After breakfast, we loaded our van and headed through the quiet streets of Jaipur to the highway connecting us to Agra.
It will take all day, due to the distance, but also due to the stops to see special sights along the way. The streets were uncharacteristically empty because this was the last day of Diwali and on this day, sisters visit their brothers and bring more and more sweets.
The sugar rush must be out of sight, but all the markets carry a huge assortment of sugary items.
Our first stop was to another artisan place, where we saw rugs being hand knotted, which is quite different than hand “made.” Each tuft is tied individually and it can take a very long time to complete, sometimes a year or more.
Once finished, the next difficult task is to take a pair of flat scissors to cut the tufts, so they are all the same length. Then, the rug is turned over and a seasoned artisan uses a blow torch to burn the knots, so the rug will never slide, even on polished floors.
The next step is to wash the rug with lots of water, using a wooden squeegee to remove as much water as possible. The rug is
allowed to dry in the sun. The colors will never fade.
We saw raw gem stones being cut and polished for jewelry and other adornment by men who sit cross legged for hours on end. How they can do this is beyond my understanding. The work is tedious and time consuming and these men apprentice with their fathers and grandfathers for years.
Other artisans create blocks to print cotton and silk fabric. It is a multi-stage process, with each block adding more color and depth. Once dry, the fabric is dipped in a vinegar and water solution to set the dyes, then washed. The color changes are dramatic and the elephant is the most popular motif.
We moved on to the City Palace, a place rarely visited by tour groups, because the Palace can’t handle crowds. In the Palace, you see the armaments for the time, the
halls where the heads of state entertained and the opulent lifestyles. Not much was spared. The guards were very colorful!
Our next destination was to the train to take us from Jaipur to Agra. The two hour trip went mainly through well-tended farm land. We ended up at the Jhansi station, which was very chaotic, as auto-rickshaw drivings were vying for our attention as potential riders. Yippee, our bus was waiting for us and off we went for the four hours to Agra.
Believe me, when I say that those four hours, particularly since it was getting dark, was harrowing, at best. Motorcycles, cows, cars and buses coming at you in your lane… It was not for the faint of heart. Finally, I just had to bury myself in my book and not watch. Our saving grace was arriving at our beautiful hotel in Agra, to rest after the bus ride. Tomorrow, on to the Taj Mahal!