Pali: It’s a beautiful life in rural Rajasthan

Wedged in between Jodhpur and Udaipur, Pali is easily accessible but still enough off the beaten track to really experience life away from the big smoke.


Wedged in between Jodhpur and Udaipur, Pali is easily accessible but still enough off the beaten track to really experience life away from the big smoke.

Living in a city like Mumbai can really take its toll, especially with the high levels of pollution and congestion. So when a friend and I were given the opportunity to spend some time in Pali, in rural Rajasthan, I jumped at the chance. It was time for me to explore that unexplored part of Rajasthan, the farms and villages where life had been self-sustaining for centuries.

Wedged in between Jodhpur and Udaipur, Pali is easily accessible but still enough off the beaten track to really experience life away from the big smoke. My home in Pali was on a small farmhouse that had been converted into a home-stay by Culture Aangan, a company that focuses on promoting rural development through tourism, and encouraging the local community to retain their traditional ways, rather than seeking greener pastures in urban areas. Sustainable tourism is their motto, but it is really more of a way of life, teaching the local villagers how to continue developing without losing the essence of their culture or adversely impacting the environment.

Our host Pushpendra picked us up from the small station and took us to his home. From a traditional Rajput family, Pushpendra is a gifted horseman and offered to take us out for a morning ride. Whilst I must confess my horse-riding skills are not the best, the experience of seeing the local village on horseback was just lovely. Sitting above the world on this magnificent beast, I watched the small, sleepy town wake up – children in crisp school uniforms were heading to class, a local herdsman was taking a nap underneath his bright red turban, and a young girl headed into the main street with the sunlight streaming against her back.

As we headed back to our farmhouse we passed a young woman who was helping harvest mustard seeds. Whilst she was working hard in the sun, she still managed to make her task look effortless. We sat and watched for a while; it never ceases to amaze me how much we take for granted in the bigger towns. It is so easy to forget that those mustard seeds I use everyday, actually originated from a field of brilliant yellow flowers. This is real life, away from a computer and all the noise of the city, this is the way life has always been.

One tradition that has been ongoing for generations is the morning meeting between the local camel herders. This delightful group of men sit down to chill over some opium each morning before they head out to tend to their herd. It is an age-old tradition, and one they are happy to share. What I loved most about this experience was watching the camaraderie between the men, whilst they each did such an isolated job, the sense of community amongst them was apparent. Of course as we were outside visitors, along came the children, and soon we were surrounded. One of the simplest joys for me as a traveller, is being able to take photos of children and watch their eyes grow huge with excitement when they see their own reflection in my camera. The children laughed and giggled; their happiness, innocent and honest.

While I enjoyed the camel herders meet, the highlight of the visit for me was being able to see some of the local arts and crafts. What fascinated me was just how diverse the different art forms were in the region and the incredible workmanship that goes into each piece. In the village of Harji, vibrant terracotta horses are created, each with delicate features that have been carefully moulded and painted. These are purchased by local families and offered at the nearby temple in worship. Behind the temple are hundreds of these statues, all lined up and almost guarding over the temple.

Nearby, another artisan spent hours carving intricate patterns into the steel doors that adorn temples across India. However, the most surprising find was a sculptor called Pankaj Gehlot, who created modern works of art out of marble. His collection would have been at home in any major contemporary gallery in the world, and here it was in the middle of the desert in Rajasthan. It is was an important reminder for me that just because a place is rural, does not mean it is not progressive. Here, the environment is more inspiring, so it isn’t really surprising that creativity is able to flourish.

Of course, there was also the obligatory evening of folk singing and dancing, which was just so much fun. Some men from the local village came to play for us, whilst we just sat back and relax. One uncle stole the show by giving us his version of beat boxing; it was hysterical! Some of the best characters in India are truly hidden in the villages.

But it isn’t all song and dance; one of the sad things we observed in our travels was the plight of the snake charmers. Their ancient art has been outlawed to protect the animals, but no effort has been made to retain or help the charmers who had lost their livelihood. As a consequence, many were now nomadic, travelling from village to village to beg and seek charity. There was a small camp set up near our home-stay, where a family was relying on the kindness of strangers for subsistence. Thankfully, the community spirit was there to save them where the government had failed. However, it was impossible to dampen our spirits for long – this environment was just so invigorating!

Waking up to a spectacular sunrise over the wheat fields, I felt rather sad at the thought of heading back to Mumbai after my short break in the village. It wasn’t just the fresh air and beautiful vista that I would miss, but also the values and sense of community that exists in the small village. Whilst urban life has its advantages, we seem to be losing the benefits of communal society and the simple and welcoming ways of our rural cousins. It just gives me more reason to go back again soon and spend more time in the village.

Facts

When to Go?
The best time to visit Pali is during the winter months from October to March, when the weather is dry and the temperature is cooler.

How to Get There?
The farm-stay can be reached easily by train from Mumbai or Delhi, where you will be picked up at the station by your host family. You can also fly to either Jodhpur or Udaipur, which are both about a 2 hour drive from the farm-stay.

More Information?
You can find more information on the Culture Aangan website or email them at info@cultureaangan.com


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rakhee Ghelani is a natural traveller — taking her first overseas trip at the age of 6 months — she has visited 48 countries in the world and still has plenty more on her bucket list. She abandoned a successful corporate career in Australia to backpack across India in 2011 and now calls Mumbai home. She is a travel blogger, writer and business consultant who likes to spend her spare time plann... more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rakhee Ghelani is a natural traveller — taking her first overseas trip at the age of 6 months — she has visited 48 countries in the world and still has plenty more on her bucket list. She abandoned a successful corporate career in Australia to backpack across India in 2011 and now calls Mumbai home. She is a travel blogger, writer and business consultant who likes to spend her spare time plann... more

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