Its amazing to have friends who are always up for impromptu trips to just about anywhere..! If you follow me, you must already be familiar with my friend Nandini. We love travelling and learning about new places and blend in perfectly with the local culture and people. This time around, we decided to visit Alwar for the weekend, a small city in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, about 160km from Delhi. Alwar was formerly the capital of the princely state of Alwar which was ruled by kachwaha Rajputs.
We hit the road in the morning to ditch the crazy traffic of Delhi and reached one of the oldest cities in Rajasthan.
The City Palace of Alwar was our first stop which is also known as the Vinay Vilas Palace. Built by Raja Bakhtawar Singh in the year 1793, it is a perfect example of Indo-Islamic architecture.
A part of this complex houses the museum where a rich part of its history has been preserved and is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in the opulent life led by the Maharajas of Alwar.
I was amazed to see some rare manuscripts, including one depicting Emperor Babur’s life. Some beautiful Ragamala paintings, miniatures, royal clothes and even swords and weapons that once belonged to Muhammad Ghori, Emperor Akbar and Aurangzeb are found here.
Behind the palace, is the Sagar Lake which was used as a holy bathing ghat. To find something so beautiful here, was a surprise. There were hardly any tourists here, giving us a perfect opportunity to walk around and admire this hidden gem of a place.
Moosi Maharani ki Chhatri, built by Vinay Singh is situated right outside the palace. Built in the memory of Alwar’s ruler, Maharaja Bakhtawar Singh and his queen, Rani Moosi who committed ‘sati’ (self immolation on her husband’s pyre), this beautiful cenotaph made of sandstone shelters the tomb of the king and the queen.
A steep path leads to the Bala Qila fort which was built on the foundations of a 10th century mud fort and is a towering structure set atop a hill.
We hired an open jeep (another impromptu and a good decision) to Bala Qila which can be entered through six gates, namely Jai Pol, Suraj Pol, Laxman Pol, Chand Pol, Krishan Pol and Andheri Gate. We took the Jai Pol gate and the guide led us to a road with a beautiful scenery. We were constantly amazed to find something so appealing in a small city like Alwar! The ever smiling guide talked about some common trees and birds and enlightened us with the history of the place
In the middle of nowhere was an abandoned fort now in ruins. The guide told us that Prince Salim was abducted and kept here as a prisoner.
The jeep took us to ‘leopard trail’ and the name itself got us excited. We spotted a few peacocks and sambhars.
Though we were scheduled for another safari at Sariska the next day, we were glad we didn’t miss out on this one too. Every place offers a different story and we are all ears to listen to tales from a different time.
We headed to Neemrana to stay for the night. If you have a day to spare, you must visit the Neemrana fort which is probably the most beautiful fort in the area.
Next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we set out for Sariska Tiger Reserve which lies southwest of Alwar and is a part of the Aravalli Range.
We had bought our entry tickets online so we waited for the gates to open while observing the locals and staying away from the food-snatching-monkeys. While waiting, you may visit a small souvenir shop too which is near the ticket counter or visit the only cafe in the complex which provides snacks.
The restrooms are not in good shape here, make sure you carry wet tissues and a sanitizer at all times! With all the tax going to these reserves, we wondered why they couldn’t maintain something so essential..!
Finally we boarded our jeep, another friendly and informative guide showed us around the reserve.
Scrub-thorn arid forests, rocky landscapes, dry deciduous forests, rocks, grasses and hilly cliffs make the topography of this protected area.
Apart from the 14 Bengal tigers in Sariska which were nowhere to be seen that day, the reserve includes many species of wild life. We saw some beautiful peacocks, spotted deer, four horned antelopes, crocodiles, wild boar, hare, tortoise, nilgai (blue bull) and rhesus monkeys.
Hyenas and Porcupines are also found here, however they are both nocturnal animals, good for me – I don’t think I was up to meet them!
Sambhar was a common sight, now I’m not sure how friendly are they otherwise, but they seemed to be just fine standing a feet away from our jeep and constantly posing to have some pictures taken
The guide also told us that the Deer eat horns of the antelopes for calcium and also that when the female deer gives birth to its young, she waits for about half an hour for the baby to come along with her, if it doesn’t, she leaves the newborn right there!! Survival of the fittest..
Dhok is the dominant tree in the forest. Another tree found here is Dhak (not to be confused by dhok) which is also known as the flame of the forest or Palaash. Khair is also common in the area, the seeds of which are a good source of protein. Kattha an extract of its heartwood, is used as an ingredient to give red color and typical flavor to paan (Paan is an Indian and Southeast Asian tradition of chewing betel leaf with areca nut and slaked lime paste and sometimes also with tobacco)
Sasrika is a heaven for bird watchers with some of the rarest species like grey partridge, white-throated kingfisher, bush quail, sandgrouse, treepie, golden-backed woodpecker, crested serpent eagle and the Indian eagle-owl.
The safari guide frequently pointed to the Treepie which are a common sight. Their harsh call is one of the loudest sounds we heard.
As you can guess, this was a tiger-less safari for us, turns out there is about a one in four chance of seeing a tiger. However, after a 2 hour safari, we watched a beautiful sunset marking an end to this day.
I never thought I’d visit Alwar, I have been to Rajasthan a lot of times, some cities there have even more beautiful forts and palaces, so the thought of visiting Alwar never occurred to me. Its a small city with a lot of History. If you visit Rajasthan (everyone who visits India does) and you have a spare day – Alwar can be a good option. However, Sariska might not be the best bid if you want to spot a Tiger.
Have you been to Sariska or any other wild life sanctuary? Do tell me about your experiences.
Thanks for stopping by