Thursday, October 15, 2009


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: gajendra singh <>
Date: Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 4:32 AM
To: Gajendra Singh


                                                                                                      IN THE COMFORTS OF YOUR                                 

                                                                       PALACE  ON  WHEELS  


                              ( Published in Turkish Daily News, Ankara, in 1997 )


We reached early in the evening the less crowded Cantonment Railway station of India's capital city Delhi for a week long sweep through Rajasthan's historic cities, legendary forts and magnificent Palaces, bird and tiger sanctuaries, savoring its traditional hospitality and culture capped with a visit to Taj Mahal in our "Palace on Wheels". At the entrance itself there was  festive atmosphere with guests being  received with  garlands by smiling former khadims of Maharajas . In all about seventy, we were escorted with traditional hospitality to our ethnically decorated but air conditioned bedrooms, mostly with two beds, hot and cold running water, shower, wash basin and WC. We quickly opened out our suit-cases , arranged our things and then strolled along the inter-connected  saloons  into a period bar  where a handlebar mustachioed Rajput offered us a welcome cocktail .After meeting some fellow guests ,we spent some time in the library with its many books on travel and then walked over to the period dining car. Most guests were settling down. Yes, there were some Indians too, NRIs, one with his US spouse , retired Ambassadors , businessmen ,executives and others. Making polite conversation and sizing each other up, exchanging information and visiting cards. With whom to group with and spend more time. Soon the Palace on Wheels (POW) started rolling out towards its first destination ; Jaipur,  Rajasthan's pink coloured capital. We settled down to gourmet food, with Indian, Western and Chinese delicacies to choose from and  found it better fare than at India's topmost hotels during our stops .Being a little tired but excited in anticipation, we returned to the luxury cabin to sleep early to accustom ourselves to early morning schedules. On the way liveried bearers attached to each carriage of  4 bedrooms and a cozy lounge  inquired when could the bed tea be served in the morning -an old Indian tradition. We had to be ready by 0730 hours


                                               2nd Day - Jaipur, the Pink city

            .After tea in bed at 630 hrs with POW lined at the Jaipur station and a quick shower we went to the lounge for breakfast of juice ,omlettes, toasts, butter , jam , with tea or coffee. But at 630 hrs an assistant of  the state Chief Secretary ML Mehta,  had come to fetch us. Mehta and I had spent a year at New Delhi's National Defence College in1976 and have remained friends since then. We passed by the other POW guests being welcomed at the station in the traditional Indian ceremoney with shehnai music, garlands and caprisoned elephants .Mehta's car took us to his sprawling residence for breakfast with him and his family with all buildings and shops  on the way painted in the regulation rose pink. His son after a business degree exports  Rajasthan silks, handlooms and handicrafts ,famous for its exquisite workmanship and beautiful bright colours. Meeting after 7/8 years we exchanged news and views and after a sumptuous breakfast  left to join the group which after a drive through Jaipur city, planned with straight grid roads in 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh would have reached Amber Palace , residence of Kachhwaha Rajput rulers since 11th century till the construction of the City Palace.

            On the way we  passed by  Hawa Mahal, ( Hall of breeze and wind), built for the women inside to watch in privacy processions outside. It  photographs impressively but is not so in reality. Because of  advance publicity many monuments donot measure  up to the expectations. Yes , Taj Mahal, Pyramids , Cappadoccia and Petra the pink Nabattean  city did. But not Abu Simbel, London's Thames bridge. Conveniently at Hawa Mahal there was a monkey dancing and a snake charmer too making a reptile sway to music.On way to Amber we passed by a shallow lake on the right I had first seen the lake and the city in 1967 as we drove down south through the hills from Delhi here.It was like passing through  Khyber Pass ,the Cilician gates or from the Syrian gates onto Issos where Alexander defeated  Darius III. We drove many times through it  when my daughter Bulbul was studying at the  Maharani Gayatri  Devi School, Jaipur and later Tinoo was sent in 1975 from Paris where I was posted ,to Mayo College Both the schools were established primarily to educate the children of ruling families. Rajasthan has many other good schools .

