Back to My Roots

Learning More About India

Aarti Malhotra

AMBER PALACE This is one of the buildings in the palace complex. While taking a tour, I saw the beautiful murals on the pink sandstone walls.

At the beginning of my trip, to Jaipur, Rajasthan, while standing on top of Jaigarh Fort, I was able to see the beautiful view of Amber Palace and the city itself. From then I knew that this was going to be a trip to remember. 

Over winter break, my family and I decided that it was time to visit our relatives living in Delhi, India. For the past few years, my parents took us to cities other than Delhi to have us learn about the different cultures and traditions of India. This time we went to Jaipur, Rajasthan. 

Located in northwest India, Jaipur is also known as the “Pink City,” named for its buildings made of pink sandstone. When we arrived in the heart of the city, the ancient castles and old marketplaces had turned to the color of red clay, reflecting the hundreds of years of traditional Rajasthani culture. 

We got the full sense of Rajasthani cultures by visiting three out of the eight palaces and were amazed by their grandeur and size. These palaces portray a story of another time and place, where kings and queens ruled a whole kingdom, and each room offers a peek at their way of life. 

In City Palace, there is a museum dedicated to weapons that ancient kings, known for their valor and bravery, used in battle. A few swords were even carved and decorated. I remember being intimidated and intrigued when closely looking at them and reading about their specific uses. The weapons were used by the kings of Rajasthan, known as the Rajputs, which means warriors or kings. Other than their swords, their bravery and reputation for fighting is shown when visiting Jaipur’s eight multiple-mile long forts that run along the tops of mountains and around the city, highlighting the ancient struggle for power and protection. 

Apart from their castles and forts, Rajasthan is known for art, food and desert activities. In art, the embroidery of Rajasthan is world renowned. Using bright colors and tiny mirrors, the locals stitch fine designs on fabric by hand, creating beautiful work on clothing and quilts. Their use of mirror in their designs, known as mirror work, is popular throughout India and around the world. 

Additionally, the henna from Rajasthan is particularly famous, and I had the opportunity to have an artist use henna to create gorgeous designs on my hands. Henna, also known as Mehandi in India, is a natural dye made from a plant. It is an important part of Indian culture, as it is applied on a bride and the bride’s side of the family during one of the functions in an Indian wedding. 

With every trip, there are some things that I wish I had done, but was not able to because of time restraints or other reasons. Specifically in this trip, I was not able to eat “kachori,” a popular deep fried snack filled with spicy lentils and take part in camel and elephant rides, for which people around to world travel to Jaipur. However, I know that next time, if I get the chance, I certainly will. 

As a young, second generation Indian-American, born and brought up in the U.S., it would be easy not to fully learn about my heritage, due to the large distance between the two countries. I am glad that parents took me to Jaipur and that I could use my break from school and life in America as an opportunity to reconnect with where I am from and to learn more about what it means to be an Indian. Through sightseeing, eating and shopping for traditional Rajasthani clothing, I earned a greater appreciation for my background and am even more proud to be from such a diverse and unique country. I encourage everybody to go back to their roots and explore a new part of heritage. Trust me, it is worth it.