TRAVEL : Rendezvous with music, nature and pretty guests

From listening to amazing folk music at RIFF to attending a grand wedding at Umaid Bhawan; from watching cranes at Khichan and feeding camels at Bilaspur, Sharmila Chand comes back completely overawed by Jodhpur

The shining moon is in its full glory, it’s a Sharad Purnima night and I am listening to the living legend, vocalist Bhanwari Devi of the Bhopa tradition, keeping Rajsthani folk music alive. Her voice resonates in every nook and corner of the majestic Mehrangarh Fort while, she remains in her mysterious veil sharing the stage with some of the best world musicians. This is one concert of Jodhpur Rajasthan International Folk Festival (Jodhpur RIFF), a five-day musical extravaganza hosted in the historic fort in October every year. Every year I wait for this ensemble of art, music and culture bringing together artistes from Rajasthan and from the world over to celebrate their musical heritage and create new music through ‘innovative collaborations’.

My next sojourn after RIFF is Khichan. Chances are you haven’t even heard of Khichan. Well, I had not till I got to know about the special winter guests of this region – the pretty demoiselle cranes. It is a small sleepy village, 150 km north of Jodhpur in the northern part of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan. A comfortable picturesque two hours drive from Jodhpur took me to this chosen land where every year, they flock in thousands from their native land.


Watching their activities is like going through a dream. I had to pinch myself quite a few times when they were in front of me for a good four to five hours. If you really wish to enjoy their company, simply follow their itinerary. My first encounter with them was just outside the gate of Kurja Resort. When Abhay Singh Bhati, the manager of the Resort told me to wait for Kurjas (cranes, as called by the locals) near the gate, I thought he was joking. But these birds are made of special stuff. If they choose a spot, they stick to it irrespective of the spectators comprising of camels and goats passing by. Yes, if human beings get too close as they would with their cameras, the feathered ones get ruffled. So as I stood near their first landing spot early morning, whooo hoooo I wanted to scream in delight at the first sight. They spend morning hours here, it’s their pre-breakfast meal, nibbling on somethings they like in the soil here.

After spending about two hours, they start flying in specific direction in a great sense of discipline. Each one follows set rules and you can see V-shape formations with the female leading the group. This is the time when you get back to grab your breakfast and get on to follow their route. Where do you see them next? At Chugga Ghar. This is an enclosure made exclusively as their feeding ground. Salutes to Sevaram, a native of the village who has taken over the task of looking after them since past several years. After savouring their breakfast here for good a four-five hours, kurjas then go exploring the village. They come back in the evening for a sundowner at the lake of the village. You make sure you meet them again as here, believe me, the setting is simply gorgeous.



  • Spend half a day at Mehrangarh Fort
  • Take pictures of the stunning panoramas of the city from almost everywhere at the Fort
  • Visit Mandore gardens
  • Visit Osian temples
  • Spend a day with demoiselle cranes in Khichan
  • Explore Khichan village and have lunch at a villager’s home
  • Visit Bilaspur Camel Reserve
  • Have a romantic evening in the courtyard of Ranbanka
  • If possible, plan your visit in October so that you witness one of the best music fest, RIFF


I would suggest stay in the village for two days. I devoted my first day to the cranes and second day went on the village safari. My wonderful host, Chandra Vir Singh and the driver, Bheekh Singh beat any experienced naturalists hollow when it comes to sighting. Unknown and barely explored, the sandy wild-lands of Khichan are spectacular for both bird watching and for the brilliant wildlife teeming here. Why I say brilliant because there are chances of sighting some very special wildlife. Special, yes, Bheekh Singh brought the car to a sudden halt and lo and behold there was a ‘Desert Fox’ - Khichan’s most prized secret treasure. Normally considered very unfriendly, he kept looking at us as if posing for eternity. A delightful photo op there!

We enjoyed our walk in the village lanes and saw some exquisite havelis which even in the present state of neglect look beautiful. It’s sad to see how they have been left to disintegrate while the owners have moved on to metros.


However, it is heartening to see that in the village ancient craft is still being practised. There are weavers busy at their spinning wheel (charkha) and women in veil assisting them. We also had the most delicious lunch prepared by one of the villagers in his hut. I would remember not just the bajra chappati and curry but their hospitality all my life. After two days we got back to Jodhpur. As we raised a toast in the beautiful courtyard of Ranbanka, a heritage property, I was on a different plain altogether, next to the coal angeethi listening to amazing Rajasthani folk singers. When you plan your holiday to Jodhpur, make sure to include some of these experiences. Here’s my pick of the ‘dos’ in this gorgeous city.

Essential Facts :
  • How To Reach : Jodhpur is well connected by air, rail and road from all major cities.
  • Where To Stay: Ranbanka Palace, Jodhpur and Kurja Resort in Khichan
  • When To Go : October is the best time, as the city resonates with music. If you are into birding, then January to March is the best time.

By Sharmila Chand