The next day, I awoke with my head ringing. Y'see, as we were leaving the Taj Mahal the day before, there had been a loud drumming and a rush of people leaving the river, running into the town waving scarlet-and-gold flags, and carrying an effigy of the goddess Durga riding a tiger. Our guide explained at the time that it was the beginning of Navrati - a nine-day-festival in honour of the goddess's nine incarnations, and people would celebrate by chanting and fasting. And boy, did they chant! I had fallen asleep with the sound from the local temple ringing in my ears, which began to suffer auditory hallucinations. After a few hours the chanting had morphed into Guy Pearce singing "I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine" from Priscilla, briefly flirted with being "Old King Cole", before settling back to Priscilla for the rest of the holiday.
|See the lack of tail. On an unrelated note, I have a lovely peacock feather collection now.|
|Mongoose! Carrying a beetle.|
|Painted Pheasant (a pet).|
After an early morning mongoose-and-peacock-hunt (also squirrels: did I mention the squirrels?), and breakfast, we walked into town with one of the estate staff as a guide. It was the morning, and quite a lot of children were on their way to school, and were all eager to be photographed and look at their picture on the screen. And it wasn't just the children - this woman (in the yellow and pink sari) came running over waving and smiling and asking me to photograph her and her child and friends:
|The sari across the face is for protection from dust and sun.|
Before we saw the palace, our guide declared that it was prayer-time, and proceeded to give us a tour of his local temple whilst simultaneously making his devotions, which was quite nice, although we were a source of much fascination and distraction to the small clusters of children who were supposed to be attending to whatever is the Hindu equivalent of "Sunday School".
Of the three palaces we saw in India, Karauli is the one I would most recommend. Because it's off the beaten tourist path, we had it all to ourselves and were able to see everything. No room was off-limits - from the rooftop view to the maharani's bat-haunted swimming-pool in the basement (out of sight of any men), we were taken anywhere we wanted. And the guide worked at the palace and was able to point out all the little details, such as the hundreds of holes in the courtyard floor which were actually fountains, and similar water-jets were built into pillars, to spray woven-grass curtains and act as air-conditioning. Sadly, the palace was badly neglected after the dismantlement of the British Raj, and much of the gold-leaf artwork and gold-and-silver foil-backed glass has been looted - not to mention (according to our guide) a fire in the 1970s which saw the loss of the store-room where all the tiger-skins and silks were kept - but it's still a wonderful building.
|Maharani-eye-view of the audience chamber. She could see out, but was veiled by the stone latticework.|
|View from the palace|
|The current palace inhabitants|
|Wall-painting of a battle. Note the gunner on the left...|
|...that's right! It was an equal-opportunities army then!|
|Karauli camel. Sneering. It's what camels do.|