Home > India > Chhotaram Prajapa’s Homestay – the time machine

Chhotaram Prajapa’s Homestay – the time machine

First impressions as we arrived: a bit scary but genuine with mud huts and rammed dung floors in a local families back yard, complete with cows, looms and a sense of peace and quiet. One of the huts even had a calf in it sheltering from the sun.

 

 

 

the oil lamps in the evening lighting up our huts

Our nerves soon abated as the family made us very welcome with a traditional red spot on the forehead, this one with a bit of rice stuck on for good luck. A cup of masala chai and a red/yellow bracelet and we were already feeling more at home.

our huts just after dawn the first morning

kids playing together on the dung floor- it stays cool and keeps mosquitoes away

We spent the afternoon relaxing, the children all playing together and getting into it before watching the sunset from the roof and then having dinner with the family. Dinner involved joining them in the kitchen as they prepared the food in a separate smoky hut around a fire in the middle of the room, the blackened ceiling testament to the years of use, this was a rare and privileged sight into a traditional life – pretty unbelievable really. With 11 people living in the house, everyone has a clear role and everything runs like clockwork. With dinner, the ladies eat separately and on their own, whilst our family was joined by the men of the house. As pure vegetarian, no eggs and no alchohol people, dinner was a delicious vegetarian affair, with rice and sesame oil roti’s cooked over the fire. We can honestly way, this was the most delicious food we have tasted in India.

making the dinner in the kitchen hut

The next morning we were up before dawn and out in the jeep on a safari tour of the villages and surrounding savannah. This turned out to be a real success, seeing local antelope, buffalo, all manner of unusual birds including a spoonbill, wandering camels and the very rare neel cow – a cross between a horse and a cow.

chhotoram and his safari jeep

the antelope, and especially the long horned ones, were very elegant

the cranes just before taking flight

the unusual black camels

We also got to see some of the old and local traditional people, the Bishnoi. These peoples are famous for their respect for trees, earning their fame when 365 of them perished protecting trees that were being cut down for the maharajah, a memorial now marks the spot. But this is more than history, to this day,  these people still live in groups of 3 of 4 families near to their sacred trees to protect them, meaning that there are few villages as such, more of an open savannah with hundreds of these family pockets dotted around.

We stopped at one such small group and were introduced to an elder who invited us to join in an opium ceremony, five minutes later we were straining the opium juice through what looked like wizards sleeves and drinking the bitter liquid. There was no effect as far as I could tell, with no side effects, but it was interesting to try.

preparing the opium

pots and quilts using 2000 year old techniques

We also stopped in at a local co-operative where they are famous for their patchwork quilts. There were many different styles and designs, but what really caught our eyes were the muslim blouse patchworks. These are rare and superb pieces, made from the old traditional blouses of the muslim women of the area. The blouses are often over 100 years old, and the seamstresses take them apart and sew them back together into these large quilts. The large ones were too expensive for us, but we did end up buying a smaller one to put on the wall, for how many more years they will be able to find the antique blouses I am not sure, but they are a real thing of beauty.

(Later in Jaisalmer we saw many of these quilts, so we are more suspicious of their provenance, all we can hope is that we got the genuine article – you can never tell in India)

We also watched some of the potters at work with their gyroscopic wheels, and the pot spankers making perfectly spherical vessels for the kitchen.

With so much excitement in the villages, the afternoon visit to Jodhpur Palace and then the Merangha Fort, was almost overshadowed, but nonetheless, the fort was of the typical impressive Rajastani quality, in great condition and with an excellent audio guide. Definitely well worth going to, and whilst not as visually impressive as Kumbalgarh or the Amber Palace, it does combine the brute force physical fort with supremely delicate palace very well.

Back at the village we joined the family to climb a local rocky outcrop to watch the sunset before being treated to a Rajastani speciality of Dal Bahti Churma – rye flour balls filled with vegetables, cooked in the ashes of the fire then crushed up and mixed with lemon juice. This is eaten with dal, rice, curd and roti – and is simply delicious. It was slightly sweet sour, and we all had our fill of this delicacy.

view across the savannah at sunset

In the morning we had the chance to see how this weaving family work, still operating on traditional looms made from whole tree branches that have been around for thousands of years. The quality of the work is something else – as is the time it takes to weave a rug. These rugs, called Dherries, take 2 people 1 whole month to complete, it is quite something. Needless to say, they are not cheap, but given the investment in time, they are good value. With how long they take to make, and the fact that each family only has one loom, we were pleased to be able to buy one made by the family we were staying with.

working the loom made of tree branches

whilst checking out the rugs, we had a visit from the local performing family with the children of the village in tow.

the head of the family making friends with "the boss"

With such good memories we were sad to leave. An incredible piece of living history with a lovely friendly family will rate as one of our highlights of our whole trip. We would strongly recommend anyone visiting this part of India to spend a couple of days here – you would not regret it!

If you are tempted, visit Chhotoram’s website at www.salawashomestay.com

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