The trip: We Planned this trip to Shekhawati region with friend Anirudh & his family. The first choice was to travel by public transport. Traveling by bus, with kids, for more than 5 hrs was vetoed. The train “Shekhawti Express” starts from Rewari at 1:05 am. It was an impractical option for someone starting from Delhi. The only option left was to drive from Noida to Nawalgarh. That was my first long drive.
We got the road map of Noida to Nawalgarh from the excellent site www.mapmyindia.com. The route was Noida – Delhi – Dhaula Kuan – Gurgaon – Rewari – Narnaul – Singhana – Chirawa – Jhunjhunu – Nawalgarh.
26th Jan 2007: After picking up Anirudh & his family from Delhi, we drove to get the petrol tank full. We stopped at an all women petrol pump station. Girls were enthusiastic and excited about their job. The festive mood was in the air. It was for the first time that I saw an all women petrol pump. It was pleasant to see the women entering in this field also.
Roads are “cream” on this route in all three states Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan. We bypassed Gurgaon and Rewari, after which there was very less traffic on the road. The drive on this route was rewarding. On both side of the road there was vast expanse of mustard fields. For miles and miles the Supreme painter, using the sweat of hardworking farmers as his brush, had painted the landscape in festive yellow color announcing the arrival of spring.
After driving for a while we stopped at a small teashop to have tea, and Idli cooked by Dhanshree (Anirudh’s wife). It was a pleasure to have home cooked breakfast. Nearby a small boy was giving bath to his horse. Gargi, my friend’s daughter, and Rachit laughed when they saw the horse rolling on the soil immediately after the bath and getting its original hue and color back.
When we were about to cross the Haryana border, we were forcibly stopped to pay 50 Rs for Red Cross society. A sticker was put on our car and we were asked to cough-up the money. We were given a receipt. When we tried to verify the authenticity of the number mentioned on the receipt, nobody picked the call. We were very agitated that how those people were misusing the name of Red Cross Society. The practical way to move ahead was to pay them. So we did and crossed the border.
We drove another 100 meters in Rajasthan; this time few policemen stopped our car. One of them gave us a card of “Flag day” and asked us to pay 50 Rs. We were furious and told him that some people hardly at a distance of around ½ Km in Haryana were also stopping illegally. He replied that he couldn’t help because that is Haryana. On our continuous objection he said that Pay 20 Rs and go. How shameful? Would there be any day when my country will be devoid of corruption?
After about 4-5 hours of driving we passed through Singhana. Till 2000(when my parents were in Khetrinagar), on every alternate Friday, my routine was – to rush to Dhaulakuan after office, to catch the bus going to Shekhawati (Sikar, Jhunjhunu), get down at Singhana around 11:30-12:00 pm and to walk for around 1-1.5 Km to Khetrinagar. Singhana evoked the similar feeling, feeling of being close to home. Beauty of small towns is that the life there changes at very slow pace.
After Singhana we passed Chirawa. Chirawa is famous for its “pede”. We didn’t forget to have them and their taste made everyone asking for more. There are many shops selling “Chirawa ke famous Pede”. The best among these is the one of Lalchand Halwai and that of Kasu Halwai. This place also has the distinction of being the birthplace of Famous wrestling coach Guru Hanuman.
We stopped in Jhunjhunu for our lunch. Jhunjhunu is famous for “Rani Sati mandir”. It is reputedly the richest temple in India after Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. It receives hundreds of pilgrims and big donations each year. I had been to this temple as tourist but did not like it much. There is not much to see and appreciate for a tourist. “Sati” always reminds me of Rajah Ram Mohan Roy. He was a real hero for getting the barbaric ritual of “Sati” banned.
As we were approaching Nawalgarh vast expanse of mustard field was replaced by the semi-arid landscape.
We could see miles of yellow desert and “Khejri scrub”.
Kids were sitting in the car for quite a long. The charm of playing in the sand made them impatient. So we stopped and let the kids play in the sand.
We had to reach at DS bungalow, our accommodation, which was at one end of the Nawalgarh, but we missed and entered Nawalgarh through another end. So we had to cross the whole town of Nawalgarh sharing the narrow crowded lanes with donkey driven carts.
At DS Bungalow, Hanumanji welcomed us in this unique way. The way GOD mingles with fellow human beings is one of the good things of Hinduism.
DS Bungalow: It had a friendly atmosphere. Rooms were clean with attached bathroom, clean bed sheets, hot water and a tastefully decorated dining area. One room’s cost was 450 Rs per night. This was a value for money kind of accommodation.
Contact number of DS Bungalow is 0159-7422703.
DS Bungalow at night.
They have few rooms and there is a sandy farm behind it. The owner “Babliji” is planning to add few rooms around the farm too. Staying in DS Bungalow was like staying at home.
