mom screaming in nervous excitement , taking in mind that wheelchair don’t generally go at that speed. Not her’s at least. Post the ramp, we see open spaces and a small pedestal where the king celebrated some of the more important festivals.
To the right of the pedestal were stairways that lead to the audience chamber and the king’s entertainment chamber, if I need to simplify it. Besides that, there lie paintings pertinent the legends of Hindu folklore. In the middle of all the paintings ,is a room for worship which is closed. The guide told us that it has been closed for a while and the reason you ask? Apologies, I don’t remember the correct information as my brain is flooded with stuff related to not just a single fort but numerous ones around Rajasthan. Confused.
The artwork was just pleasing to the eye. The guide said “Yeh dekiye , itna acha hai, artwork” – “See this, such nice artwork” and I concurred. You can see the artwork in the pictures below. Picturesque.
Before I go into the detail of what else I saw, I need to tell you something which was very fascinating concept employed in the palace. The royal beds.
The bed, mainly the king’s and the more important queen’s is placed at about a foot height from the ground and is about a feet smaller as compared to the real height of the king or the queen. This way, when someone attacks them while they are sleeping or ties them, they can simply get up with the bed and keep their leg firmly on the ground. While, the lowly placement ensured that no killer can hide under the bed. Genius.
Nail beds, swords used in battle , knives, daggers are all exhibited in rooms more than one.
From the terraces on the far side of the palace, we can see a garden with a Shiva Idol (Ling/Linga – as we call it North/South India) . The guide mentioned that it is called the Shiv Garden. Apt.
One thing is for certain. We really have to stand and applaud the accessibility within the walls of Rajasthan’s forts. The fact that we could take the wheelchair literally everywhere (except for the rugged terrain ) is a testament to the positive work done by the staff who keep up the great thought that everyone has to see the fort. In fact people who need assistance can enter the fort and take the fort tour for free. Noble.
At around 12:30 PM, we were out of the fort and on our way to the desert. The desert camps called us. The camel became the most talked about animal. Sand was going to become a household item. Exciting. I really feel that people should take a look at this fort and more so, the temple. A breath of fresh air, a gem in the infinite list of incredible places to visit in this majestic country of ours.