A Rajasthani experience outside Rajasthan

I am a Rajasthani villager. Born and brought up there (Sambhar Lake) and after taking my professional degree from Kolkata, again spent several years in my home state due to my own job and again enjoyed village life courtesy my posting in a small town – Rawatbhata and my wife’s Govt. job at a sandy village – Baitu which I visited many times and spent many days there. And I got amazed to feel like revisiting the rural life in my home state when I visited Dhola Ri Dhani on 25.12.2011.

Dhola Ri Dhani is a tourist attraction on the outskirts of Hyderabad in a locality called Kompally. We, living in Lingampally, drove our car by taking our route to that place from Miyapur on the road going towards Dindigul airport.The place is named after Dhola who is the hero of one of the most famous Rajasthani folk-stories – Dhola Maaroo (it’s a legendary love story). Dhani (in Rajasthani language) means a rural colony or a very small village (just a cluster of some houses). Hence Dhola Ri Dhani means Dhola’s colony.

Dhola Ri Dhani opens for the visitors twice in a day. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. to 10 p.m. The ticket price includes the price of the food also which is either lunch or dinner (depending upon which timing you choose to visit this place). Food is served at the meal time in a place inside called Maan-Manuhaar in purely Rajasthani style of hospitality. The guests are made to squat on the floor and served food in Thaalis put on Chowkis in front of them. The servers offer the guest all the delicious food items with extremely politeness and pursuade him / her to consume the served stuff sumptuously. Since the food is indeed of very high quality with several Rajasthani dishes involved, the entry ticket rate seems to be quite reasonable. Children up to the age of 8 years are not charged for entry but food coupen is to be taken for them by paying separately.

The layout of Dhola Ri Dhani is exactly on the lines of a Rajasthani village and the architect has done a brilliant work in presenting the rural Rajasthan before the eyes of the visitor. As it’s titled as Dhaani or a very small village, true to its title, the area covered is very less and the visitor can cover it by foot within 15-20 minutes. In fact, it’s the feeling that one gets which is important.The number of attractions are less. There is an auditorium made in the old-fashioned style where the singers sing (on the day of our visit, a singer was paying tribute to late Mohammed Rafi by singing his songs) and a stage for folk-dances. There is a magic show of purely folk-style and the puppet-show which is a specialty of Rajasthani folk-culture. There is a marriage hall also where real marriages might be taking place (people might be hiring that place for matrimonial ceremonies) which is well-decorated and pleasant. There is an old-fashioned swimming pool also because in villages, villagers swim also in the water-bodies available in the vicinity. I also enjoyed swimming with my son.

There is a fancy garden (with a small cave and statues of animals) whose path moves through a bridge over a small water-body. There is a normal children’s park with natural fireplace like facility provided for the visitors to warm themselves in the cool nights (we also did so because after the sunshine had gone and darkness prevailed, 25th December, 2011 brought a pretty cool weather in Hyderabad). To provide a rural feeling, very simple Rajasthani cots are laid at many places for the visitors to relax. Camel-ride and Tonga-ride are available. A tea stall is also there where tea and snacks are served. The quality of tea, Samosas, Kachoris and Mirchi-Badaas (a fried snack made of gram-flour with a green chilli inside) is very superior. The tea seems to be prepared in exactly the same way as it is made in Rajasthani villages and tea-stalls in rural areas. The payment is to be made at the stall according to what and how much the visitor consumes. Jal-jeera (a spicy, refreshing drink) is served to the visitors without charging.

To cater to the needs of the urban people, there is a regular restaurant and a coffee-dispencer with regular packed fast-food items also.

Before the time to live in the village is over, there is a 30 minutes long spoof of the movie – Sholay staged live at a place called – Meena Ki Dhani (Meena’s colony) titled as ‘Meena Ki Dhani Mein Dhani Ke Sholay’. I found it entertaining only in parts.

I enjoyed the trip very well as I felt like revisiting rural Rajasthan once again. Ultimately, wherever I may live, I cannot be cut from my roots. However I found some minus-points which the owners of this place should strive to remove :

    1. The entry-arrangement of guests at the food place is quite clumsy. Since the guests have to put off their footwear also, better arrangement is desirable for the guests waiting for entry. The behaviour of the crowd waiting for its turn for food (since the food is served in batches at half-hourly intervals) is very distasteful because the space at the gate is quite limited and after the food, you have to locate your footwear too (there is no arrangement for keeping the guests’ footwear).
    2. The puppet-show which is an essenntial part of Rajasthani folk-art, is of a very short duration (barely 10 minutes). It should be of at least half an hour.
    3. The number of attractions are very less, given the fact that the guests have to spend at least five hours inside. More attractions should be added without disturbing the basic format of the place (rural Rajasthan).
    4. At the main entry gate as well as at other places, at least one employee should be ensured who can speak and understand Rajasthani because then only, the true Rajasthani culture is reflected. Finding the people at the gate (who sell tickets) speaking in Telugu (or English) dilutes the real flavour of the place which it is meant for.

I advise anybody touring Hyderabad to make a visit to this place. Just go there with a modest expectation and see how Rajasthani rural-folks look and behave and what Rajasthani culture ‘n’ hospitality is all about. I have not visited Chokhi Dhani at Jaipur but heard that it’s much better than Dhola Ri Dhani.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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