         Reaching Amber we  mounted the last of the wheeling and swinging up and down elephants to go up to the Palace. The panoramic view from the  Palace , one can see for scores of miles (ie enemy approaching )overlooking the lake is fantastic. We visited a replica of Moti Mahal, palace of mirrors with the guide demonstrating  with a candle its  multi-image stars effect. After the Palace  many went to the State Handicrafts Emporium for shopping but we drove down to Hotel Ram Bagh Palace , the last of the Royal Jaipur residences , a wing still occupied by the current Maharajah of Jaipur, (whose polo playing father and beautiful step mother Gayatri Devi were popular celebrities on French Riveira and the exclusive salons of Paris and London) We ate from  a lavishly laid out bufffet lunch. I found it spicy and hot but many in the group just lapped it up.

                After lunch  we saw the observatory, built by Maharajah Jai Singh , a great astronomer and the  City Palace, mostly in yellow and white -an exception to the rule ,which now as a museum displays Royal arms, textiles, jewelery, carpets  and has the usual shopping center  for tourists. We returned to POW only to freshen up and were driven up to hilltop Nahargarh Fort ,one of the Maharajah's resting places, from where the twinkling lights of the city below enhance the feeling of being in a dreamland. Till 1942 it used to be the treasury and it was rumoured that soon before India's independence  plane loads of jewlels were flown out to Europe. While we were having drinks before dinner a programme of folkloric dance, music and fire breathing magic tricks was arranged .The lead dancer thought herself no less than courtesan Umrao Jan from whose film she enacted some dance numbers. By this time everyone looking after us knew about me .The Rajputs were very proud that one of them was India's Ambassador .They refused to accept any money for drinks. We were  happy to meet them. We returned to POW and our beds. It had been a tiring day , but already we were dreaming of the Chittorgarh Fort , with its hoary legends of Rajput valour and sacrifice and the marble palace in Pichola lake of Udaipur.


                                            Day 3; Chitorgarh Fort and Udaipur.

            Another early start. After breakfast we got into buses at 0730 hrs to drive up the hill through the seven massive fort gates( called Pols in Rajasthan )to Chitorgarh.- a stronghold of Sisodia Rajputs, who established their rule here in 6th cent AD and built up this highest Fort at 500 ft on this oblong hill .Three times they were attacked ; first in 1303 by the  forces of Turkish Sultan Allauddin  Khilji, then Bahadur Shah of Gujarat in 1534/35 and finally by Moghul Emperor Akbar  in 1567/68 .But each time they refused to submit and tens of thousands died while fighting  to the last man, with their women immolating themselves in fire( called Jauhar). After the last defeat they shifted to Udaipur .Unlike Jaipur Rajputs they  refused to give their daughters in marriage to the Moghuls. So the Maharanas of Udaipur ie  Mewar are ranked highest among the Rajputs .Of the many legendry and hallowed spots is  the 125 ft high Tower of Victory, a masterpiece in Jain architecture, built to celebrate victory over Gujarat ruler. Here we drank coconut  juice ,visited the Kali temple, which Rana Kumbha had built in 14 th century, after the 6 th century Sun Temple was destroyed by the Khiljis and the palace of legendry Queen Padmini who had refused to give in to the Khilji Sultan and  instead prefered to immolate herself . After a comfortable but non-descript 110 kms bus drive we reached Udaipur, surrounded by hills providing  strategic protection and artificial lakes dug  for drinking water and agriculture, When hard pressed Maharanas Partap and Udai Singh even left it to subsist on grass leaves but would not submit to the Moghuls even symbolically.

      After reaching Udaipur City Palace , one of the largest in India, we saw  marble Jug Niwas Palace floating on lake Pichola , now a hotel, one of the prettiest and most entrancing sights in the world ; its Maharani suite being very popular with honeymooners .We were taken there by a motorboat and received with garlands and Aarti by two comely Rajput maidens in true Rajasthani traditional welcome .The Palace has an atmosphere of langurous haze and relaxation.You feel like doing nothing ,just relax and gaze at the surroundings including another red sand stone Jag-mandir Palace on the lake and the reflection of the City Palace on the shore. A fabulous buffet lunch was laid out. Hungry, we did justice  quickly and rushed to see my elder brother Prof Virendra Singh ,who has been teaching  there since mid 1960s . So  whenever I go to India I visit him. We surprised them as the telegram of my arrival had not reached them . His wife Vishya is the daughter of Ramkot Rajah and grand daughter of Dulha House of Jaipur ,where  in 1968, when we first went there I was outdrunk by her mother in law and some other ladies, although most ladies donot drink. It was a chastening experience as at that time I could outdrink Turks , Sikhs and many others .Vishya was most hospitable and distressed that we would stay but  an hour or so as we wanted to see the City Palace  with its terrace gardens and penthouse suites for the Maharanas and their consorts .           

