October 20 - November 20, 2009

Trip to India (Part 2)

Our next major destination was the Camel Fair and Festival at Pushkar. The fairs date is determined by the full moon and continues for twelve days in the month of Kartika of the Vikram year (October through November). The occasion is the Poornima (full moon). I know just about everybody knows that! Hindi pilgrims also go to Sacred Lake to bathe and wash sins away! We were able to get a hotel close to activity and everyday walked by this dazzling manganese blue wall with men sewing, doing crafts and smoking hashish and ganga (Marijuana), their faces were intriguing, very skinny bodies.

Tiaja and I went to Camel Festival and it was interesting with blazes of color that the state of Raiasthan is know for. The items for sale ranged from weaving, rugs, jewelry, spices and carvings of all kinds, trinkets I can't even describe and of course... camels. Some men were grooming their camels and putting garlands of ribbon and raffia on them - "dressing them up".

I did a plein air painting there of "JuJu Bee camel". A fun painting to do and had many on-lookers. Now lets's face it, camels don't have the prettiest faces but after they all the "pretty trimmings", make-up and jewelry, they're irrestible (maybe I'm sick?). we spent five days at the festival. One morning, I was approached by a few "friendly women" all in blue dresses dripping with silver jewelry. They all had beautiful eyes, but all needed dental work (badly). They did a lot of hand movements that was different than I've seen. One grabbed my hand and started to do henna tattoos on my right hand. Before I knew it, I was in this tent buying chai drinks for them. Soon my daughter showed up and told me these were "women of the night" (even though it was daylight) and she chased them away. We had been taken to Pushkar from Delhi by a driver whose man was Raj; very pleasant and nice fellow. Now we were to leave Pushkar and needed another driver - our new driver was Jagdish, after a Hindu Diety of some kind). My daughter nicknamed him "Jack". Upon arrival in Jodphur, we checked out a number of hotels, one had the atmosphere of a medieval basement or cellar. The last place we visited was very nice and the owner, Shom, spoke excellent English. He was intelligent and up on world events. He asked me if President Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize?

The city of Jodphur is a delight to see. There are too many architectural masterpieces to behold. It's dominated by an ancient fort built on a prominent mesa. Meharangarh Fort built in 1459 AD. It also has a city palace, Umaid Bhawan that is very visible. Jodphur is known as the Blue City; at one time the Brahman, the holy priest cast painted their houses blue to let everyone know where they lived. The color became very popular and even those who were not priests started to use blue paint! Now here's a great view to paint - many adobe or cement houses painted blue, some with pink, yellow or green designs and the huge Meharangarh in the distance. I had our driver Jack drop me off at a stucco wall that afforded a most splendid view and I was able to paint a watercolor. Not too many disruptions - one guy tried to persuade me to give him the painting as a gift.

The next day Jack drove me around Jodphur so I could see new subjects - the fort still interested me and he also drove me past a Hindu shrine to Bheruii. A huge boulder (48") with a very bizarre painted face on it - surrounded by whitewashed rocks. I decided to opt for doing the mesa fort and started the painting. Half way through the painting I felt it was too dull and asked Jack to take me to the Bheruii shrine. A perfect spot to set up and a couple of Hindu devotees came to make a place for me to sit on the huge flat rock; nobody has ever done that for me. The resulting painting is one of my most interesting if not strangest works of art.

Tiaja and I used Jodphur as a "hub" for visiting other places; we had Jack take us to Udipur with a very strong Hindu following. A prominent Hindu temple for followers of Jagdish was just down the street from our hotel. I did a painting there in back of the temple (a five hour one) - lots of drawings in this one. Tiaja said as I was doing the painting a Saddhu-Hindu holy man saw me drawing and did a drawing himself. I'm very pleased with the painting. Don't know if the Saddhu saw the finished painting.

Here in Udipur I was able to paint the famous Island Palace that some Maharaja built so he could go duck hunting when he wasn't with his harem attending to the needs of his brides. Jack took us to City Park; I saw again tremendous Hindu architecture and really too cool camels. A man was renting out camels for rides. The one I really wanted to paint had white and purple garlands or what I would call lingerie and lots of jewelry. He rented that camel out to an indian lady and I was pissed off - I took a couple of photos however and did a painting called "Camel in Drag" later. The story has a happy ending however - a camel he didn't rent out was sitting quietly nearby and sat down on its haunches for the duration of painting. This became "Fancy Camel" - a very bright red and yellow scarf was hanging under its chin and it had old silver coins that were soldered together for decoration on its body. It also had a muzzle on for some reason; maybe it bit some customers.

Continue to Part 3