This post is on a quaint place called Osian near Jodhpur in Rajasthan. We planned our Rajasthan trip starting with this place since Club Mahindra had a special arrangement with Camp Thar at Osian. We had planned to spend 2 nights here. This place would be the first to give us a glimpse of sand dunes and a feel of the desert. It is at the mouth of the Thar desert. We took a cab from Jodhpur to go there and it took us around 2-2.5 hours to reach. The terrain changed notably during the journey. We saw black-bucks and peacocks roaming freely in fields. Some stretches had vegetation while some had dry thorn bushes and sand.
Osian is an ancient city and was once an integral part of the caravan route. Merchants from as far as the middle east came here to ply their trade. It was also an important religious centre as can be seen even today from the number of Jain and Brahmin temples here. Some of them have been there for centuries together and still stand strong to the winds of the time. The people who used to live here primarily belonged to the Oswal Jain community and Paliwal Brahmins. Today Osian is slightly unknown and has diminished in size. Most of the visitors are pilgrims who come to visit the Sachiya Mata temple which is an important landmark of Osian.
Legend of Osian
There are many legends about this place. One of them is that the son of the ruler of this place was grievously ill and a Jain saved his life. The ruler embraced Jainism and lot of the local people(brahmins) followed en-suite. This angered the principal goddess of this place(Sachiya Mata) who cursed that prosperity would not prevail upon the converts who stay there. Eventually a lot of these people migrated to various parts of India. Even today none of the Oswal Jain pilgrims dare to stay overnight here. They visit the temple reverently and leave the town hastily before the sun sets.
Camp Thar is located on the outskirts of Osian and the picturesque tents are a delight to the eyes.
Glimpses of Thar
After having lunch,we spoke to the manager of the place and decided to go on a sand dune safari to the villages of Bhikamkor,Dabri and Khetasar which are close by. We were all excited as we would be seeing the sand dunes for the first time. We met a couple and their daughter from Mumbai who would be joining us on the safari. The manager accompanied us and off we started. We sighted a lone black-buck on top of a mound of sand looking towards the horizon with its back towards us. What a sight!
Children, Women and Men of Thar
As we entered the village, we could see colorfully clad Rajasthani Ladies walking back home after a hard day’s work in the fields.
We stopped at an oil mill and the people excitedly told us that they extract oil from a plant that grows locally.Not able to recollect the name though!
We went to a potter’s home next and a lot of children from the village gathered watching us excitedly. They started demanding for money or gifts! This is something that we experienced throughout our vacation in this state. We got to know from the resort manager that a lot of foreign tourists started giving the children money or other nick-knacks. The kids have got used to this so much so that they supposedly run out from their classrooms in school when they hear the sound of a vehicle. We refused to give them money and our friends decided to buy them some biscuits from a small shop nearby.
The terrain is harsh in these villages and the womenfolk lead very hard lives. Most of the girls start work at a very young age and are mostly illiterate since their parents do not want to send them to school.
We next stopped at a dhurry maker’s home. The dhurries/carpets are made from Camel Hair and supposedly last for a long time. Here too we could see small children at work. We made the children who followed us here to sing a song taught in their school. And they felt very shy to sing but managed. An old woman told us proudly that the piece of land belonged to her and asked us to sit there.
Creatures of Thar
We then resumed our journey and bid farewell to the village. We stopped the jeep upon sighting a pair of peacock and peahen. While we were busy looking at them, a small creature came out of its burrow popping its head out. This was the desert mouse/gerbil. We were excited to have spotted it since this region had lot of burrows on ground but we had not seen the mouse till then.
The next sighting was of a pair of Ravens ravishing what seemed to be a dead dove.
Golden dunes of Sand
The dunes came into view suddenly. Till then we had been driving on a mud road and the terrain changed so soon! Unlike the Sahara desert which is continuous,the thar desert does not have sand dunes throughout. We spent a considerable amount of time walking over the dunes and waited for the sunset. We spotted a desert beetle(dung beetle?) crawling over the dune leaving behind tiny footprints!
After watching a memorable sunset we went back to the resort.
Sounds of the Desert
A couple of musicians who have been hired by the resort entertained us with their amazing and lively Rajasthani songs! Some of the memorable songs being Nimbuda and Dumadum mast kalandar. Here is a video we took of them performing.
It was dinner time. The cooks here managed to give us a feel of the local cuisine after we gave them feedback and we were really thankful for this. Chatted with our new friends before retiring for the night. In the ethereal moonlight I felt that the whole place looked like a setting from Arabian Nights!
Kheechan – Demoiselle Crane Paradise
Nagesh woke up early to see if he could get sunrise pictures. We had heard the manager say that Kheechan was around 60 kms from Osian. I had initially added Kheechan in our travel plan. But I had removed it later as it was 100+ kms from Jodhpur and we would not have had time. The possibility of going from Osian had not struck my mind! Since Osian is midway between Jodhpur and Kheechan, the distance got reduced by half :) We decided to ask for a cab and visit Phalodi as well.
After breakfast we spoke to the manager and he felt that the trip was doable and arranged for a cab. Off we went all set to meet the thousands of Demoiselle Cranes who migrate and descend upon this village in winter. The villagers feed them and protect them. They are called Khurcha in the local dialect.
We reached Kheechan around 11 AM and were suddenly gazing at hundreds of these cranes as we turned away from the main road near a tank bund. What a sight it was. We were very lucky to have come here on that day as the migration period was almost over and some flocks of birds had already left. Despite this the numbers left behind were staggering. Not sure how the place would be when all of them are present :) The cranes paraded happily and preened themselves unmindful of our presence. We had the place to ourselves. A lone Sandpiper was the odd man out amongst so many cranes.
Suddenly the Cranes decided to show us their aerial skills and started flying above us. What an experience it proved to be! Imagine lots of Cranes flying right above you not too high!
Phalodi – Forgotten yet Beautiful
We spent some time there watching the Cranes and then started towards Phalodi. We had read up about the Parsnath Jain temple built by the Oswal Jains in the 1800s. This is a beautiful and colorful temple.The inside walls are adorned with colored Belgian glass and have paintings and frescoes.
After spending some time in the temple, we started on our way back to Osian. We saw few old and beautiful havelis in Phalodi. The people of this state are so artistic and love colors.
We were back at the resort by two in the afternoon. Post lunch and the noon siesta,we had planned to visit the Sachiya Mata and other temples of Osian. Our friends would also be accompanying us. We sought the services of Bablu Guide at Sachiya Mata temple and he agreed to take us around to some Jain temples as well.
Sachiya Mata – Resident Goddess of Osian
Sachiya Mata temple has stood witness to the testaments of time. The seven arches leading to the temple are a marvelous sight.We could not capture the archway in its full glory since some renovation work was in progress there. As we were climbing the steps one of the pilgrims offered us prasad which turned out to be Lapsi(a sweet dish which was in my list of things to be tried on this trip).
After offering our prayers to Sachiya Mata we went around the temple. Our guide explained about the history of Osian and the significance of Sachiya Mata and so on. This temple also has erotic sculptures due to which Osian is supposedly called the Khajuraho of Rajasthan.
We went to a Jain temple next which had beautiful architecture.
We reached the resort around 7 and spent some time listening to the music being played by the musicians. After dinner we sat and chatted with our friends. It was nearly 10 when we bid them goodbye and retired for the night. We had to catch an early morning train to Jaisalmer the next morning.
Jodhpur to Osian
Osian to Phalodi – http://g.co/maps/f9u66
Phalodi to Kheechan – http://g.co/maps/g4534
Unfortunately Google maps calls this place Kinchan!