                        We caught the POW group and went round the city Palace  with its long and glorious history, its rulers claiming descent from the Sun god and saw the  costumes , armoury and other belongings of the Maharanas..We then walked over to the neighboring Palace with Chandeliers with a marvelous view. One of the Maharajahs had ordered from London everything made in crystal; tables ,chairs, sofas and even beds. Some of those Maharajas were really crazy. In the audience hall sitar and tabla provided soothing music while we had pastries, sand-witches, pakoras, cold drinks and tea.We went out to the balcony  to watch once again the beautiful ethereal view of the lake Palace as the dusk  was descending. We then rushed to Sahelion ki Bari, a garden created by Maharajah Sangram Singh for his daughter to stroll around with her friends. The illuminated fountains, run on water head differential , piped from Fatehsagar Dam, made it like the Hassasins paradise  in medieval times. To please the princess, in one corner the fountain showers created the tip-tip sound and a feeling of rainfall ,so rare in a desert. After this we made the return journey and at a tea stop I could not help but eat some hot crisp Kachchoris risking infection .We were  back into the POW , which soon starts rolling. We showered  and had drinks in the bar and  a leisurely dinner with most passengers animated and excited. Next stop was Swai Madhopur, hunting lodge of Jaipur Maharajah with its tiger and animal sanctuary and the tenth century Ranthambore fort , for which we must start early to see the birds and animals waking up.

And catch the tigers going out for the morning drink.

                        Fourth Day ; Sawai Madhopur and Tiger Sanctuary at Ranthambore.

                        While having bed tea ,through the dark windows of the still POW we could see the still life at Sawai Madhopur station coming to slow animation as if in a surrealist tableau. People  waking up, yawning and  tousling up their hair ,slowing walking to the water hydrant , brushing teeth with neem twigs. A new wave film director would have to just  let the camera roll on.We got up from our reverie , gulped down our tea and were the last to join the waiting jeeps which were  ready to drive us to the sanctuary to look for tigers. We passed by normal scenes of village life , with people going about their business  leisurely ,  water buffalows lolling in water ponds,  birds  chirping etc.  After entering through the gates of the sanctuary ,on right hand side 250 mtrs up ,we could see the ruins and  ramparts of the Ranthambore fort. When Alauddin Khilji stormed it in 1303, twenty thousand women commited suicide (jauhar). We drove across the fields along miles and miles of the lake ,hanging onto the jeep railings. We saw various kinds of birds ,deers, chinkaras and other animals.Other groups like us guided us to where a tiger had been spotted.We looked for normal tiger signatures - the panicky reaction of  birds and baying of terrified Sambal deer, tiger's most favorite meal. It appeared to be a wild goose chase going up and down till finally we saw one from quite a distance.(It can be seen in its video captured glory  filmed with  telescopic lense ) Everyone was happy and we returned to the POW for a late breakfast. Our next destination was the golden city of Jaisalmer in the middle of Thar desert, not far from the Pakistani border. I tried to read about  what we had seen and what was to come .We were excited and drawing on our adreline flow, now we realised how fatigued we were  after 3 hectic days of sightseeing ,drinking and eating  well and not getting enough sleep. We had a few pre-lunch drinks in the restaurant car with fields, villages and many forts in distance passing us by .After a  leisurely lunch a hazy languor took  over and we returned for a long siesta. It was Diwali day, the festival of lights to celebrate the victory of virtue over evil ,so as the dusk fell , we could  see fireworks in the sky and lamps and candles being lighted up in the villages and hamlets along the rail track.. Late in night for a little while we stopped at the deserted Jaipur station for the change of the POW service personnel and then proceeded on to Jaisalmer .We needed to sleep well to recuperate ;for the next three days schedule was equally exciting and physically hectic.


