Saturday, 4 April 2009

Deshnok and Bikaner

After managing just 3 hours sleep or so on the train from Jaisalmer to Bikaner, we succeeded in storing our bags in a cloakroom at the station so that we could explore. We arrived in time to buy tickets to travel from Bikaner to Deshnok, where the famous Karni Mata (Rat Temple) is situated. We arrived there at 5.30, before dawn, when it was still dark and it was great to see lights around the temple building and the glows from the surrounding market stalls. Before entering the Rat Temple we had to respect Hinduism and take off our shoes as well as going through a security check. Entering inside, we saw a huge bowl of milk left out for the rats and many were gathered around the edge of the bowl drinking. An extra special atmosphere was created by two people rhythmically banging drums, and by the fires lit for the busy morning puja (Hindu prayers), but being able to watch more people cooking things (presumably food for the rats) whilst the rats were scurrying around them was spectacular! The intense, hypnotic pounding of those three drums, together with the ritual fire, created a dramatic and fervently spiritual atmosphere. Take a look at if you would like to find out more about this unique temple.
We were starving when we left the temple so we went and ate a typical Indian snack made from chillies stuffed with spiced potato, all fried in batter. I could taste a lot of cumin seeds, and thinking about it, I haven’t had anything so spicy as that so early in the morning before. In Hindi, Mirchi means chilli.
We then hopped on a bus back to Bikaner, 31km away. When we arrived the first thing we did, as you have all probably guessed by now, was to track down a lassi. It was difficult to find a place that didn’t look infested with germs, but we found one! The lassi was good, but another lassi we had later was even better. However, none of the lassis matched the sheer quality of the Makhania lassis that we had in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer.
Bikaner as a place hasn’t been number one, actually, because the city doesn’t have anything to see besides a nice looking fort, unless you are into heavy traffic and shabby looking shops and markets. We had a look all around but we find ourselves back on Station Road having curry as we speak now. The curry here is amazing! Jon reckons it’s the best curry he has had in India so far or, at least, it’s close. But at least it’s a real and honest city: as we are typing, watching the street chef cook his papadums over an open flame on the pavement, camels glide majestically by, pulling carts driven by their owners. Suddenly our afternoon here in the dusty and windy town of Bikaner took an unexpected and tasty turn: we passed a massive sweets and dessert emporium, and no sooner than Simon had tried to make it past the beckoning open doorway, was Jon already inside, placing a hearty order for tempting sponge balls in syrup and sugary coatings. Luckily, should any dental mishap have presented itself at this particular juncture, we spied Dr. Sanchdev’s Dental Practice immediately opposite the Chapan Bhog sweet shop.
Although we’re tired, there is an amazing sense of expectation. Tomorrow we are to visit the Taj Mahal.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I have a fascination for the Hindu culture, so different from ours. I have always enjoyed teaching it, but from a very uneducated point of view. What a privilege to visit all these places.I have only had curry once for breakfast; I think I mentioned this before you went and actually I enjoyed it very much! Looking forward to trying a lassi.
    Take care.
    Much love.
    Sunshine Suzi! xxxx