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placeholder INTRODUCTION

Day 1: Visit to a Hindu temple; Concord parish reaches out

Day 2: Learning the rules of the road

Day 3: Family visits in ‘Catholic’ India

Day 4: Chennai (Madras) – Time with an apostle

Day 5: Close look at an Eastern Rite Church

Day 6: Ubiquitous respect for each others’ religious beliefs

Day 7: Southern India home to vast tea fields

Day 8: Worship on a houseboat

Day 9: St. Alphonsa, India's first canonized saint

Day 10: Home shrines a standard feature

Day 11: Portuguese influence very clear in Goa

Day 12: The Portuguese influence

Day 13: Time for a little tourism

Day 14: Seeing ‘the king’s land’

Day 15: Taj Mahal builder sought to unify religion

Day 16: India’s oldest mosque

Day 17: Discussing world issues

Concluding reflections

placeholder January 23, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA

Bishop Cordileone’s pilgrimage to India

Seeing ‘the king’s land’

Day 14: Thursday, January 12

Today was dedicated to a tour of the city of Jaipur. The first settlements here date back to the year 800 A.D. In the 12th Century a fortress was erected, and the current city with its royal palace was built in 1727.

This “new city” was built completely new, planned out from the ground up. This accounts for the wide streets serving as the major thoroughfares in the city. I did, in fact, notice that the traffic here is not quite as harrowing as the other places we have visited. Good thing, too, because the navigators of the streets here have to make room for yet another fellow traveler: the camel.

Jaipur is the capital of the state of Rajasthan – a name meaning “the king’s land” – which stands on the east side of the mountain range dividing the state in two. The west side is lush, as it receives the monsoon rains; the monsoon does not penetrate past the mountains, though, which makes the east side of the state a desert. Thus, the logic of the prevalence of the camel here.

Our first stop was a visit to the royal palace. The palace is located within a fortress standing on the top of a high hill, and the outstanding tourist attraction of the place is the mode of transportation to reach it: the elephant.

There were probably close to 50 elephants making the trek up the hill to bring visitors to the fortress; the return trip, though, is by a somewhat more conventional means of transportation, the jeep. Here I saw another one of those odd mixtures of the new and the old: an elephant driver riding atop his beast returning to pick up more passengers talking on his cell phone.

We next visited a center which manufactures textiles, carpets and crafts. We were given a demonstration and explanation on how these carpets are made, all by hand. The meticulous detail and craftsmanship is amazing. They also managed to convince some of us that we wanted to buy one.

We stopped for lunch, and then visited another one of the royal palaces in the city. Besides the intricate artwork, here we also saw a real-life snake charmer, with two cobras in his basket. They seemed quite tame, and he was unphased handling them, but we kept our distance nonetheless. One of our members wanted to give the man a tip, so he took a few steps toward him and then rather humorously threw his paper money at him.

I was quite intrigued by the instrument he was playing. It had the shape and size of a large recorder but with a bulb in the middle of it, and it sounded like a cross between a bagpipe and an oboe. Like a bagpipe, he was able to continue playing it while pausing to take a breath.

Jaipur has clearly recently become a premier tourist destination, one corner of the “Golden Triangle” including Agra and Delhi as well. From the new and modern airport to the street vendors wherever we went, the signs were quite apparent. These street vendors, in fact, were legion and, to be blunt, obnoxious. They would already crowd up to the door of the bus when pulled up to our stop, and would not leave us in peace until we were back in the bus and the door was closed. It all seemed rather crass from my perspective, but I suppose it’s a logical manifestation of the entrepreneurial spirit when possibilities for prosperity abound from a newly booming tourist industry.

Our dinner was at a local typical restaurant, which featured native dances of the region. It was interesting for me to see these dances in comparison to those I had seen in South India. Make up is not a feature, and more use is made of wavy motions with the arms and torso. Most striking, though, is the placement of ceramic bowls on the dancer’s head. One by one, the dancer reached a total of six of these bowls on her head, with a flame at the top. It was only after this, though, that she really displayed her prowess: while continuing to balance the bowls on her head, she bent down to the ground and picked up a banknote with her mouth; she then, barefoot, stood on rim of a metal bowl and moved around the room, still under the six bowls on the top of her head; continuing barefoot and bowl-headed, she stood on a bed of nails and, unbelievably, on two swords with the sharp edge of the blade place upward. You had to see it to believe it!


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