After thinking about Mount Abu I have a desperate need to watch all three Aladdin movies. Who could ever forget that rascal of a monkey who just had to grab the ruby and bring the entire cave down on his human friend? Little did I know, that Mount Abu was filled with monkeys of its own! Nota Bene: At the request of a few readers, I have added many more photos to this post. To prevent this page loading slowly, they are sized to be tiny however you can click on them to enlarge the picture!)
Before we reached the marvelous monkeys, we visited what is called Meditation Hall — the largest pillar-free hall in Asia. It seats about twenty-five thousand people and is mostly used for religious ceremonies.
We took a lot of fun pictures with several different poses outside of the hall. One spectacular one involves Fr. Simon however I’m pretty sure he would not appreciate it on the internet. So alas, I shall leave you wanting. The two gorgeous ladies with me are Sonia on the left and Anju on the right.
From Meditation Hall we actually started up the mountain proper swerving around corners with only a horn blast to forewarn anyone coming from the opposite side. I will admit that I caved to my seatbelt while my fellow passengers laughed at my insecurity. At that point, I had not quite become comfortable with the Indian inclination to not wear a seatbelt — except in the cities. And then there were monkeys!
We kept driving around seeing the different sites on Mount Abu. The most spectacular was the Jainist temple Dilwara. We were not allowed to take any pictures but we got a small booklet of postcards that have the gorgeous images on them. The temple was constructed entirely out of marble — a specialty of this area of Rajasthan — and the details were exquisite! I wish I could share that beauty here but there are no words to describe how amazing it was.
Next we visited the Gardens of Peace. The archway leading in bearing a startlingly similar symbol to the Nazi symbol (which I have now discovered is a Hindu symbol) we were led in by a preacher of sorts. I thought that Christians were the evangelists but boy I was wrong. This man attempted so fiercely to convert me to the mixture of Jainism and Hinduism represented at the gardens that Father almost got himself thrown out. It would have been easier to get away from his preaching if priests here wore the traditional white collar that we have come to know in America but unfortunately they do not. And thus it was until the sky started to drizzle that I was able to beg off. We stayed to take some pictures of the things they had stationed around the enclosure. Here is a picture that marks the entrace to the ‘children’s zone’ of the enclosure that is designed to entice small children.
After we visited the gardens, the rains truly came. When we think of rains in America, we think of maybe a few hours of rain that the windshield wipers can easily handle. Just a casual once a week kind of rain. Here, it is completely different. The rain came down so hard that we took to the car for safety. We arrived at a sister school to St. Anselm’s on Mount Abu to drop off the sister who had accompanied us and huddled inside there waiting for the downpour to lessen. It never did become less than a deluge but we eventually took our leave from the school. Areas that had been perfectly dry and barren as we ascended the mountain became waterfalls filled with dirty water cascading down the mountain.
The weekend of the 15th of July amounted to our vacation to Jaipur. Sonia and Anju joined Fr. Soji, the other priest at St. Anselm’s at two in the morning as we departed on the six (realistically seven) hour drive. We slept most of the drive there and were exhausted when we finally arrive. We switched out drivers for one who knew the area and the highlights as well as to give our poor drive the chance to get some shut-eye.
We set off through the crowded streets of Jaipur to our first stop: a gigantic marble temple. While I lack the proper memory to tell you its name, I will probably end up google-ing it and finding out.
Next stop: Jaipur Zoo. There were many beautiful animals there including leopards and tigers. I personally found all the other native Indian tourists ogling at the crocodiles and alligators to be quite entertaining. Outside the zoo: He says ‘Peace’.
We then journeyed to the National History Museum situated in Jaipur. Anju and Sonia had a moment of joy right off the streets of New York as they ran into the fifty or so pigeons on the ground in front of the museum. They were unsure at first but after I scared a few pigeons off by stomping at them, they took to the idea very quickly with rather large smiles on their faces.
Something that probably shouldn’t have surprised me was the price difference for natives versus foreigners. To get into the museum, Indian tourists had to pay a mere 20 Rupees, the equivalent to about $0.50. For me, on the other hand, we were charged R 150 the equivalent to about $3.50. While four dollars is not much in our eyes, it was a startling difference. (Don’t even get me started on the entrance fee to the Taj Mahal! R20 vs. R750! [$0.50 vs $18!]) Even so, the museum was very interesting and they even had their own mummy. I got several pictures but the lighting wasn’t wonderful so they did not turn out quite as well as I had hoped.
Another rain started while we were in the museum and we were crowded around the covered pathways that formed a square around the courtyard. Very quickly, people were trying to take pictures of me. This is the less glorious side to being like a celebrity (a status brought about by nothing other than my blonde hair, pale skin, and blue eyes), the constant photographs. Finally, I gently took one girls phone from her handed it to her mother and smiled next to her. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate taking photographs by myself? The next notable person who wanted a photo was a father with his barely toddler age son sitting on his shoulders. Practically throwing his child at me, he took a picture and showed it to me afterwards. I think that little boy is going to be made fun of for the picture of him screaming for his father, arms extended towards the camera, with an apologetic looking American holding him. The second to last spot (but most important) we visited was an old fort and palace of the Maharaja.
The palace turned fort or fort turned palace (I couldn’t quite catch all the words from our guide) served the hidden castle buff in me quite well. After a few well placed questions regarding scructures around the place, the security guard seemed to like me and my interest enough that he gave us a private (free!) tour of the entire locale. From real life murder-holes (holes made in the wall to allow you to get your target without him being able to see you: see picture) to a royal garden that had been walked by the Maharaja (prince) himself the palace was beautiful. I knew all that knowledge about castles and forts would come in handy someday. (I salute you, Tamora Pierce!)
Last, but not least: the greatest news of this entire post. I, Megan Christine Schlitt, had the undeniable pleasure of riding a camel. The trip to some beautiful refurbished Hindu gardens that concluded our Jaipur trip paled in comparison to the fact that I rode a real life, honest to God camel. And with that, I’ll close this extra long post with a victorious picture of me mounted on the aforementioned camel.