I could have entitled this post “From the Devine to the Comical (Camical) to the Ridiculous.”
We began our full day in Bikaner with a mid morning visit to Junagarh (“Old Fort”) complex. It is a huge combination of fortifications (walls, moats, etc.) and many various palaces and courtyards. It has been beautifully restored and is made primarily of the red sandstone that is so prevalent here. I haven’t included any photos of the exterior structures because photos just don’t do it justice. Well, my photos don’t do it justice anyway.
The palaces have incredible sandlewood ceilings each different from the other with layer upon layer of detailed painting, glasswork and inlaid gems. There are halls full of armaments of various sorts; many of the cutting, bashing and stabbing variety to which I have a particular aversion. But weapons requiring gun powder are also well represented. One rifle on display was made by Holland and Holland back in the day and is over three meters long. Needless to say this was not a rifle one fired from the back of a galloping camel.
And, speaking of camels, our post lunch excursion was to the camel research facility located very near Bikaner. The first camel that we saw was abreast big bruiser all decked out in an elaborate macrame dress. I was so taken with its attire that I didn’t bother to scrutinize its undercarriage. I queried out loud, “I wonder what sex it is?” At least two people gasped in astonishment at my poor observational skills and suggested I glance at its rear quarters. OH, MY GOODNESS!! It’s either a very big boy or its cargo of coconuts has slipped down between his hind legs.
Four breeds are represented at the research center: The Bikaneri, Jaisalmeri, Mewari, and Kcwchhi (?). Some are big and strong, some are shorter (in length not height) and faster, some are better dancers (I’m not making this up) and some are better singers (okay, I did make up that last piece but I can’t remember the fourth breeds outstanding characteristic and camels do have a lovely deep rumbly bass voice).
We visited the camel nursery and got to see an adorable, white, four-day old baby. We also saw a pen full of youngish camels and they kind of reminded me of giraffes the way there would be multiple heads seemingly emerging from the same body.
The ridiculous part of our day came in the evening where we enjoyed an alfresco dinner and entertainment out on the lawn where the wedding had taken place the night before. The entertainment was a group of local musicians and dancers who sang folk songs and performed folk dances for us. The instruments were a 36-stringed instrument, a harmonium, a drum, and two or three people who played the clackers, two pieces of teak about 2.5 inches by 6 inches that were held in the hand and smacked together to make a vibrant castanet type sound.
Well, the musicians and dancers weren’t ridiculous but at the end of their performance the dancers come in to the audience and pull us all up to dance with them. Try to imagine it: A soft Rajasthani night sprinkled with stars and a half-moon, the twangy, exotic sound of the Indian band, the weird modulation of the singers’ voices, the sparkles flashing off of all the spangles, sequins and rhinestones of the dancers costumes and fifteen American and Canadians giving it their best shot at shimmying and shaking. Magical doesn’t begin to capture it. Luckily for you, no photos were taken.