To Bikaner: November 11

Today marks the first day of Diwali, which is the biggest holiday of the year in India.  It is a Hindu celebration which is kind of like a combination of Christmas (how big it is) and Thanksgiving (its meaning).

Today’s ride was pretty bumpy, at least relative to how smooth most of the roads have been.  We stopped at an animal hospital which was around half way to Bikaner.  It is an amazing place, housing over 1,500 sick animals (mostly cows).  It is completely funded by donations and costs of 4,000 Euros a day to run.  Many of the cows have had amputations after being run over on the road.  There are also animals suffering for diseases like cancer.  What really was disturbing though was the cows that were there after having acid thrown on them.

Then it was time to visit Karni Mata Temple, a rat temple.  I’d been really looking forward to this.  I remember watching it on the Amazing Race years ago.  It was smaller than I’d anticipated, had not as many rats as I’d expected, and some of the rats looked rather ill.  Plus, I didn’t see a lucky white rat.  Still, I’d was still a really unique place to visit.  People drink milk from the same bowl as rats as it’s considered lucky but I certainly didn’t try that!


Some of the rats drinking some milk

The driver had difficulty finding our hotel in Bikaner. With Diwali, the hotels were all very busy and we ended up at a hotel that the company hadn’t used before. It ended up being a pretty nice hotel though. We were given flower necklaces on arrival. It must have been part of Diwali as we were also given them at dinner that night.

I’d been told that Bikaner received few foreign tourists but I saw more there than I had in Jodhpur. This was apparently because everyone was visiting the sites today as they would be closed tomorrow as the second day of Diwali is visiting family and friends.  Bikaner, more than anywhere else I visited, reminded me of the Middle East.  I think it had a lot to do with the desert environment there.

In the afternoon I visited Junagarh Fort which was quite busy, likely because of tomorrow’s closure. I then walked around the market which was insanely busy and not at all conducive to actually shopping. At first it looked like the street was pedestrian-only but, of course, then there were motorcycles.

In the evening, we were able to experience Diwali celebrations. Fireworks are a huge part of Diwali. We’d been hearing and seeing them for a few days but tonight there were so many.  They are done by individuals.  The fireworks come from all directions and you never know where they’ll come from next.  A lot of the fireworks are literally set off right on the street.  Obviously, safety standards are a bit different in India!  We walked around the market area again and with all the lights it really felt like Christmas.  Dinner was at a rooftop restaurant with a great view of all the random fireworks.  Unfortunately, I felt cold for the first time in India sitting out there.


Some fireworks on the street in front of the hotel.

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