It was as unplanned as something could be. Arvind Bhai of (Jaipurthrumylens) had an invite for Dal Baati Choorma at a function in Samode and since we had discussed visiting Samode Village numerous times, I instantly said yes when he asked if I was interested in going! Not that Dal Baati Choorma wasn’t reason enough to go, especially when its the monsoon in Rajasthan. For the outsiders, Jaipur locals celebrate monsoon by organising community gatherings and serving Dal Baati Choorma and other traditional dishes. These gatherings are typically held in the outskirts of the city and this time the invite had come from Samode village.
We left from Jaipur at around 11 in the morning. Samode Village is located around 40 kilometres away from Jaipur and is on the road to Shekhawati. A large part of the road to Samode is the National Highway (To Bikaner); there is a diversion just before reaching Samode village. The weather was gorgeous and dark clouds filled the sky. The landscape and the low lying hills were in a generous shade of green and the typical barren colours of Rajasthan were nowhere to be seen. What a welcome change it turned out to be…
In hindsight, it was good that we had started off with our explorations before our super heavy feast of Dal Baati Choorma! I had been to Samode village only once before this; and that was just for a morning hike. We had climbed close to the entrance of the Samode Fort and had hiked back from a forest path which was leopard territory – as per the locals. It was then that I had really been intrigued by this lovely little hamlet.
As we reached Samode village, a local tour guide approached us. He also owned a small travel firm and was happy to show us around. I spotted some crumbling, gorgeous doors as we moved ahead on the single street main road of Samode. Like Shekhawati; Samode’s houses were brightly painted from the exterior. Frescoes had been painted outside almost every home and the architectural pattern felt quite similar to Shekhawati. Few of the houses resembled havelis, giving Samode a very regal flavour.
The entrance to Samode Village was through a huge gateway that gave the impression that Samode must have been a Kingdom or a thikana earlier. Our first impression hadn’t been all that great since we had to wade through ankle-deep water to get to Samode, courtesy of the overnight rains. We joked that with the cobblestone paths, we could have been in medieval Europe.
Samode is set in a bowl shaped valley ringed with low-lying hills. The monsoon had been inconsistent but had still painted the surroundings with shrubs of light green colour juxtaposed against the orange rocks. We entered one Haveli, courtesy of the local guide. The outside had been painted with welcoming elephants and the inside was as artistic too. The light inside seemed almost surreal; pretty doors with earthen pots kept for cooling water.
As we walked past the timeless lanes, children played forgotten games giving Samode an even more small hamlet feel. A few shops were open; a tailor went about his work nonchalantly and welcomed us for chai as we walked past his shop. There was a guy who was meticulously engrossed in making customised leather chappals; the products looked really nice and I wondered if I could come back someday and get some footwear made. After 10 odd minutes, we stood in front of an even more opulent doorway – It led to Samode Palace. Samode Palace was the erstwhile home of the royalty and is now run as a heritage hotel.
The hike that went past Samode Fort was something that people normally associating Rajasthan as a desert state should surely have a look at. And the fact that we went there during sunrise made it even more beautiful. The sun painted spectacular orange hues behind the mountains. The jungle was thick and we were happy to be safely back when we met a local (forest guard) who said that the entire region was leopard country!
We roamed around Samode village some more and as the sun made the weather humid, it was also time to go to the Dal Baati Choorma feast!
When the weather gods intervened after a hearty lunch and a cool breeze blew across the Jain temple close to Samode village, we turned our car in that direction and went for another round. This time we spotted some cool-looking graffiti on the streets. A few homestays had opened in Samode for tourists looking to explore a traditional Rajasthani village close to Jaipur.
A day trip to Samode from Jaipur is also not a bad idea at all, considering the fact that public transport is plenty and the distance is only 35 kms away. Day taxis can also be availed from Jaipur for around 1200 to 1500 Rupees maximum. The roads are excellent as well while its best to explore Samode village on foot.
Nostalgia swept over me as I penned down this post.
Sometimes one does not need to travel far away to have a memorable experience. Travel does not necessarily mean an out-of-the-world happening; it can also be the feeling of finding home in random places and making a safe space for those memories in the heart.
Like Murakami says ‘I sometimes think that people’s hearts are like deep wells. Nobody knows what’s at the bottom. All you can do is imagine by what comes floating to the surface every once in a while.’
We travel so that someday when our hearts are inundated with memories; we can make this world a better place by sharing the stories.