The Taj Mahal. The Red Fort. The Amber Palace. Palace of Winds. Jaipur City Palace. India Gate. India is packed to the brim with notable historical sites and monuments that will take your breath away.
On my recent Rajasthan: Taj, Temples & Tigers trip, I discovered that just as important as seeing these distinctive landmarks were the special moments that we experienced along the way. While I will never forget how I felt when I gazed upon the marble façade of the Taj Mahal glowing in the warm sunset, what ingrained itself in my memories, even more, is the breaking down of barriers and organic interactions.
Here are a few of the unforgettable moments that happened naturally on our trip through incredible India.
Intermingling with locals at a Hindu temple in Bhenswara
We happened to be traveling in the region during a celebration of Shiva which made for a lively and festive environment. As we entered the Hindu temple, unsure of what to expect, we were slowly woven into the folds of the local practices and celebration. At one point I looked around and our group was spread about the large area – there were a lot of smiling selfies, jubilant laughter, bags of sweets being given by the local priest, and friendly chatting with curious locals who wanted to know where we are from and what makes us tick. We even had offers to participate in an opium ceremony! It was a moment that I will not soon forget.
Participating in a blessing ceremony in Pushkar
A few of us opted to participate in a blessing ceremony on the banks of the peaceful holy lake of Pushkar, led by a local priest. Pushkar is a deeply spiritual place and I really appreciated the opportunity to dig a bit deeper, learn about religion and customs, and engage with the community and its beliefs in a more meaningful way.
Waving to school kids at the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur
A simple interaction… however a swell of emotions seemed to wash through me as we giggled and waved back at school children who were on a field trip in Jodhpur. They were so excited to be there, as were we, and just the exchange of smiles and well wishes was enough to leave us brimming with joy.
Getting to know a local female guide in Chittorgarh
We were delighted to have a female guide for the living fort of Chittorgarh, and I believe that she exceeded any expectations. It was amazing to learn about what life is like in India from a different perspective. She brought us to secret beautiful vistas and it felt like we were given a backstage pass to the site. She was tremendously intelligent, knowledgeable, personable, patient and hilarious!
Celebrating our tour leader’s birthday at his restaurant in Udaipur
Our amazing leader, Mayur, did not disclose the fact that it was his birthday on the trip. We went to dine at the restaurant that he opened in Udaipur to singing employees, balloons and a cake. What a surprise! It was lovely to try many of the delectable dishes at his restaurant while celebrating his birthday the Indian way.
Learning how to make chapati in a small village
Chapati is a staple of Indian cuisine, and it was a pleasure to unexpectedly learn how the bread is made from a local near Bhenswara.
Gazing into a Bengal tiger’s eyes in Ranthambore National Park
Anyone who talked to me before I left for India knows that I was really keen on sighting a tiger at Ranthambore NP. And oh, did I sight one. We were lucky to spend about 45 minutes with Nori as she relaxed, meandered around the forest, and posed for us. The first moment in which I locked eyes with the beautiful predatory animal gave me a rush that I can’t explain. I now know how much I enjoy seeing wildlife in its natural environment while traveling... I am hooked!
A smile from a stranger on the train
This friendly local’s eyes seemed to glimmer as he smiled out of the train cabin back at me.