Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chittor suicides and floating bodies

continuing the Rajasthani trail southwards.......

In the early morning of day 3 in Kota, we took the train to Chittaurgarh (or otherwise known as Chittor). We had a real nice ride as the sun was shining and we rolled into different landscapes. Dry riverbanks, cutting ravines, small flows, green rice fields and yellow lands. As with every Indian train, the doors could be opened at will and some people sat down there to enjoy the view and fresh air better instead of looking through the bars of the window seats. We did the same, squatting down and looking out past all the horizons and take in new views. We did come through Bundi again, as well as the waterfall, so that was not new. If only we had known the route....

Chittor has the largest fort of Rajasthan (perhaps of Asia?) with its 28 square kilometer size on a mountain plateau with walls going all way around. Founded around 800 AD, the medieval history of the place and its Rajput inhabitants is quite grim. In the space 200 years the fort was 3 times surrounded and won over by greater armies. First the Pathans (the old Afghan rulers), then the Shah sultan of Gujarat and lastly the mughal emperor Akbar. It's believed that at least 50.000 Rajputs got killed in the combined attacks, if not more. Not just by the invaders, but more so by suicide which is called 'jauhir'. This Rajput style of suicide involved the last thousands of men riding out to an impossible battle and fight till death, while thousands of women and children would throw themselves alive into a huge funeral fire, not to fall into the hands of the enemy. How's that for hardcore sacrificial dedication.

We rented bicycles and it felt great to drive around, peddling our lazy asses for the first time since we had left Holland. Also we were freed from taking taxi rickshaw's, so that we now could explore a town quicker and with more fun added to it. The bikes were heavy though, made of iron and old fashioned parts. In a hilly town, where the fort lies 2 km's up a steep climb, it surely makes you work to get moving. On the first day we only reached the 3rd of the 7 gates while everyone passed us with vehicles that left nice thick fumes. If you're gasping for air, clinging to the steer of a heavy bike, you don't really want to inhale polluted air. Yuck. It literally made us nauseous. 2 Indian teenager girls on foot gave us a strange look, these tourists trying to go up by heavy bike. Perhaps it had impressed them as when they caught up while we were catching our breath, they openly started flirting with us in a way that the normally prudent Indian girls don't do. We got there a bit too late as it was past 17ish and the fort would close soon, so we had to come back. When we were cycling the next day, we passed the bridge over a dammed lake and saw a body floating. At first we thought it was a puppet, cos it looked like one. Puppets though, are not wrapped in shrouds or have fish around them, eating little bits of it/him/her. Just a minute after that we saw a funeral crowd with several men carrying a straw bed with laying on it an elderly man. Such is life, or the end of it.

We started climbing the steep road again up to the fort and this time I managed to get to the 5th gate out of 7. Again with the same result of nausea by fumes and trembling muscles. Maarten was more wise to step off before me. Once inside the fort, we cycled around, getting jeers from many Indian tourists who laughed at the cycling foreigners. We saw some palaces and many temples inside out, but not even all as the compound was 28 square km's and we didn't have enough time for it as we had to catch a train to Udaipur in the early afternoon. At a nice carved tower and surrounding temple gardens, local people were selling fried corn that could be fed to cheeky monkeys that were waiting for you to give it. The Indians were doing it, so why not and so I fed some monkey and made them grasp it from my palm. I even shaked a monkeys hand to tease him, but not for long as it got angry at me and instead stole a whole packet. haha monkey 1, seb 0.
Chittor was a nice place to stroll around, a bit like Bundi but more impressive with the impressive fort. Those who love forts and bloodshed history should never miss it.

In the evening we took the train to Udaipur -the lake and palace city-. In the dark, a train ride quickly becomes boring as the diverse landscapes flash by and are unseen and hidden away by black skies except for some moonshine and clear stars. At a certain station the train stopped for a while and I went out to get us some chai. As soon as I had purchased 2 steaming hot cups, while the heat was burning my fingers through the thin plastic, the train whistled that it would leave and no sooner than that it started to roll. 200 meters away from my compartment, I started running towards the moving train while chai poured over my hands like livid lava. *ah forget it*, so I threw the chai down on the platform and other folks were running with me with their smarter and colder wares. I followed Maarten's shouts in the near distance and managed to jump into the open doorway of the train easily enough. Pure boyish excitement at 30 kmph!
Upon arrival in Udaipur station, everyone was crossing the platforms by jumping on the tracks en masse. Who cares to follow annyoing staircases anyway, with luggage to pull up with you? A big group of 20-something gyspy women and children were pulling themselves up to the platform with overloaded bags, cloths and whatnot. I helped pulling a little kid up and when he saw it was a white gora that was elevating him, he got kinda scared. The mother other females were laughing their heads off, baring their golden teeth in grins of unbelief and cheekiness. Ofcourse they took the chance to ask me for money, cookies and so on. It never hurts to ask, is the every day motto here that you encounter. At least it's earnest.

Video's and sounds shall be uploaded soon enough. -Right now we're in Jodhpur and we might be quite busy recording sessions the next few days-
A more detailed account on our 5 days in Udaipur will follow, as this time we DID manage to record some genuine folk sounds and dance scenes! :)

Ok, some photo's of Kota and train to Chittor

Kota life.....

Indians just love photoshop. In Kota, the electricity plant chimneys of the are somewhat of an attraction.

breakfast in Kota, newpaper style

from the train to Chittor

No comments: