Call of the Desert – Part 1 (Sambhar, Jaipur)

Wanderlust is often described as an irresistible desire to travel or explore. Anyone who has travelled has been a victim of this strong desire. So has been my case, after travelling to rajasthan many times in the past I have had this feeling several times.

It was October when I was planning a breather in some unknown land again. I have had this problem of not able to stay in the cemented world for a long time. I need a break after every two or three months. I talked out with friends and chalked out the plan. This time it was rajasthan again, where I would be covering an unknown land and then head to my September crash pad Pushkar. The plan was set with two of my friends and dates fixed as last of October.


Weather you call me a Vagabond, an Explorer or a Nomad, I love to live out on the road, meeting people, exploring regions and soaking every bit of it in my soul. So as the plan was fixed and we met at a friday night on a bus stand, inquiring about the place called Sambhar, 96 KM souh west  of Jaipur on the route to Nagaur via Makrana. Makrana is known for its marble, which were sent to Agra for building Taj Mahal.

Sambhar is a small village as it looked to me but later realized its a Town with a population of almost above 22,000 people. It’s importance is primarily because of it being situated along the Sambhar Lake, the largest saline lake in India.

So finally the bus was boarded to Jaipur and we slept of to the gentle breeze that was blowing then. We woke up around 2AM to find us in Jaipur, we looked for the bus to Sambhar and were told the first bus leaves at 4 AM, so we rested at the waiting lounge. As the clock stoke 4 AM we caught the bus to Sambhar it an hours drive with most scenic routes and fresh air of the clean desert. As the time Sambhar, Rajasthan passed I saw the sun rise and that was just splendid. Birds chirping in the cool breeze and the pale orange sun rising to touch the sky. I was mesmerized to see this beauty as the calm desert was coming to life we were told that we had reached Sambhar. We asked around for a hotel or a guest house where we could freshen up but the locals told us that there is no hotel in this town and the only place where we could rest was the circuit house. We marched to the circuit house and found a young gentleman, who is a salt trader and was on his morning walk. He called some people for making reservations at the circuit house but nothing worked.

He then asked us to company him and we can stay in his guest room as we just needed to freshen up. That’s the best thing about Rajasthan, the warmth of the people, they treat you as guests rather than just a tourist.

This was when I realized what Sandy always tell me “The Best Things In The World Come For Free”, so was our stay and breakfast in Sambhar. With thanks and goodbyes done, we headed towards the sambhar lake, following the railway tracks. Suddenly everything that was brown changed to white, salt everywhere around us. The sun was reflecting from the stark white salt as if we will go blind. After walking long and asking for directions from the locals about the Shakhambri Devi Temple. We were told that it was just 9 KM away if we walk on the salt flats, which was impossible because it was filled with water as it had rained there after 22 years. The next option was take a car and go by the road covering almost 28 KM.

We booked a car for just 500 rupees, for taking us to shakhambri devi temple and the to the devyani temple on the other side. As we boarded the car my anxiety to see the Siberian pink flamingos was building. We reached the temple after a bumpy ride of an hour. With all the worship done I sat with the priest to listen to the story behind a salt lake in a desert.

Sambhar lake has an catchment ares of 5700 km² with Sambhar, Jabdinagar, Govindi, Gudha, Jhak, Nawa, Jhopak and Ulana settlements around it. The priest told me that according to the Hindu tradition, Shakambhari Devi, the tutelary goddess of Chauhan Rajputs, converted the forest to a plain of precious metals. People were worried about the potential feuds for wealth and felt it was a curse rather than a blessing. They requested the Godess to retract her favor, so she converted the silver to salt. The temple adorns chains of iron with really heavy locks, impossible for a human to place them there. Following which the priest asked me to climb to 603274_10151394868561518_1761123715_nthe chattri to have a view of the Siberian birds but I was tempted to see the salts first and I climbed down to the salt flats. I must say these flats look to be solid but they are really soft one can feel it going down. Sand and sun were doing there best to drain water out from our bodies.  Now the driver took us to the Devyani Temple on the other side of the lake. Another bumpy ride and we found our self at a place similar to the Pushkar lake. There is a small temple dedicated to Godess Devyani with a huge pond in the backyard.

Popularly known as Sab Teerthon ki Nani (grandma of all pilgrim places), Devyani is one of the protected monuments in Rajasthan, it finds references in ancient mythological and holy scriptures as old as the Puranas. There is even a reference to Guru Dronacharya’s son Ashwatthama’s penance at the Devyani pond after the battle of the Mahabharata.

The pond derives its name from Devyani, the daughter of Guru Shukracharya, who was a great master of sanjivani vidya (the skill to revive the dead). A holy dip is considered sacred particularly on the occasion of Buddh Purnima, when an annual fair is also held.

Call of the Desert – Part 2 (Ajmer, ,Pushkar)


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