While travel journals provide “successful” travel ideas for Rajathan, well mapped terrains known for their colour, vitality and heritage, there is another Rajasthan, full of destinations off the radar. For those looking to walk off the beaten trail, or Rajasthan first-timers looking for an experience beyond the guidebook, here are five great ideas.
Sone Chand ki Dukan
The tiny town of Mahansar in Shekhawati district, a region new to the tourist circuit is home to a rare kind of intricate artwork you might not find easily in Rajasthan. The acme of this ornate intricacy is found in the 18th century ‘Sone Chand ki Dukan’, a haveli whose walls feature brilliant paintings, adorned with woven intricate golden leaves woven. As you proceed further, you’ll see vaulted ceilings featuring carvings depicting the Ramayana and Lord Krishna’s life. Nearby are other beautiful havelis with similar artistic precision. Visitors also must sample the heritage liquor famously known as ‘Mahansar Wine’.
Longewala is the scene of one of India’s most famous battles with Pakistan. A brave response was made by 120 Indian men against a 2000 troop Pakistani soldiers who had planned “breakfast at Longewala, lunch at Ramgarh and dinner at Jodhpur” in December, at a place now called Indo-Pak pillar 638, in the Thar Desert. A 2 sq km area is still fenced, and dotted with anti-tank mines. Every year, jawans come to pay their respects to the martyrs for ‘Vijay Diwas’. A victory pillar ‘Tanot Vijay Stambha’ stands here, at Tanot Mata temple, in memoriam of that day’s bravery. This battle was the basis of Hindi film ‘Border’.
Tanot Mata temple
The aforementioned Tanot Mata Temple (dedicated to Tanot Mata, considered the incarnation of Goddess Hinglaj), 150 kilometers from Jaisalmer city was considered a guiding spiritual light for the brave jawans who risked it all in the battle of Longewala. 450 shells were fired at the temple – none hit their target or exploded, and the temple was untouched in a massive shelling attempt. Now under the maintenance of the Border Security Force, it might be the only temple where you will get to see a collection of unexploded bombs dropped by Pakistan.
Om Banna (better known as Bullet Banna) is a shrine in Jodhpur. The deity is, surprisingly a 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet named after the bike’s former owner, and it is today worshipped by hundreds who seek a safe journey. The bike become famous after it reportedly kept escaping police custody in 1988, soon after its owner was killed on a trip – it is believed that his spirit guided the bike back to the place he died. It is also believed that the spirit helps distressed travellers. Villagers built a temple here, which today includes a tree adorned with offerings of bangles, scarves and rope.
Karni Mata Temple
Karni Mata Temple, 30 km from Bikaner is better known as the Temple of Rats. Over 20,000 black rats live here, and many people visit to pay their respects. It is both a site for devoted believers and curious tourists. Legend says Laxman, Karni Mata’s stepson drowned in a pond, and Karni Mata begged Yama, the god of death, to revive him. Soon after, Yama prophesied that her stepson and all of Karni Mata’s male children would be reincarnated as rats. However, the locals here also offer another story – 20,000 soldiers escaped a battle to find shelter. Karni Mata, while forgiving their sin of deserting battle, turned them into rats, giving them the temple as a shelter. Food nibbled by these rats is considered ‘prasad’.