                   Fifth Day; Jaisalmer of Golden Castle, carved stone mansions and  camel ride

                        The early morning golden sun , which has inspired poets and laid the foundation of religions through millenia was just bathing the ramparts of  99 bastion massive sandstone castle founded by Rawal Jaisal in 1156 AD, with many additions of later date, making it aglitter like a giant gold jewel. Coming out of the POW we looked at it, photographed it and continued to gaze at it from the dining car while savoring the special Indian breakfast of puries and curry  Inspite of reading and seeing prints the sight was awesome in grandeur.We were given a very a  warm reception, as Jaisalmer located on trade routes in ancient and medieval times has little going for it now except tourists , with tens of thousands coming here every year and charmed by its castle and Havelis and doing word by mouth publicity. It enchanted Indira Gandhi when she visited it. It gets attention being near the Pakistani border ; the other reason for its fame is nearby Pokharan, where  India conducts its nuclear explosions.

                        But we first went to Gadi Sagar lake ,into which a rainfed desert river empties ,which sustains the citizens and animals year round .Lack or failure of rainfall can be catas-trophic . Around the lake are places of worship and pleasure with their myths and legends ,of rich courtesan and recalcitrant Rajah.The musicians serenading the guests welcomed us with local tribal women hawking  silver trinkets. We had another magnificent view of the castle looking  like a barnackled Noah's Ark .But first we went to the Havelis ( mansions) of rich traders and Viziers, who using local golden yellow sandstone and abundant local artisan talent have constructed beautiful buildings with carved balconies, latticed windows called Jharokas and designer facades.They were just magnificent and  open to public viewing.The bazars were just like my birthplace Bhiwani on the edge of the desert. I had a cold so I bought cough syrup to keep it at bay for a few more days .I was tempted to eat juicy sweets , but was afraid of getting infection. We then went to the giant castle , built on a triangular hillock on the advice of an oracle. My own ancestors although originating from another state  Karauli  belonged to the same clan of Jadon Rajputs. We went up passing by the gates , listening to myths and legends of chivalry and romance .At some spots  young turbanned kids (as also near the Havelis) on the approach of tourists broke into singing and dancing .Cute little boys they were ,joyous and colorfully dressed .We listened to the  history of Jaisalmer and passed by  living quarters, some still being used .At the end we reached a cluster of Jain temples, a pacific vegetarian sect of Budha days vintage but popular among traders of West India , particularly in Rajasthan and Gujerat. Exquisite and intricate carvings of various incarnations of its founder Mahavir Jain could be seen along with his life story depicted in beautiful stone carvings. We had lunch in a new hotel and some rest in POW.

                        We then drove out to Sam Sand Dunes 80 km into the desert for the piece de resistance ; a camel ride. It was fantastic for first timers; the undulating ride , rows of colorful camels riding on pure Sahara like  sand. For real enthusiasts there are camel safaris  all over Rajasthan.  Midway  there were musicians singing and playing on harmonium, Indian version of accordian. Far away from everywhere , tourists feeling liberated , high spirited  and happy spontaneously broke out into a celebration of dancing . A pure  expression  of joy and abandon . Many were taken up and danced with gusto. Private enterprise provided hiked up cola and water, even for your camel .By the time we returned to the starting point, a welcome cup of steaming tea was waiting and across miles of  sheer desert sand horizon the Sun was about to set in. So we  sat down to relax and watch it go down slowly with the sky slowly becoming orange red and crim-son.. Only a desert sunset is like that. So different from sunsets of  mountain tops , hills, lakes and seas. We returned to POW to wash up and change .Most ladies dressed  to kill and even men were all dolled up for an evening fare of local folk music and dances in the serene surroundings of Moomal Tourist Bangalow under a clear desert sky. We were in a partying  mood ; out to enjoy and dance.. First some  ladies joined in with  the local dancers and then almost everyone did and what an enjoyable evening it turned out to be .In the end it was disclosed that one of the sinuous dancers was infact a boy.  It had been a long and exhilarating but a tiring day. We were awed ,satiated, amused  and entertained and returned to POW to go on to Jodhpur of  Mehrangarh fort, one of the most picturesque forts to be seen anywhere in the world.


                                 Day 6, Jodhpur , Marwar stronghold of  Rathores.