A word of caution: Don’t take your meal at DS bungalow. There is no menu card. In our greed for home cooked food, we avoided asking for the price and in the end paid exorbitant price (price comparable to any expensive restaurant in Noida) for the food. Food at Natraj hotel in the town was equally good, and was much cheaper – Rs 30 for a wholesome thali.
Those looking for luxurious accommodation in Nawalgarh should stay at Roopniwas Hotel. It is adjacent to D.S Bungalow. I am putting it in wrong order. D.S Bungalow is adjacent to Roopniwas Hotel. It is better this way :)
Nostalgia-. I spent 27 beautiful years of my life in Shekhawati region. A trip to this region was bound to make me nostalgic. I was brought up in Khetrinagar, a township created for the employees of Khetri’s famous copper mines. It’s a place very near to Pilani and as I wrote earlier in-fact only 1 Km from Singhana. The beauty of growing in townships is their Pan-Indian culture. People of all states and religion live together like a family. We celebrated Sankranti, Lohiri, Gudipada, Pongal, Durga-Puja, Holi, Deepawali, Teej, Gangaur, Id and Christmas with equal enthusiasm.
Thinking about it reminds me of my friends, my teachers, my neighbors, big playgrounds, and serious discussions with friends even at midnights in the grounds. The open-air cinema, many national level tournaments, even a Ranji match between Vidharbha and Rajasthan, our struggle to make our careers, the serious love affairs my friends were in, and the fact that one can recognize almost everyone by their faces. One thing also I love about it is the fact that even being a small place, many of us were able to make a very promising career. This Ghumakkari bug also bit me there. I traveled exhaustively with my parents across India. Surprisingly, I was not aware of the treasure of open-air art gallery of Shekhawati region in such vicinity.
Khetri Fort: Khetri is around 10 Km away from KhetriNagar. It is famous for its delicious pickles. A few times I have visited the fort of Khetri called BHOPALGARH fort. My father told me that it’s been designed in a manner that it resembles Indian map. I never found a place from where I can get the complete view of the fort. The fort is in dilapidated state. There are so many heritage buildings that ASI cannot take care of all. So we have to wait till somebody converts it into another Neemrana and then we will make the effort to go to this remote town.
Khetri’s role in History: Khetri has a special, lesser known, role in our history.
Jawahar Lal Nehru’s father Motilal Nehru spent his childhood here. His elder brother Nandlal Nehru was Deewan (Prime minister) of Khetri.
It was Maharajah Ajit Singh of Khetri who gave Narendra the name “Swami Vivekanand”. Maharajah of Khetri was among his few close friends who funded his trip to Chicago’s World Spiritual conference.
It was here only that Swami Vivekanand refused to listen to singing of a Nautch girl. The girl was very disappointed by it and sang a melodious devotional “Meera Bai’s Bhajan”. It forced Swami Vivekanand to the place where she was singing and he realized that for GOD every life is precious and pious.
Pilani: Another place about which I am nostalgic is Pilani. Birla science museum in Pilani is a MUST visit. It is a small science museum still a good place to spend around 3-4 hrs. Its very well kept and maintained. My father used to tell us in detail about various types of mechanical engines. And like in all Science Museums the best part is fun section. There is a small replica of “Coal mines”. In the gardens near Museum there is a Sun clock. As a kid I always marveled at the precision with which one can measure time from Sun’s position.
Panchawati: This is another beautiful place to have picnic in Pilani. One starts his journey from Valmiki ashram, follows Ram in Shabri’s kutia, visiting Ahilya bai. Bahrat-Milap, Sita lured by golden deer, meeting with Hanuman, Bali’s “Wadh”. It is a small park depicting the life of Ram in Panchavati with beautiful statues.I saw a Kangaroo here when I was a kid and till date that was the only time I had seen a Kangaroo. That Kangaroo was gifted to Birlas by Australian government.
Birla Haveli: It’s a huge mansion built by Ghanshyam Das Birla. His father SN Birla wanted him to diversify from their traditional business of lending money. He left Pilani with modest capital to start business in cotton dealership. His venture was successful and he returned and built this mansion. Only outer courtyard of this Haveli is open for tourists. It’s a traditional Rajasthani Haveli with large doors, elephants painted on walls and statues of Chowkidars in sitting position at the entrance. Inside clothes worn by Birla family are also in display. GD Birla was a nationalist and a great visionary. India’s one of the best technical educational institute BITS Pilani was his vision.
Saraswati Temple: The Birla Mandirs are mostly used to shoot movies and songs. They never have an aura of devotion around them. But Saraswati temple in BITS campus is an exception. It is calm and serene and we always felt so peaceful there.
A digression: A mere mention of Coalmines remind me of a very captivating French epic movie – “Germinal”. “Germinal” is a very well made movie and its scenes remain etched for long. I had seen this movie in French, a language which sounds like music to your ears, with English sub-titles. Germinal is based on Emile Zola’s novel by the same name. The movie portrays harsh and realistic story of coalminers’ lives and subsequent strike in northern France in the 1860s. A must see movie.
To be continued …