Colours of Rajasthan


Divali.2 Dyed rice mandala in hotel foyer DSC00293
Dyed rice mandala in hotel foyer


Story by Jill Abery

Our tour started in Delhi with an early morning auto rickshaw ride through the narrow market lanes of Old Delhi. We also visited the Qutub Minar complex to admire the intricate carved designs on the buildings which date back to the 11th Century. At India Gate we enjoyed a very colourful ‘Changing of the Guard’ ceremony, then finished the day at the National Crafts Museum. The Crafts Museum holds over 35,000 pieces of rare and distinctive work, including embroidery, textiles, paintings and various forms of pottery and woodwork. There are also demonstrations by modern craftsmen which help to promote and maintain their crafts.

The Taj Mahal at Agra is understandably one of the modern wonders of the world. It is simply stunning, with carved marble screens in the interior and beautiful inlaid patterns in semi-precious stones. It would be cost prohibitive to recreate the Taj Mahal today, even if it was possible to find enough skilled craftsmen to complete the task. It was very crowded the day we were there as many locals were celebrating the holiday for Diwali – an ancient Hindu festival celebrating the triumph of light over darkness.

Diwali, also known as ‘The Festival of Lights’, is the largest of the Hindu festivals. During this time, homes and many public buildings are decorated with lights, gifts are exchanged, and lots of fireworks are set off during the evening. The festivities continue well into the night.

In Jaipur we travelled by auto rickshaws into the central walled Old City, to see the festivities and the lighting displays for Diwali. Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan, is known as the ‘Pink City’ and is home to many traditional crafts industries, with many skilled artisans producing beautiful jewellery, pottery and textiles products.

While in Jaipur our group visited a number of different workshops and we were given demonstrations and the chance to try tie dyeing, fabric printing using wooden blocks, miniature painting, and pottery painting. We also saw carpet making and visited a paper making factory. There was plenty of opportunity to visit the local speciality shops, including the bangle bazaar and textile shops. Rajasthan is known for the beautiful use of colour in craft products and clothing – with brightly coloured saris worn by the women and gorgeous saffron hues seen in the men’s turbans and clothing.

The colourful flower market in Jaipur bustles with activity, and was used as a location during the filming of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

A highlight in Jaipur was our ride on elephants up the hill to the Amber Fort and Palace, a spectacular complex of historic buildings. We were also fortunate to visit the Amber Palace and dined in the ornate dining room of the former Maharajahs. We were entertained with live sitar and table (drum) musicians. Many of our group dressed in Indian dress, and the men in the group wore turbans, which all added to the atmosphere.

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We spent four nights in Jaipur before going on to Pushkar, further west in Rajasthan, for the annual Camel Market. The Pushkar market is one of the largest livestock markets in Asia with about 50,000 camels and 20,000 horses traded during the fair. There is also an extensive cultural program at this time, with camel dancing and moustache competitions and huge numbers of visitors were there to take part in the festivities and visit the colourful bazaars.

We went for a ride on camel drawn carts through the fairgrounds to see the extensive area, which was set up with makeshift campsites and animals spread as far as one can see. Many of the camels were colourfully decorated.

From Pushkar our group returned to Jaipur, then on to Delhi to complete the tour. We were fortunate to have Jinny Beyer with us. Jinny lived in India at one point and gained much of her early inspiration and interest in textiles and quilting during that time.

India is such a huge country with a long and rich history, and it is impossible to do it justice in the time we had. I plan to return!

Jill Abery will be attending AQC as a delegate in April this year.
Jinny Beyer is an ‘international quilting legend’ and will also be a guest at Miss Sampson’s Drapery stand.

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