Gujarat – Day 12

January 24, 2020 : Passage to Gondal, Rural to Royal

As most of our days have been, this one shows a tremendous contrast between how the vast majority of Gujaratis live and the lives of the Royal families. We cross the miles, constantly absorbed by the vivid scenes surrounding us. Occasionally we stop to get a closer look. Enjoy these memories of the adventure today.

Departing Bhuj, we get a glimpse of a hilltop fortress.
One of our roadside stops is to view these memorial markers to warriors who died centuries ago. The tall one with the upraised hand symbolizes the warrior’s wife who committed Sati – jumping into the flames to join her husband in death.
Villager approaching near the Memorial Markers.
And here comes the herd, with a minor obstacle in the foreground.
Meanwhile, across the street the villagers pass by following the body of a deceased citizen.
Driver’s eye view of the road ahead.
It is slow going while the road is elevated and closed in. Things move faster after the herds are able to move off the road into the fields.
A nomad on the move with his possessions atop a camel.
We finally reach our hotel for the evening, the Riverside Palace of the Royal Family.
This stately mansion has only a few bedrooms, and wonderful verandas along the outside walls.
My bedroom at the Riverside Palace.
We are the only guests at the palace, and dinner tonight is served in this formal dining room.
One of the features of this estate is a remarkable collection of vintage cars owned by the Royal Family.
Perhaps the most incredible vehicle in the collection is this one dating from 1907. The make is called “New Engine” and it was produced in the U.K.
The family also had their own private railway car.
The dining area in the private rail car.
At sunset we visit the Swaminarayan Hindu Temple for the evening Aarti. It is simply dazzling inside. No photos were allowed during the rituals performed in the lower level.
We were allowed to take photos in the upper level. Here the drummer prepares to begin the ceremony.
Once the drumming begins, everyone is chanting and clapping and the din is tremendous – but powerfully moving.

Like small villages in Europe with gold-encrusted Catholic churches, it seems that no expense is spared in the ornamentation of the temples of this particular guru who has a huge following. One is dazzled and enthralled by the fervor of the believers, and having witnessed the spectrum of life in India I can understand the appeal of this form of devotion. It truly takes believers out of the realm of mundane existence and transports them to a higher level for a few minutes of the day, renewing their zest for living.

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