Monday, July 21, 2008

Jambughoda Palace

(For pictures please click here)

Thursday, July 10. We’re now at the Jambughoda Palace hotel near Tejgadh, far from Delhi and Ahmedabad and deep in the tribal forests of Gujarat. We’ve left the city with its hectic traffic and pollution for clear air and the sound of birds singing in palm trees. Jambughoda Palace is an old estate that has been turned into a kind of nature retreat resort. We drove four hours from Ahmedabad to get here, the last hour of which took us up into foothills and into the forest where people officially categorized by the government as “tribals” are working small farms off the main road. While we passed some of the same kinds of shanty towns here we saw in Ahmedabad the people seem marginally more well off than the urban poor. Some of the homes are stucco with tile roofs, and there are farmhouses dotting the landscape. People were at work in the fields sowing seeds behind cows pulling plows, and others were busy fetching water, keeping house, or selling things by the side of the road (there is a dizzyingly complex network of impromptu roadside commerce everywhere we go) and kids in uniforms were getting off school buses and heading home. These people are working hard to scratch out a very basic living, but the conditions here strike me as better than in the city, for the landscape is beautiful, the flora and fauna are dense and green, and the whole rhythm of life is much more relaxing than anything we’ve experienced before. But the poverty remains stark, the living conditions often bleak and unsanitary.

The somewhat pompously named Jambughoda Palace Resort is beautiful, but pretty funky. The building is stately and has a lot of character, but it’s quite run down, even dilapidated, and the rooms are very basic (no AC, but we’ve got ceiling fans, and the bathrooms are in a tile room out in back of our rooms—you can have a cold shower or fill up a bucket of warm water and dump it over yourself). No one is complaining too much, however. We’re pretty glad to trade AC and hotel rooms for the sound of birds and the absence of traffic noise, the constant din of honking that dogged us in Delhi and Ahmedabad. The grounds are beautiful, as you’ll see from the pictures, lush and colorful, with a large outdoor veranda adjacent to the main house for dining (we just finished a wonderful dinner out there). The Jambughoda is adjacent to a wildlife sanctuary featuring panthers, hyenas, and antelopes. We’re told panthers occasionally roam on the property. I’ll let you know if they do. Tomorrow we head to the Tribal Arts Academy for a full day. See the link on this site for details about the academy, which works to preserve and enhance the culture of the tribal peoples of the area.

This morning before leaving Ahmedabad we stopped for a tour of the Calico museum, one of the jewels of the city. The building and grounds of the museum are beautiful, and the collection of weavings, carved statuary, and bronze work is amazing. The collection is housed in a palace with beautiful marble floors, intricately carved wood inside and out, and a maze of rooms, stairways and terraces, all of which are covered with displays of quite stunning woven work of all kinds, carved statutes and carts, replicas of the interior of royal tents, and bronze works. It’s much too vast to see properly in less than a full day, and we only had a couple of hours with a guide. More an introduction than anything else, but quite marvelous. Take a look at the website if you want to see more since, as I said, photos were not allowed.

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