Jodhpur, February 25, 2013.
It is mid-morning when the rickshaw deposits me outside the most intriguing looking gate I have ever seen. It swings open easily and noiselessly into an empty courtyard.
And beyond the courtyard is a beautiful building built in a traditional architectural style and through its archway I can see an enticing view of rocks, green plants and a meandering wall. There is no one in the courtyard except the woman you can see in the photograph below, who watches my approach with curiosity.
The pathway that leads to the building is made from large slabs of rippled pink sandstone. It is a pleasant surprise to see a rippled sandstones outside a geology museum and laboratory and out in the open for people to (hopefully) notice and admire.
As I reach the building, which turns out to be the Visitor’s Centre, a young man comes out of one of the rooms and greets me with a smile and a “Welcome to the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park. My name is Denzil and I will be your guide.”
“Thank you, Denzil,” I reply. “I don’t see any signboard for the park entrance fees or camera fees or guide fees.”
“There are no fees, Ma’am, for visiting the park or using your camera or for the services of a guide,” said Denzil.
What? I can’t believe what I just heard. So far, in the course of my travels in Rajasthan, I have had to pay for visiting every monument, museum, temple, cenotaph, palace, fort, park, etc. as well as for the privilege to photograph them. This is the first time (and as I discover later, also the last time) that I don’t have to pay. And I am getting guide services for free ? Wow ! When I mention as much to Denzil, he only says, “It is our pleasure, Ma’am.
Saying this, Denzil leads me to the exhibition on the origins and history of the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park displayed in the building. He begins by saying:
The story begins over 80 years back when the present Maharaja’s grandfather decided to green the area quickly by spraying the seeds of Prosopis juliflora from the air…