India is a country of disparate details. In a single region, the land morphs from vast desert, to sultry jungle, precarious mountaintops, to valleys crisscrossed by dozens of rivers and lakes.
In one moment, a visitor can step into an outdoor market packed with hundreds of peoples, animals, and wares, and in the next, be looking out over an expanse of ocean where not a single living thing disrupts the continuous horizon of water and sky.
Like their homeland the peoples, religions, dialects, dress and customs of India vary from region to region, city to city, even village to village.
During a recent trip, The Antique And Artisan Gallery’s owners, Mari Ann Maher and Bruce Wylie, got to experience firsthand the collage of culture, heritage, and hospitality that is India.
For visitors, the city of Udaipur must appear as if it was pulled from the pages of a storybook. In northeast India, in the region of Rajasthan, Udaipur sits, or rather floats, on a series of five distinct lakes.
Every year, tourists flock to Udaipur’s many breathtaking palace complexes and temples. A favorite is Jag Mandir.
As if from a fairytale, the palace of Jag Mandir, rises out of Lake Pichola. Stone archways and tremendous carved stone elephants emerge from the lake, defying perceived concepts of architecture and engineering, and delighting the eye.
A sense of the fantastic, almost unreal, pervades every building in Udaipur, found even in the most (seemingly) trivial elements of architectural details.
The peoples of Rajasthan complement their beautiful city with equally delighting costumes. As seen in the couple above, the saturated hues and metal elements found in traditional Rajasthani garb wonderfully reflect the same aesthetics found in the region’s architecture.
Udaipur has been dubbed the “City of Lakes” and also the “Venice of the East.”
But Mari Ann and Bruce’s view from the Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel makes one wonder if Venice isn’t the “Udaipur of the West?”
Leaving lakes behind for arid desert, Bruce and Mari Ann continued their tour through Rajasthan with a stop in Jodhpur.
The Mehrangarh Fort dominates the Jodhpur skyline, towering over the metropolis and providing an unparalleled, “birds eye” view of the “Blue City”.
While the Mehrangarh fort may appear imposing from the outside, one must enter the structure to really experience its magnificence.
Throughout the fort, an extraordinary amount of attention has been paid to adorning each interior with luxurious materials be it colored glass, gilded appliqués, or frescoed walls.
At the other end of the Indian subcontinent lies the state of Kerala. Kerala’s position on the Malabar Coast gives it a tropical climate wildly different from the deserts of Rajasthan. For hundreds of years, this region has provided the exotic goods such as spices and rubber which have so ensnared the world’s markets and imaginations.
Here on Vembanad, one of the largest lakes in all of India, Mari Ann and Bruce traded grand palaces and mosques for India’s natural architecture. Unlike the hustle and bustle of downtown Jodhpur, one can go miles without seeing another person while floating down the waterways of Kerala.
Travel via houseboat, like those pictured above, is the best way to explore and enjoy the waterways of Kerala.
But for those prone to sea-sickness, the Vivante Hotel in Kovalam is a nice, if stationary, spot to take in the coconut groves of southern India.
After days of seeing the sites and constant travel up and down the entirety of India, Kovalam was the perfect location to relax and prepare for “post-vacation re-entry.”
The beaches of Kerala not only provided the locale for wonderful evening bonfires but are also the are perfect spot to scheme future trips!
…”to truly experience India means opening up all your senses to its wonderful pastiche of geographies, cultures, aromas, and peoples”…
Mari Ann and Bruce hope you enjoyed their photographs and their journey-just a small taste of India.
Graphics by Patricia Lesyk
Content by Mallory ODonoghue