February 13, 2019
Discovering India’s Soul in Rural Rajasthan
A small village about two and a half hours from Jodhpur in Rajasthan turns out to be a trip highlight.
Chanoud lies surrounded by salt plains and the sparse Rajasthani countryside where Rabaris, or shepherds, roam with their flocks of sheep and goats. With its small businesses, smiling residents and sleepy feel, Chanoud reveals a little of the authentic rural Rajasthan to those who take the time to visit. Leaving the busy tourist trails of Rajasthan behind her, RHONDA BANNISTER ventures off the beaten track into this charming village, with a two-night-stay at Chanoud Garh – once a grand palace, now lovingly restored heritage hotel.
It seems we have arrived at the village of Chanoud while a wedding or some other celebration is taking place. Everyone’s dressed in their finest clothes, the women like exotic birds-of-paradise in their colourful saris and kurtis. There’s chattering and laughter and the mellifluous notes of Indian music wafting on the breeze.
I wind down the car window as we approach the festivities only to have multiple marigold and feather garlands draped around my neck as the hands of the villagers come through the window to touch mine in welcome. Namaste – only in India!
It was such a joyful moment, which set the scene for our stay at Chanoud Garh, the historic hotel owned and managed by the wonderful Singh family, fourteenth-generation owners responsible for bringing this magnificent property, built almost 400 years ago, back to life. (It’s an amazing restoration and a story worth telling – but you will have to hear that from Jairaj Singh when you visit.)
What can you expect to see if you get off the beaten track and include a rural stay in your private tour of India?
A stay at Chanoud Garh can be included in any of our custom made private tours of North India. It also features in our suggested itinerary – Classic Rajasthan.
The next day, after a breakfast fit for a Rajah and Rani, we’re given a handful of photos taken by previous guests. We’re told that on our walk through the village, accompanied by the retired headmaster, we must match as many faces as we can to the locals we meet. It’s a cute game and a great talking point as we wander through the various areas of this thriving village.
We find the man on the bicycle sitting and talking with his cronies down an alleyway so we stop to chat. Two men on a motorbike ride past – yes, got them both! The baby with the huge brown eyes and black dot on her forehead (to absorb any evil eye that may come her way) is on her mother’s hip as her mother sweeps the street outside her home. The ancient-looking grandma we found moving a cow along the street with a switch to the bum, and the little boy with the cheeky grin was playing with a group of children down a side street. And, of course, kids being kids, we had to take a photo of each of them so that the next lot of guests could search the village for their beautiful, but elusive, faces.
Staying here was a highlight of our journey through Rajasthan. It gave us a chance to really connect with the people of India in a village where lives are little changed over hundreds of years – except for the introduction of a toilet in every household (and what a difference that must have made).
They don’t have much, but you can see the happiness in their eyes and touch their heart in their warm handshake. Our memories of Rajasthan always return to this special time and this special place where we feel we discovered the soul of India in her people.
Rhonda Bannister is Editor of Holidays for Couples magazine. She travelled to India as a guest of India Unbound. This article first appeared in The Unbound Way – an independent travel magazine by India Unbound and our group touring brand Remarkable East.
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