From magical sunsets in the golden dunes of Jaisalmer, opulent palace hotels of Udaipur, backpacker’s heaven Pushkar to tiger-spotting in jungles of Ranthambore, Rajasthan has something to offer everyone
The colourful and everwelcoming state of Rajasthan continues to throw pleasant surprises at anybody willing to explore and travel off the beaten path. Just a couple of hours outside of Ajmer, in Pali district, is the sleepy town of Raipur that few have heard of and even fewer venture to. But if you do visit this area, you will be welcomed by vast fields of henna (Mehndi) and the famous, hot Rajasthani red chillies that give the vibrant red hue to many Rajasthani dishes.
FLAVOURS OF THE DESERT
Pali and Raipur are not for the average tourist, these are the places that will give you the true picture of Rajasthan. Pali district has a long and painful history and is the original home of Paliwal Brahmins who used the indigenous water harvesting systems to make this land fertile and water available for irrigation. One of the techniques used was to channelise rainwater for irrigation purpose. For this, whatever rain water was accumulated in low lying areas was diverted and stored in mud dams. These small water bodies, addressed by various names like johod, talab, etc., were shared among villagers and are scattered even today all across the Pali district. Some of them are big enough to have a name of their own and others are just there without a name but still serving the purpose they were created for.
Water bodies like johods and talabs are also home to countless domestic and stray migratory birds. They are preferred habitats of colorful birds like flamingos, pelicans, ibis and egrets that you can spot from a close distance. Pali is strewn with such water bodies and while some are natural formations in rocky depressions, others exist due to the formation of dams like Raipur Luni Dam.
Some of the birds you will observe in the ponds of Raipur are flamingos, pelicans, black ibis, white ibis, red wattled lapwing, yellow wattled lapwing, black winged stilt and ring-necked plover. On the nearby trees and power lines you will find rose ringed parakeets, black winged kites and brahmani kites and as you move close to the village, you will see, the elusive house sparrow, now so rare in bigger cities but still holding the fort in villages of Rajasthan.
Many talabs or ponds in Pali are home to flamingos that are resident birds but move around from one pond to another depending on the water level and any kind of disturbance. It seems birds are intuitive and they know where they are safe. One of the reasons flamingos enjoy these waters is their shallow depth. As flamingos are waders, they like to forage for food by dipping their beaks in shallow water and these village ponds are ideal for them to look for food. What is interesting to note is that though the flamingos appear to be carefree and oblivious to your presence, the moment you try to go near them or talk loudly, they take off as a group only to land in a nearby field or further away from you at a safer distance.
KEEP IN MIND
So if you plan to watch them maintain a distance, be quiet and wear clothes that match the colours of nature like khaki, green and beige, totally avoiding bright colours like red, blue, orange, etc. As no proper records are easily available about the number of ponds and the birds flocking them, it is advisable to check with your hotel/homestay about the best place to visit for bird watching that is closeby.
As night falls and the cool desert air engulfs you, take an outdoor walk along the lake. Rural Rajasthan has the most unimaginable surprise for you in store. With not a single cloud in sight, every constellation is clearly visible. A moonless night is perfect for star gazing and for clicking some star trail pictures. A star trail is a type of photograph that utilizes long-exposure times to capture the apparent motion of stars in the night sky due to the rotation of the Earth. A star trail photograph shows individual stars as streaks across the image, with longer exposures resulting in longer arcs. Dry winter months in Raipur provide a perfect opportunity to click star trails.
Bharatpur in Rajasthan is another wellknown place for native as well as migrant species of birds that come from as far as Siberia and Central Asia for winter. Khinchan is also famous for the demoiselle cranes. Locals in Khinchan have a tradition of welcoming these winged guests and making them feel at home.
Text & Photos: Prasad NP