(The Queen’s Step-well (Rani-Ni-Wav) , near Patan in Gujarat, an astounding construction of an exquisitely ornamented step-well dates back to the 11th century A.D.)
The queen is in the well and long live the king. The queen would amble down the stepwell softly on her dainty feet. She would bathe in the well below while the sculpted gods and goddesses on the walls gawked .
They were leaning down to their own images in the waters below. Some day she would be one of them.
There are women in pink, off the umbrellas.I mean they are not in the umbrellas.
Because they are not royally dead. They wear their horn bangles on the arms. One of them is a bride, waiting to be veiled.
The women will dance for our beauty ,swirling like tops in their dark lehngas .They will make Bajra rotis on tongues of flame for their turbaned men.
(Desert safaris are organized here in Sam Village near Jaisalmer which include a camel ride and a night of food ,music and folk dances in the desert)
We managed to reach the dunes by sunset from Jaisalmer . The camels there offered rides but we politely refused. We did not want to offend them.
The camels looked their comic best against the orange of a sun.Their humps were too full with the stored oasis water .Their hoof-prints on the sands were smug.
Actually they do not care. Their masters sit on their backs who take care of the financial aspect of camel rides. So they put on their comical best.
Bada bagh , royal cenotaphs in Jaisalmer
The Big garden is a garden of cenotaphs . Golden yellow stone cenotaphs rise gloriously to the November sky as if they are flower trees.
Alongside are stately wind mills with their sullen faces , unhappy with the depressing wind. Surely they cannot be blamed for their low power output.
The rich green bramble by the cenotaph thinks it controls the wind. Accordingly it pretends to make appropriate movements over the stone cenotaphs but the royal dead in cenotaphs do not acknowledge them. They may like to say off with the bush, imperiously.
Kuldhara is a cursed village.The residents had left the village overnight and disappeared into the endless wastes of the desert. Ghosts now roam it’s broken streets.
The stones were all there ,in piles,where there had been houses.Even the stones are cursed.Those who build their houses with these stones will bear their curse.
A heap of stones
Stones make a house in the desert against sun , the cold and the rains,marauding tribes on angry horses.
Stones are not houses against time,against the night when time leaves a village a heap of stones ,a rubble.
(Kuldhara is a ghost village near Jaisalmer abandoned overnight, in 19th century, by its residents to escape the tyranny of a ruling Minister who threatened to take the Chief’s daughter by force)
A folk musician sitting in the premises of the Jaswant Tada , a cenotaph in Jodhpur
In the kings palace is the man who plays his music by his mournful stringle . His bow on it is a triangle. He is the lonely single stringed man. The bow is such tautly strung. He sits on the graveled path in the palaces of the dead.
He makes a lonely music by it in the erstwhile king’s palace. The erstwhile king stays all the while in the cold house.
Still he is a lonely single stringed man playing by stringle for a single .
(Stringle is a single stringed musical instrument)
Umbrellas for the dead
(Bada Bagh in Jaisalmer where these beautiful cenotaphs are found rising against a bleak landscape)
In the Big garden lie so many umbrellas for the dead. The dead live under their stone umbrellas against a scorching desert sun.
The dead are royal and are nevertheless dead. The umbrellas are finely carved for them.And the sculptors are dead too. They do not live under umbrellas.In fact they do not live at all.
Sons of kings
Below the umbrellas for the dead are empty silences by the sons of kings . The sons no longer have their swords drawn on their fine dressed up bodies .Their king’s pride is all moist with the morning dew. Their swords are rusted by time.
Their women have jumped into their fires. They now live cheek by jowl with the husbands under the umbrellas .They have their own stone umbrellas.In view of the changed circumstances they need no longer cover their heads in modesty.
Women in folk songs
(We had a lovely evening at the Desert Boys Dani, a garden restaurant that serves good Rajasthani food topped with exquisite dance and music by Rajasthani folk artists)
Women sit in groups on the stone umbrellas waiting to sing popular folk songs. They are in colourful polyester sarees , their arms covered by horn bangles .They are folksy women often found in Rajasthani folk songs.
They are waiting to sing and dance for the audience.But there is nobody to listen to their music under the umbrellas.
The Apple trees stand on the edges of the hills ,bare naked and dancing. They will sprout leaves, flowers,fruit by June till Oct.
The peaches have only young leaves and pink flowers. It will be two or three months before there will be fruit .
The women have Apple cheeks. They have baskets on their backs fresh with grass. When it is Apple time their backs shall have red ripe apples.
For now we have two pretty girls near fruits engaged in conversation.They were not camera shy.