From where I stood on the parabolic sand dune, I could see a long stretch of sand spread ahead till the horizon, lightly sprinkled with cactus and pale bushes. The Thar started, or ended, here depending on how one wished to see it. Archaeologists propose that almost 5,000 years ago, a mystique river Hakra (often equalled to the mythical Rig-Vedic Saraswati River) watered these plains. There were settlements by its bank, such as at Kalibangan, which depended on its water to irrigate their harvests. Later, the river dried up and the culture by its banks withered away. But in the Thar, the prehistoric still seems to enwrap the present.
Life in the sands
Just 55 km from Jodhpur, we headed towards Osian, a village overlooking the Thar. As soon as we reached, we met Jhallaram, who earned his living by inviting tourists home and giving them a taste of the village life. Tempted by the call of the desert, we had arrived at this village from Jodhpur the previous evening after a long drive through desolate desert roads. On arrival, we parked our car on the boundary of the village, and mounted on the camels (an integral member of every family) and trekked into the village. Osian is also known as Khajuraho of Rajasthan.
It is famous as home to the cluster of ruined Brahmanical and Jain temples dating from the 8th to 11th centuries. The city was a major religious centre of the kingdom of Marwar during the Gurjara Pratihara dynasty. Of the 18 shrines in the group, the Surya or Sun Temple and the later Kali temple, Sachiya Mata Temple and the main Jain temple dedicated to Lord Mahavira stand out in their grace and architecture and come under the must-visit tag once you’re in Osian.
Nourishing, hearty fare
Apart from seeing Umaid Bhawan Palace, Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada and other sites in Jodhpur, a 55-km drive to Osian gave a glimpse of the untouched beauty of Rajasthan. Osiyan Temple from where Oswal (a Jain) community is believed to have originated is a wonderful piece of architecture. Finally, it was time for us to leave. Jhallaram prepared the camel cart, carefully cushioning the seat for us. With a determined, tacit decision to come back again, we climbed into the cart and bid adieu to the glory of the desert.