On one hand is the Kumbh of literature. The inimitable Shashi Tharoor, the literary giant Man Booker Prize-winner Michael Ondaatje, and a faint hope of catching a glimpse of the god of American Gods Neil Gaiman (even though he is not on the official list of speakers). On the other hand is a kaleidoscopic treat in the golden deserts of Jaisalmer- decked-up camels; stout Rajasthani men displaying their moustaches; and a bunch of young women and men performing on the stage fighting to clinch the title of Miss and Mr Desert.
As if there werent enough reasons to travel to Rajasthan, the royal state of India is hosting two fascinating events this month. The five-day-long Jaipur Literature Festival comes back with its 2018 edition on January 25. The three-day-long Desert Festival hits the sands of Jaisalmer on January 29.
Dive into the literary extravaganza in Jaipur or soak in some desert sun in Jaisalmer, or may be both, but we say do make use of the upcoming long weekend. Oh, and if it helps, some fiery, lip-smacking Rajasthani delicacies await you wherever you go. Talk daal bati churma, gatte ki sabzi, ker sangria, ghevar and gajak. Here is some more information on the festivals.
Jaipur Literature Festival
Perhaps one of the best things about JLF is that you dont need to pay to see, hear or even talk to your literary crush. Gathering over 250 speakers from around the world, the festival will have sessions for the lovers of history and politics, art and music, fiction and poetry, economics and what not.
The exhaustive list this time has regulars like Shashi Tharoor who would discuss colonialism and its effects, among other things; and Javed Akhtar who would be in conversation with Rakshanda Jalil, along with Shabana Azmi; and internationally-popular Amy Tan and Helen Fielding. Also look out for the session with Peter Bergen, one of the few journalists to have interviewd Osama Bin Laden.
Other things to love about the festival are those puppet-sellers and graffiti-laden autos adorning the gates of Diggi Palace, the aroma of red velvet cakes and coffee around the Front Lawns, and a guilt-free license to indulge in a book-buying spree at the bookshop. Oh, and by the way, the stalls at the palace have some truly irresistible stationery items, artfully-designed clothes, bags and shoes. Talk indigo-printed juttis, embroidered bags, hand-painted saris and daries.
When: January 25-29
Where: Diggi Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Weather: Expect colder nights and mornings with the minimum temperature dropping below 10 degrees Celsius and warm afternoons with the mercury reaching to 26 degrees Celsius. Pro-tip: Carry a jacket to keep you comfortable during the afternoon as well as late-evening sessions.
Distance from major cities:
Delhi to Jaipur- 292.9 km via NH48 and NH48
Udaipur to Jaipur- 393.5 km via NH58
Agra to Jaipur- 238.5 km via Bikaner – Agra Road
Chandigarh to Jaipur- 528.4 km via NH 44
Jaisalmer to Jaipur- 558.0 km via NH11, RJ SH 19 and Jaipur – Jobner – Kuchaman – Nagaur Road
Distance from Diggi Palace: 11.8 km via Amer Road
How to reach Diggi Palace: Public transport is easily available. Take an auto or hire a car. It would take a little over a half an hour to reach the palace, depending on the traffic.
Pro-tip: Take advantage of the resorts location and sneak in some time for a visit to the magnificent Amer Fort.
Desert Festival in Jaisalmer
The legend has it that Lord Krsna once told Arjuna that a ruler from his clan, the Yadavas, would set up his kingdom on the Trikuta Hill one day. So in 1196, when Rawal Jaiswal established his kingdom in Jaisalmer, it didnt take much time for the moment to turn into a festival and the celebrations to turn into an annual affair.
Today, drawing crowds from around the world, the three-day extravaganza is organised three days before the full-moon day in the Hindu month of Magh (February). The festival begins with a procession from the Jaisalmer Fort to the Shahid Poonam Singh Stadium on Day 1, followed by events like the longest moustache competition, turban-tying competition, camel race, Mr and Miss Desert tournament, tug-of-war, with many of them even seeing the locals competing against the foreigners. The evenings are filled with folk and sufi music performances.
While the first two days are celebrated at stadiums in the city, the last day takes you to the moon-lit Sam Dunes with an Air Force show and local folk performances. The Sonar Kila, or the Jaisalmer Fort, makes for the perfect backdrop to a provide a magical setting to the golden sands of the Thar. Watch the setting sun, feel the warm sand between your toes, go on food-binging at the festival stalls serving lip-smacking foods like pani-batasa, chaat.
Pro-tip: Don’t forget to take along your camera for a truly delightful kaleidoscopic treat for your lenses. Also, expect a large crowd and take care of your belongings.
When: January 29-31
Where: Shaheed Bhagat Singh Stadium on Jan 29-30, Sam Sand Dunes on January 31
Weather: The nights get colder in Jaisalmer, especially if you are planning your stay in the desert, with the minimum temperature dropping 11 degrees Celsius. The afternoons enjoy a warmer, milder temperature with mercury reaching to as high as 29 degrees Celsius. Pro-tip: Carry a jacket to keep you comfortable during afternoons as well as evenings.
Distance from major cities:
Delhi to Jaisalmer- 793.4 km via NH11
Udaipur to Jaisalmer- 511.4 km) via Phalsund – Jaisalmer Road
Agra to Jaisalmer- 794.0 km) via Jaipur – Jobner – Kuchaman – Nagaur Road and Bikaner – Agra Road
Chandigarh to Jaisalmer- 825.8 km via Suratgarh – Chattargarh – Bikaner Road
Jaipur to Jaisalmer- 558.8 km via Jaipur – Jobner – Kuchaman – Nagaur Road, RJ SH 19 and NH11
Distance from the city: Around 40 km
Distance from Sam Sand Dunes: 0 km
How to reach the city: Public transport is easily available. Take an auto or hire a car. The route from the city to the desert is gorgeous with the vast expanses of Gobi and Thar Desert on both sides. Expect to reach the desert within 45 minutes from the city.
Pro-tip: Take advantage of the resort’s location amid the Thar desert and go for paragliding or desert safari, if you are feeling adventurous.