              Today morning we did not have to hurry up, so after a leisurely breakfast, we boarded the bus for the Mehrangarh fort of Jodhpur, founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha , his  dynasty at its zenith of  glory, although it had begun in 1212.. We slowly walked up its various gates , as usual welcomed by groups of musicians . The ramparts and balconies were  high and there are legends of chivalry , love , bravery and sacrifice. In 1679 when Aurangzeb tried to convert its citizens to Islam, Jodhpur with Jaipur which had supported he Moghul dynasty joined up with  Udaipur and successfully defeated his designs. Like  Mediterenean coastal  cities which are white colored, or cream / white stone Amman, Jodhpur buildings and houses have  light blue color wash. They  must look dreamy on full moon nights. Romantic and ethereal. We saw the private premises of Maharajas , their ornate bed rooms , the creche rooms and other places with fantastic views and a hazy Taj Mahal like silhouette far away of Umaid Bhavan Palace, the only palace built in the 20th century. We were shown  how a Rajasthani turban was tied It is not easy. I had carried two tied ones to Dakar ( Senegal ) in 1978 for my  first credential ceremonies (also for Banjul,  Bamako, Praha and Guinea-Bissau).The Rajputana Rifles had sent their professional turnbanmen to do the job. Jodhpur fort even has a mosque. We then drove to white marble Chhatris, the Hindu crem-ation cenotaph of the Royal family. It was quite some thing with  the tourist guide exagge-rating the similarity between  names Christ and Krishna , the latter propounded Bhagvat Gita, the essence of Hindu philosophy. Never mind that ,we drove through the city to the Umaid Bhavan Palace, now a hotel with a wing occupied by the Royal family. The Maharani personally ensures the cleanliness and upkeep of the Mehrangarh fort  and when in residence the Maharaja , who  was once  Ambassador in the Carribean, comes down to mingle with the guests and see that they are happy. Umaid Bhavan in light pink sandstone with a beautiful garden at the back and an excellent view of Mehrangarh is massive but modern. Its architect Lancaster was influenced by Lutyens, who designed New Delhi residence of the English Viceroy, now occupied by Republican India's President. It was built as a famine relief project to provide employment to the ryaya of the kingdom in 1930s. After an excellent  lunch laid out for us , we returned to our POW to relax and some  went for shopping. The train started early to reach at 0600 hrs next day morning at Fateh-pur  Sikri , the  exquisite capital built by Moghul Emperor Akbar, but he was not destined to  stay there. We were very fortunate. The epicenter of full Sun eclipse was around the nearby Bharatpur bird sanctuary.


                           Day 7;Bird sanctuary, Fatehpur  Sikri, TAJ MAHAL and Agra Fort.


         ' --Only let this one teardrop, the Taj Mahal, glisten spotlessly bright in the cheek of heaven                                                                      for ever and ever-- '    Rabindra Nath Tagore


                                    It was as well that we had an early night, although being the penultimate day, beginning to feel nostalgic of new friendships we had celebrations. After a few drinks , I opened  Champagne bottles and there was a special dinner .We thanked the dining car staff and room attendants .As an Ambassador ,belonging to the Rajput caste I had all along been given great respect and pride of place. I made a short  speech thanking the POW staff  for their  warmth and hospitality . They were superb.

                    But  the last day was going to be  tough. After quick  bed tea, we got into the luxury bus at Fatehpur Sikri to drive to Keoladeo Ghana National bird sanctuary, excavated out of a swamp to form a large fresh water lake in 1902 by the Maharajah of Bharatpur. Around 350 bird species are sighted every year including during peak winter season  Siberian cranes. We reached in time for the eclipse to commence. A large number of people from all over India have come to witness the total Sun eclipse; for this was a rare chance , as it was for us also. We looked at the flights of birds , of so many kinds. This was going to be  my first fully photographed and video-taped total eclipse. How the Sun's rays and light dimmed slowly The birds started making unusual noises , fearful and uneasy. It was not the usual chirping  we had heard on arrival. This was an unusual change of light for them. Soon it was almost total darkness early in the  morning. around 0830 hrs. It looked weird and we felt weird. No wonder our ancestors thousands of years ago gave such different and  fanciful meanings ,religious imputations and forecasts to such events in which many still continue to believe. And who knows , there may be some truth in them. Then the Sun emerged slowly from the shadow of the Moon and the Sunlight became normal. Once again peace returned , the birds were calm  and chirping quietly .With many hundreds others in the Park  we had collectively gone through a unique almost mystic experience.

