Rajasthan ‘The land of the Rajas’ has always held my fascination since childhood with history lessons in school abound with legends of Rajput bravery and courage, their most stubborn and heroic resistance against the Mughal conquest. Tales of Prithviraj Chauhan, Maharana Pratap, Rana Sanga and many others like them left a lasting imprint and fascination on me. Decades later I took my first road trip to Rajputana – the land of the Rajputs (as it was earlier known) in 2005 but had to return back from Jaipur due to exigencies. It was many years later that I was finally able to plan a trip again in 2012. The 6 day sojourn was localised mainly around the east and South-Central part of Rajasthan stretching from Delhi to Amer and Jaipur in the Dhundar region and further south to Chittorgarh and Udaipur in the Mewar region of the Rajputs. Having to turn back from the Aravali ranges that separates Mewar from the Marwar and the northern Thar regions, we had to return without a glimpse of the famous stretches of sand that is so often the image that one conjures of Rajasthan.
With the dawn of a new year (Jan 2015), we set off on a 2000 kms (from Delhi and back) 10 days ride specially delineated around the Thar desert area. The trip stretched through the Sekhawatti region in the Northeast, Bikaner in the north , Jaisalmer in the North-West, Barmer, Jodhpur and Mandore in the Marwar region in Central Rajasthan and then pushing eastwards to Ajmer, Pushkar, Jaipur in Mewar and then back to Delhi. It was one of the most mesmerizing and enjoyable ride through a varied topography and landscape that ranged from a slightly mountainous terrain of the Aravalis to the desert landscape of the great Thar. Most part of the road was the best I have ridden so far.
THE ROAD TRIP
Day 1: Delhi to Bikaner – 500 Kms estimated time 7 1/2 hours.
We flagged off from Delhi at 0600 hrs wishing to beat the onset of traffic. The NH 8 took us through Gurgaon, Daruhera (64 Kms), Behror (130 Kms) and Kotputli (150 Kms) from where we took a right turn (underneath the flyover) onto SH 37B. Being a State Highway the road was narrow but free of traffic and was in good condition (it has been newly constructed). We passed through Neem Ka Thana (200 Kms) taking the bypass and reached Sikar (280 Kms) at around 1300 hrs. A freaky fog with almost zero visibility lengthened out travel time from the estimated 4 hours to 7 hours, almost the time we had expected to reach Bikaner which was still a good 220 kms away. The fog also prevented us from enjoying the landscape of the Shekhawatti region which is suppose to have the most arable land as compared to the rest of the area in Rajasthan. A brief stopover of 30 minutes, lunch in a Havelli of a friend and exploring the villages of Sikar, we headed towards Fatehpur (330 kms) via Udaipurwati which took us about an hour owing to the small roads and repair on some patches. From Fatehpur onwards the road stretched out the entire 170 kms in a smooth and beautiful semi-arid landscape that took us less than 2 hours to hit Bikaner (500 kms from Delhi). We spent the entire evening and the following morning exploring Bikaner.
Bikaner is said to have been founded on a barren desert area called Jungaldesh by a Rajput Prince Rao Bika Ji, son of Rao Jodha Ji who founded Jodhpur. Provoked by his father, Prince Bika Ji went on a campaign with a small military contingent of 500 soldiers and 100 cavalry men to establish his own Kingdom. After subduing the Chieftains of Rajputs clans and Jats in the vicinity, Bikaji established his kingdom in the middle of the Thar desert which came to be known as Bikaner. It evolved into a beautiful city and an independent kingdom which was subsequently merged with the Indian Union after India got its independence. The present state of the city, as is the case with most old cities, is crowded and dirty, although the old world charm is still evident in the Royal Palaces and fort below. While here, enjoy the bhujiya and Jungli maas (an exotic spicy Rajasthani cuisine of tender succulent mutton/lamb).
…..TO FOLLOW – DAY 2: BIKANER TO JAISALMER