Shaitan Singh Rathore Q&A: A Tour Leader’s Rajasthan
Growing up in this proud land of Rajasthan and hearing stories from his grandfather, Shaitan always wanted to showcase his culture to people visiting this state. “Rajasthan is the most colorful side of India,” says Shaitan,
“It is the magical storybook India that people see in their minds when they close their eyes and picture it.” Hailing from an agricultural family holding more than 300 acres of land a cattle, he provides travelers a unique perspective on the country by introducing them to rural village life beyond the major sightseeing. His guests in Rajasthan can encounter “a day in the life,” visiting the home of a local family and sharing a meal with them, learning the local culture and customs firsthand. Shaitan has led more than 50 tour groups from America, Canada and the UK throughout Rajasthan, as well as widely touring different parts of India.
What about traveling to Rajasthan during the holidays is so extraordinary that it must be experienced?
Rajasthan is the most colorful side of India. It is the magical storybook India that people see in their minds when they close their eyes and picture it. It is the land of the Maharajahs, the ancient kings who built these marvelous temples, monuments and forts.
The city of Jaipur features pink sandstone buildings. In 1876, the city was painted “terracotta pink” to welcome Prince Albert, as this color in Rajasthan represents “welcome and hospitality.”
Udaipur is a lake city, beautifully built along the shores of manmade lakes, with the City Palace overlooking Lake Pichola.
Jodhpur is the blue city, painted with Indigo to protect the houses from the heat of the sun, keeping them cooler during the day.
Then there are the festivals during the holiday season. Many people do not realize there is Christmas here. There is every religion in India, you see. This season is universally a time of celebration. You see more activities this time of year, and the shopping is phenomenal. The sweet shops are all decorated. There is the Christmas sale. And the people are all in a very festive mood.
If a person were interested in shopping, where are some of the best places to visit?
Jaipur is known for its beautiful hand-block printing on textiles. The clothes shopping for dresses and scarves here is very good for that. Udaipur offers incredible small paintings, miniature paintings of classical scenes. Jodhpur is renowned for its hand-embroidered items and also famous for home décor furniture. Jaisalmer has incredible silver jewelry.
If we are visiting elsewhere, Agra is known for its beautiful marble inlay of the same quality as its Taj Mahal. Delhi has wonderful cashmere clothing.
Anything you are seeking, India has it.
Because Rajasthan is the most visited State of India, has Rajasthan and its cities felt different during the shutdown?
What happened during the lockdown is quite interesting. The residents of India who like to travel are most fond of going to destinations they have seen in Bollywood movies. London, Paris, Rome, the Maldives. With the shutdown, they shifted to traveling within India.
Of course India is a subcontinent, a world within a world. We have such a diversity of cultures here, that it is nearly impossible for anyone to have traveled to every region and experience its unique heritage and nature. So the cities were all filled with domestic tourists, people discovering more of their own culture, their own history, gaining a greater appreciation for all that is India.
What has been done to make India safe for the return of visitors?
Many people do not realize that India is the world’s largest manufacturer of pharmaceutical products. The history of medicine goes as far back in India as recorded time. India has manufactured much of the world’s supply of the vaccines. So it is no surprise that we have also led the way in vaccinating our people as well, despite having such a large population.
India just recently surpassed the mark of vaccinating more than 80% of our adult population—more than 1-Billion administrations of COVID vaccine. One of the factors that helped generate so much participation is the work of teachers. Local teachers were called upon and succeeded in passing on the information to people from the cities all the way to the villages, explaining the precautions, and helping people understand the importance of getting vaccinated.
On the inbound tourism side, all hoteliers and tour operators have been given strict guidelines and protocols on handling tourists, by the Government.
The government has led for all facilities and public places to be regularly and carefully sterilized. Gatherings are still monitored to make sure that certain headcount thresholds are not exceeded. But the country is very well safe. People are free to travel. All throughout the COVID times I have been traveling domestically and without any trouble. People are able to come here and experience the fullness of the country.
Coming from an agricultural family, has this background given you a different or unique perspective on Rajasthan and perhaps even India?
Some of the biggest festivals in Rajasthan are the camel fairs (Pushkar & Nagaur). These are major events full of color and pageantry. Scores of livestock are herded here to be bartered.
I used to go with my grandfather to these festivals, and here is where I learned horse trading. My grandfather taught me what to look for in an animal, how to develop a relationship with a merchant, and so forth. So when I bring guests on this particular journey, I try to share with them everything that is happening—to point out the merits of the stock. And if there is bargaining happening, I will translate and explain.
Yet it is not only the animals that are traded. Also spices. Being a farmer, I am able to share with guests about the various spices they will see for sale—where they come from and how they are grown and produced.
Everything has a season. And as we drive from one location to another throughout India, I can point to the crops in the rural farmlands and tell people what they are. And then that night at dinner, perhaps a dish will include an ingredient we have seen earlier that day—red pepper, paprika, ginger, mustard oil. It helps the cuisine make sense, as well as the entire industry of agriculture in. India.
When you show people around your village, where do you like to bring them?
First I like to bring them to the local primary school. The students get a kick out of it too, because they will have been learning English through poetry and songs. And now they get to perform what they’ve learned for a guest. It is a way for travelers to get to see what is going on in the village from the earliest age, and it is a warm welcome. Often guests want to and then we spend a few hours in the classroom where they help with English speaking.
From there I take travelers on a village walk. They encounter what I like to call “a day in the life.” They will visit the home of a local family and be greeted, share a meal with them, and learn the local customs firsthand. They can try on the local attire. And there will be no language barrier because the people will be well spoken in English and I or another of our guides can very easily translate a question.
What defines a Nomadic Expeditions tour and makes it well worth the journey?
I feel that Nomadic Expedition’s journeys are a life changing experience as we not only see the main highlights of the destination but also learn a lot about the cultural values that locals hold in each region. It’s a much more intercultural experience. The best part of traveling with Nomadic Expeditions is the small groups. You are traveling private or it is a very small group. So I would say the personal attention and the level of care given to detailing the itineraries. As well as having all of your arrangements taken care of.
We are here to guide you. We unlock India for you. That is the uniqueness.
Explore India Journeys
Nomadic Expeditions uniquely brings you inside subcontinent of myriad cultural experiences.