                   We then realised  that we were hungry so we were taken to a Garden restaurant and enjoyed a buffet breakfast and moved on to Fatehpur Sikri, architecturally a beautifully designed city , near a permanent water source river Jamuna . Begun in 1567 it took 7 years to build but it didnot flourish. Akbar had to spend most of his time around Lahore to guard against attacks from the North West. and the Jamuna's course shifted away. Now situated in between the towns of Fatehpur (named after Akbar's victory in Gujarat) and Sikri, it is a marvel of city and palace planning. There are separate Mahals and suites for Akbar's many queens from different countries and religions, including one for Rumi Sultana from Turkey ,another for his chief Queen, a Rajput princess, mother of his son and heir ,Emperor Jahangir and a Christian one, all with their places of worship. After him it became a common practice to have Rajput princesses as queens , with in laws playing important role in successions and  holding key posts, like Commanders of Armies and bringing in the fiercely loyal Rajput warrior community into the Moghul fold ,which helped in laying the foundations of the Empire and its expansion .We also visited the Dargah of Shiekh Salim Chisti, who predicted birth of 3 sons to Akbar ;where people still flock to get their  wishes fulfilled. It is located in a large Mosque, whose courtyard of 110 and 140 mtrs can accomodate thousands of faithfuls and is entered through a magnificently carved Islamic style high gate called Bulend Darwaza. We then drove to Taj View Hotel for lunch.

                        Taj Mahal was built by Moghul Emperor Shahjahan in memory of his favourite queen MumTAJ ,whose death left him inconsolable and wherein the two now repose in peace. With generations of peace and accumulated wealth ,during Shahjahan's reign, the Mughal Empire reached its zenith of creativity .It took two decades and up to 20,000  workers, artisans and artists at a time to shape his dream into an everlasting luminous poetry in marble. The famous Peacock Throne was also created during Shahjahan's reign. First timers have  anticipation of encountering one of the  wonders of the world The first dazzling view should be seen from the main entrance and not the side one. We had some argument about taking my cameras inside, but the attendants were dimwitted. So I gave up. The group oohed and aahed and admired it from far and from near, from this angle and that and from all distances  It is one human  creation which more than fulfills all your expectations and transcends it . It is a different vision at different times of the day and  night ,month, season and year. It is beyond description .One has to see it to appreciate it and be seduced by its everlasting  rapturous beauty , height of human endevour in architecture  to chizzle an Emperor's dream into a shimmering vision in marble .Shahjahan was perhaps the guiding light as few authentic names of  architects are mentioned ; although among others one Isa Effendi Bey in Persian accounts is mentioned.

            The last visit was to magnificent Agra fort , built by Akbar in 16th century, Moghul's first opulent residence  before  Aurengzeb permanently shifted the capital to Delhi .It is a marvelous example of Moghul planning , garden landscaping ,architecture and construction with its Jahan-giri Mahal ,suites and chambers for the queens , concubines , harem girls, khadims and Halls for private and public audiences ,its beautiful pearly Moti Masjid, all framed  among lovely gardens and green spaces. Situated on river Jamuna it has a  panoramic sweep over the river bend  with a clear view of Taj Mahal from a distance .Alas Shahjahan, its builder ,was imprisoned here by his son and successor ,Emperor Aurangzeb and could only philosophise at the tragic turn of events.

            Educated ,entertained and dined on gourmet dinners , treated  like a Maharajah for a hassle free  week , but exhausted  we returned to our Palace on Wheels to recall , ponder,  assimi-late , think  and savor these memories for ever. It was some trip ,to be able to see so much in so little time. To see  what we did will take at least twice the time and twice the money with  the hassles of transferring to hotels and airports , hustling for taxis, queuing for Palace and fort entrance tickets, looking for Guides or  tea, mineral water or soft drinks and right restaurants for lunches and dinners .When the Chairman of Indian Railways was planning to bring out the moth-balled old Royal railway saloons and carriages used by erstwhile Maharajas and Nawabs of the Indian princely states for these travels, he was being so demanding that his adviser on tourism RK Puri, exclaimed "What you want is a Palace on Wheels." And that is what they have created. The  original saloons  having done duty the current ones while less luxurious are  more comfortable and functional with attendants at your service all the time .Tour escorts like Atul Jhala, scions of old ruling families with their grace ,quiet charm, dignity and politesse of nobility ensure air-conditioned coaches with professional tourist guides, many professors or experts in arts and culture, awaiting  you, without any worry of entrance fees ; cool drinking water or tea when you might wish for , escorting you to the best of shopping ; silks ,handicrafts , gifts for the loved ones and souvenirs .The comforts of a Maharajah created in a Republican India. What more can one dream and wish for ?.


                                                                           Amb.(Retd) K. Gajendra Singh   Ankara ,1997