If you try and remember all your memorable meals, I am sure you would recall one or the other happy meal you enjoyed with great friends or family members, may be with strangers too but none of those meals would be had alone. Am I right?
And if you have ever had a meal at an exotic location out of nowhere, it is bound to stay with you forever. I will tell you about one such meal I enjoyed at the temple complex of Kiradu in Rajasthan which is now in ruins. And if I tell you that this meal experience was organized by the good folks at Suryagarh (Jaisalmer) you would instantly know it would definitely be good.
All food that is prepared for the Gods is made with devotion and it comes through every bite you take. I know you would agree.
Kiradu temple complex is about three hours drive from Suryagarh and you drive on a singular road that goes straight till the horizon. There is vast expanse of desert both sides, sand often piled up on the road making small dunes and the driver has to be careful. The topography kept changing along the road and we passed the Desert National Park, spotting peacocks, Green Bee Eaters, Eagles, Falcons and some Chinkaras. There were herds of Camels too of course.
The only noticeable shrubs were the Calotropis that grew really huge. There were other desert shrubs including some tall grasses and the Kair, Sangri too.
The Suryagarh team had arranged for a high tea break at one of the villages called as Kesar Singh ki Dhani. It was such a wonderful surprise to take a detour into a village surrounded with sand dunes, find a few thatched huts, women and kids peeking from their homes and then you are directed towards one of those huts with a small door.
There was a low table set impeccably Suryagarh style, kudos to the team for such ideas and concepts. Now that I am working with them on a small project I know their trails and meal experiences are spectacular, this one was way beyond wonderful.
After having the chai with some of the villagers who joined us, we drove again to find the topography changing and some hills appearing gradually. Kiradu is a place surrounded by hills and is quite green compared to the Thar desert. The ancient name of Kiradu is KiratKup. Kirat dynasty finds a mention in Hindu scriptures and ancient history, I wouldn't go into finer details here but this nook of history is worth digging up.
Located in Barmer district this was an old civilization as we were told by Rajendar Singh Man, an official from INTACH, Barmer chapter. He claims the hills envelope an ancient city that is now buried under the bushes, trees and some sedimentation. Mr Man informed that the occurrence of rounded pebbles of a river bed suggest that this place got flooded by a river once and got destroyed or buried probably due to the forces of water. Forceful damage to the wall sculptures suggests some army had tried to destroy it revengefully. Several Mughal armies are responsible for the damage we were told.
The temples are beautiful, the history enchanting and the wall carving on them feels alive when you take a closer look. It is believed to have been under the reign of Parmar in 12th century but there is no trace of evidence how the whole temple complex got destroyed and the city got buried slowly. The temple complex was build some 400 years before that.
We found the stories from ancient Hindu scriptures carved in stone. Presence of some erotic sculptures makes these temples comparable to the Khajuraho temples but the INTACH officials kept lamenting about the sheer apathy of ASI.
I would want to dig deeper into the history and the art, Kiradu temple complex has ignited an interest for sure. The Iconography of these temples tells stories that need detailed interpretation. I was reminded of the fine work at Dilwara Jain temples that we had visited some 26 years ago.
The Kiradu temple complex had a group of more than120 temples and 5 of them can be seen in partly restored form. There is no facility for tourists apart from the road but that may be a blessing in disguise as this place is free of plastic and empty packets of chips and what not. I wish it remains the same and people who respect the ancient monuments have better access to these.
Suryagarh did a wonderful job by cleaning the premises and arranging a Hawan. This is an ancient Hindu way to invite the forces of the universe to bless a place or a cause, hoping this Hawan will be a beginning and ASI will take interest in unearthing more of these temples while preserving them too. Note that this temple complex was not accessible to civilians since a couple of months ago as Indian Army had a base here.
This little priest was part of the entourage of Hindu priests (Pandits) who had been invited from Barmer and was a lot more enthusiastic than the elder priests.
The collective chants of all these priests was good to hear after a very long time. Arvind's family organizes such large scale pujas back in Banaras and I have been part of a few of them. I kept thinking Arvind would have joined the chanting involuntarily as he has been doing since his childhood. My own family was not so much into pujas.
And just like Arvind's side of my family, this puja also commenced into a sattvic meal that was cooked on the spot. Chef Megh Singh Rathore and his team had arrived at the temple complex since noon and had cooked a lavish sattvic meal for all of us, the Pandits and all the workers deployed there. What a meal it was that we enjoyed in open air.
The tables were set old fashioned 'chowki' style and we were served alu mungodi ki subzi, mirchi ka kutta, poori, dal bati churma and pulao along with buttermilk.Desserts were mung ka halwa, some signature suryagarh mithais and some more kheer etc but I got my tripti eating the sattvic meal, desserts became unnecessary.
I will be sharing recipes of the mirchi ka kutta and alu mungodi ki subzi next. I need to keep this memory in the form of food too, after all the memories become tangible when the taste is recreated on our dining tables.