Pic Courtesy- Dipen
The Temple Food Trail continued with our journey towards Jaipur. There is a romance in the name of the Pink City which is palpable. I have only seen Jaipur in films or in my fantasies as the land of the mystic desert, vibrantly dressed men and women singing in gay abandon and the camels in the backdrop. Let’s see what’s in store.
After a good night’s sleep, we had an early breakfast and set out to our next destination; the popular Govind Devji Temple. Breakfast was again a choice of Bread/butter, Poha, Milk, Buttermilk, Makhan-Mishri that lord Krishna relished. Most of us were dozing away in the bus, while the rest were having conversations. We got off at a highway inn to stretch our legs and of course the restroom. The small inn had a huge armory of artifacts lined up from the entrance itself. There were some really exotic pieces on sale there. If I had the time I would have stashed a few in my baggage.
I was looking out of the window and watching the changing topography. I could see the Aravalli Hills and that meant we were close to our destination. The Nahargarh Fort is built on these hills. Then we entered the pink arches of this pink city. The city did look pink and colorful.During the rule of Sawai Ram Singh, the city was painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales or Edward VII, and then many of the avenues remained painted in pink, giving Jaipur a distinctive appearance and the epithet of Pink city.
The temple of Govind Dev Ji is said to be one of the most sacred and famous tourist destinations in India. It seemed different in its architecture and later I came to know that it was a part of the City Palace of Raja Sawai Jai Singh. The idol in the temple was brought from Vrindavan to Jaipur by the king, a staunch devotee of Lord Krishna. The deity, Govind Dev Ji, is none other than Lord Shri Krishna and legend has it that it’s an exact replica of Lord Krishna’s incarnation on earth. The idol of Govind Dev Ji is remarkably beautiful because of its resemblance with the Cowherd. Every day, some seven ‘Aartis’ and ‘Prasad’ or ‘Bhogs’ are offered at the temple, at seven different times.
According to Hindu mythology, Bajranabh, the great grandson of Lord Krishna, sculpted this breathtaking idol of GovindDev Ji at the tender age of 13.He is said to have asked his grandmother to describe Krishna and then went on to sculpt almost a mirror image.
The king Sawai Jai Singh was influenced by a dream, in which Lord Krishna asked him to install the idol in his palace, to save it from being destroyed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb( Really sad that most of our ancient history was wiped out by the marauders). The king went to Vrindavan and convinced then to hand over the idol and promised its safekeeping. He installed it in his own palace and later, built a new palace, Chandra Mahal, where he resided. No wonder the temple architecture is so expansive and ornate.
The temple is surrounded by beautiful gardens and inside it; one can see some beautiful European chandeliers and murals. The ceiling of the sanctum sanctorum is decked and embossed with gold. The king positioned his Chandra Mahal palace in such a way that he could get a direct view of the temple from his palace.
The journey was quite long and by the time we reached the temple, it was time for lunch and all of us on The Temple Food Trail proceeded to the hall for our Rajbhog. We were late for the Rajbhog Aarti but then the bhog was ready for us. We were seated in a row and served in leaf plates and bowls. Since we were on The Temple Food Trail, I noticed that the food was different in each temple. At Jagannath Temple in Delhi we had Chappan Bhog, in Mathura it was Makhan-Misri as Krishna is an infant. It changed in Vrindavan too as Krishna is a young boy.I was curious to see what we were going to be served at Govind Devji.
I was pleasantly surprised by the menu. There was a kachori with sweet chutney made of dried dates and spices, khasta puri, plain puri, mutter and scrambled paneer(cottage cheese), masala bhindi (okra), malpua( sweet pancake), a rich kheer(rice pudding) flavored with saffron and would you believe it spinach- baby corn. I asked the person serving us; how come American corn and he said we should move with the times! It was surely a meal fit for a king and we did feel rich and full after it. Burp!
As if all that gluttony was not enough we got to have a peek into the Temple kitchen where the cooks were making an awesome amount of Ladoos. We had two options after this; the choice to go and crash in the hotel room or go check out the surrounding markets. I chose the first option of course and so did Nandita, my roomie. We checked-in to the Park Regis Hotel and had a lazy siesta in the cool environs. I didn’t know eating temple food would make me so snoozy!
We were asked to assemble again at the temple for the Gwal Aarti which starts at 5:30 PM and ends at 6:00 PM. People were thronging the hall and there were rows of men and women chanting away. Thanks to our TOI organizers we got to get a closer view of Lord Krishna with his consort Radha. There was a tilak of Sindhoor and Sandalwood paste with some Holy Basil leaves which you could munch on.
Dinner was at 8pm and we had two hours to kill.Nandita and I set off to the store that Jyoti had almost ransacked while we were napping. Right outside the store there was a panipuri vendor and we both just stood and looked at each other! How can you even resist panipuri? We didn’t and we had a few each and walked in for some retail therapy. We walked in and saw Vasanthi dressed in a cool outfit and we were sure that she had set out for shopping in a sari. She said she was flustered in the silk sari and bought a summery cotton dress which was much cooler.
We didn’t shop much but lost track of the time and by the time we reached the temple it was just 8.05pm. We were served dinner in a courtyard with a huge Tulsi plant on one side. It had started drizzling a bit and it was enjoyable to eat while the rain gods were getting ready to pour. This meal again was like the lunch we had. There was a samosa with a mint and date chutney, puris with Jaipuri dum aloo, Gatte ki sabzi and dessert was Mishri mawa. Yeah, I know what you all must be thinking but there is no love sincerer than the love of food, so eat on.
Virginia Woolf said, “One cannot think well, love well, and sleep well if one has not dined well.” And we have been dining well since the past few meals so we were surely going to sleep well. I was asking everyone to assemble in the hotel lobby for a chat but there were no takers as we had an early morning flight to Udaipur and had to wake up at an unearthly hour.
George A. Lawrence said ‘If gourmandize be the favorite failing in these parts, there is surely some excuse for the sinners.’ We were a band of blessed happy sinners!
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