For a feel of real Rajasthan head to Churu
It is the 'gateway' to the Thar desert, boasts of untapped desert experiences and spectacular painted havelis, and yet, Churu — a sleepy town on the border of Bikaner, has never been on the list of 'go to' places in Rajasthan.
Yet, there are a multiple reasons why heading to Churu is a great idea — especially those from Delhi looking to spend a lazy weekend in a part of Rajasthan that is still not commercialised.
A visit to a place, no matter how small, is often about the experiences that it has to offer. And in the case of Churu, these experiences are of a superlative kind. What sets this place apart is probably the fact that it is still not a tourist hub. Thus, unlike on a desert safari in Jaisalmer where one would be jostling for space on the sand dunes — alongside thousands, here, you could well be the only one with your partner on a stretch of the Thar, humming your favourite number under a starlit sky.
Cut to a sunny winter afternoon, and one is escorted to a stretch in the wilderness, where Prem Sarovar, a 100-year-old resting place for travellers of yore, doubles up to be the lunch venue in the present. A nap under the sun, after the lunch, on the gaddas, completes a sunny Sunday. Wildlife enthusiasts can wake up early in the day to take a jungle jeep safari to nearby Tal Chhapar sanctuary to spot deers, birds and cranes, in winter.
The Shekhawati region in eastern Rajasthan is famous for its fresco-painted havelis. And though Churu does not fall in that region, it does boast of a range of painted havelis that are several hundred years old.
What sets these havelis apart from those is Shekhawati, is that most of them still have the original Marwari families living there. And, despite their very conversative culture, they open their homes and hearts with equal elan to guests.
Heritage stay:Like most small towns, Churu has no hotels. The only place to stay there is Malji Ka Kamra (maljikakamra.com; )
This 1920s haveli has been painstakingly restored by its current owners and still flaunts original murals and paintings in the rooms, and is leisurely and old-world. However, the biggest asset of this property ought to be its fabulous food — authentic flavours that is hard to find in any hotel in Rajasthan, and the warm home-like hospitality of its staff.
(The writer's trip was sponsored by Malji Ka Kamra)