The colorful culture of India is easily recognizable, identifiable by textures, smells, sights, and sounds that are at once exotic and enticing. This national culture shifts and sways as you travel across the country, creating regional distinctions in music, food, dress, and lifestyle; as well as language and religion. No matter where you are in the country, the warmth and hospitality of the Indian people is unwavering. As with anywhere you travel, it is smart to be aware of a region’s history and heritage so as to be a culturally cognizant and respectful guest, no matter how surprising the differences may be.
When I was traveling in Rajasthan, more than a few things surprised me. During my first car ride the driver informed us that he’d never noticed the arrows on the road pointing the opposite direction. Daily we dodged and swerved for bikes, cows, and a few elephants, but never slowed our speed. Tea was always a good reason to stop, and directions to a place are almost never the same from person to person. And if you like using toilet paper, bring your own.
Rajasthan is a region filled with music, architecture, culinary wonders, and art, but nightlife is far from a major event. If you do venture out on the town to indulge, anticipate a lot of stares from the locals. While it’s not unheard of to go to bars or clubs, many larger cities such as New Delhi, Bangalore, and especially Goa cater to tourists and the party mentality. In fact, a friend in-the-know calls Goa the Vegas of India. Some will charge hefty entry fees, but if clubs, bars, dance halls and the like are what you’re looking for in India, the south is absolutely your best bet.
Outside of the typical nightlife scene, there are a host of cultural extravaganzas to participate in. One of my favorite places is a fair called Chokhi Dhani Village in Jaipur. The fair is a colorful place that introduces many traditional customs to visitors. For just a few rupees, you can get your palm read or mehndi done and let it dry by a bonfire. You can also see a puppet show with traditional Rajasthani puppets (identifiable by their mustaches), take a camel ride, and participate in traditional dancing. There is a buffet-style dinner that includes a wide variety of local dishes served in leaf platters, which includes curries, dal, bati and churma, regional sweets and many other delicious dishes. The whole fair is very authentic, and is a relatively cheap and easy way to get a good feel of the regional culture of Rajasthan.
In addition, at any of the many forts in the area and in other regions including Delhi, you can see an outdoor light and sound show (called Light and Sound Show) after sunset that is a light-hearted and informative overview of the local history and regional legends and stories. Also look into religious events happening at the time of your visit and see if you are able to participate.
So after sunset, take in some cultural events, and certainly take advantage of the abundance of things to do and see all day long. No matter what you do, it will be an adventure!