Saturday, 8 November 2014

India: Chhotaram Prajapat's Homestay, Salawas, Jodhpur

Following our time in Jodhpur city, we decided to visit a homestay in Salawas (a small village just outside Jodhpur) called Chhotaram Prajapat's Homestay, definitely our most authentic Indian experience yet! This involved us spending two days and one night at the home of a local family within the Bishnoi Village, staying in traditional Rajhastani mud huts, and eating delicious home-made food made by the women of the family, as well as gaining invaluable insights into how the Bishnois live their everyday lives.

We were picked up from Jodhpur city by Chhotaram and his father in massive jeeps, and they drove us out of the hustle and bustle of the city into the rural village. Upon arrival, we were greeted with lots of chai, cucumber, and watermelon, as well as cuddles with THE cutest baby to ever exist (see pictures below). It was very difficult not to steal him away when we left! We were also given kavala, a red string bracelet which represents unity (a way of welcoming us to the family) and protection against everything from enemies to natural disasters; and a bindi which is supposedly worn to retain energy and strengthen concentration. Immediately we felt like part of the family - the kindness and generosity of the family was apparent as soon as we sat down on their cute woven benches. The family are traditionally weavers, so it was nice to see the type of things that they create as part of their working lives.

We spent one day doing a village safari which was a great experience. We were taken around the village and told the history of the Bishnoi sect, a social group founded in the Western Thar Desert of India. Historically, Guru Jambheshwar prophesised 29 principles which he provided to the Bishnois warning about the importance of protecting the environment, and consequently banning the killing of animals and trees. The villagers are therefore staunch worshippers of nature in all its forms, especially the sanctity of plants and animal life. They even pray to the green trees and animals that inhabit their land. We were told that in 1730, 363 Bishnois died trying to protect trees from being cut down by the King's men by hugging them and refusing to let go.

During the safari, we were shown how different people within the various villages perform different tasks/jobs and then sell the products of their work as part of a co-operative to the other villages. We first visited the Gudha village where we saw an old man making opium (a banned substance in Rajhastan) - he also showed us how to tie a turban which unfortunately was of no help to the boys later on when trying to tie theirs - a very skilled art apparently. Next we visited the Potters' village where we were shown how to make pots and ornaments before being allowed to have a go ourselves which also wasn't entirely successful (Bethan managed to end up throwing her 'pot' across the room when trying to remove it from the spinning table). Next was the Kankani village which is home to block printers. We were shown how various designs are printed by hand onto fabrics to make bed linen, table cloths, pillow covers etc. It really was amazing how symmetrical and perfectly aligned the designs were considering they weren't made by machine. We also stopped at a nearby village to befriend the children. They must be used to these kinds of visits as within a matter of seconds they were lining up in an orderly queue awaiting crayons and biscuits. They were so inquisitive about us, asking Bethan and Sam about their blonde hair, and Sarah about herebunny tattoo. The older lady of the village didn't seem impressed and told Chhotaram that if we were part of her family she would banish us for altering the way we look. They girls there are taught to honour their ancestors and keep up with traditional dress. We were then taken back to our 'home' village to see how the Weavers prepare materials such as rugs using particularly intricate string weaving on a handmade wooden stand.

We finished off the day by climbing up to a higher point in the village in time to catch the sunset which was a really nice end to the day. We spent ages relaxing on the top of a rock mountain as the evening approached. After Sam had complained for most of the day that there was a sharp pain jutting into the bottom of her foot, Chhotaram took a look at Sam's foot to find that there was a small thorn sticking into it but not in the area she had been complaining about. It turned out that the thorn was sticking through the bottom of her flip flop and digging into her foot as she walked - such an obvious thing to miss. It was interesting to see Chhotaram using two more small thorns in order to create a tweezers to get the initial thorn out of Sam's foot - just showing yet again how effective their simplistic lifestyle is; they're still able to achieve almost anything with the most minimal of materials.

When we got back, we were taken aside by Chhotaram's mother who dressed us up in traditional Indian clothing - saris, head scarves, bindis, and jewels for the girls, and turbans alongside what looked like a huge rug for the boys. It was such fun and we got plenty of snaps of how funny we looked! The girls also got some lovely henna which really finished off the Indian look! We completed the evening with a traditional Indian dinner made by the wives of the family. It was one of the most delicious meals we'd had in India so far - we couldn't get enough of the millet bread which was basically devoured before it even hit the plate.

Just as we thought the night was over we were surprised with what can only be described as the most crazy firework 'display' we've ever experienced! The family, including the children, some of which were as young as 5, all grouped together and started throwing fireworks in each and every direction. Things got a little out of hand when mermaid Sinead got her own box of fireworks out and joined in the group - she was the most dangerous one of all, almost throwing a firework into Jacks face, naughty! 

One of the best things about the homestay was just the general chatter with the family. Chhotaram was so knowledgeable about absolutely everything we asked him. Nothing was too much bother for him; he couldn't do enough to ensure we were as happy as we could be. We certainly learnt a lot from him in respect of his attitude towards life, family, and especially work. It's crazy just how hard the family works yet we didn't hear one complaint from them. All you can see is love between them - especially Chhotaram's dad with his grandchildren which is one of the cutest things ever! He was constantly playing with them and showing them affection, although at times he was too quick to pass them over to us to snuggle with for a while! :) The family were kind enough to provide a gift for each of us as a lasting memory - a small Ganesha figurine, which is the God of wisdom, knowledge and new beginnings within Hinduism. We couldn't rate this experience any higher. Nothing was missing that could have made it any better for us. The memories, particularly of the hospitality and love we were shown by the family will stay with us for a very long time, that's for sure.

Little Charmer

Our Cute Huts
Sarah and Sam happy with their home for the night
Safari Time!

Potters Shop
Elephants represent luck
Man showing off his skills
Sam was a natural...
...Bethan wasn't so good
Bishnoi man preparing his opium
Children lining up for their biscuits

Making friends with the baby goats
They literally wanted to munch on everything!
Now time to spot some wildlife
Hello there little Blackbuck
Heeeyyy herd of camels! 
Our climb to watch the sunset

Diwali candle
Dress up time!

Happy Wanderers 

1 comment:

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