Every year I take a road trip with my family to a small town located 800 km away – Balotra. It is not as commercial as many places one can visit from Delhi, and to be honest, it is not an exotic destination. But we go to pray. A temple of Nakoda Parasthnatha, a prime god in the Jain community is located at a 10-minute drive from Balotra. This year’s trip was a blissful journey, and I thought to take all who are reading along.
From Delhi to Balotra
Our journey started on a cold winter morning, my parents, brother and I woke up at 6 am and got ready for a 15-hour long drive. As the sun started to make an appearance for the day, we continued driving, singing songs and playing atlas. We crossed lush farms of mustard, as well city life of semi-urban regions of Haryana.
For our first stop, we decided to have brunch at a roadside restaurant names Hotel Highway King. The restaurant wasn’t a typical Dhaba, which one would find on the highway. It had a great selection of food items as well as a shopping centre and a garden. I also got a chance to do window shopping for shoes at Adidas and Reebok’s factory outlet stores. After having delicious paratha and coffee from Keventers, we decide to take a walk in the garden. It was very peaceful to have a stress-free afternoon with my family. After spending a while at the first pitstop, we continued our journey.
We drove non-stop after that, looking at the beautiful roads, people and natural elements. After a while, we took a tea break on the side of the road in Beawar. The view of the rock mountains canopying the road was breathtaking. The sun setting down in the glorious desert is beautiful scenery to enjoy with tea.
Our last stop after a long drive was in the blue city of Jodhpur. Though our stop was late at night and we could not see a lot. However, we enjoyed the peace and beauty of the late-night Jodhpur. For dinner, we stopped at a small place called Pokar Hotel for moong dal pakode and imartis. Moong dal pokode is like spicy lentil fritters, made with herbs and onion mixed inside and served with spiced up coriander chutney. And imartis are like a big brother to jalebi. They are fried sweetened dough dipped in sugar syrup. The best way to describe it is as sweet heaven of flavours.
And with that, we reached Balotra at 11 in the night, excited for the next day!
A Day in Balotra
After an almost 17-hour journey from Delhi to Balotra, we were all tired and just wanted to stay in bed till morning. The next day we got up and dressed to go to the temple- the main purpose of our visit. Nakoda is a small village located around 20 minutes away from Balotra. On reaching the temple, the vibe changed completely. People from around the country and from all walks come together to pray. Shri Jain Shwetambar Nakoda Parshwanath Tirtha is the ancient Jain pilgrimage of Rajasthan, which symbolises the historical prosperity of Khedpatan and Mahevanagar and the superiority of cultural heritage for more than 2000 years.
After the darshan, we went to get some lunch, at a local restaurant, Manvar Restaurant. My family and I are fans of trying the local cuisine of the place, so we ordered the ‘Today’s Special Thali’ and dove right in. The food was simple and delicious; it seemed like we were eating a home-cooked mean. It included chole (chickpeas), lentils, puri, rice, khoya barfi and masala papad. It was great, light meal to hold us off for the rest of the day.
For the remainder of the day, we went shopping on the streets of the city. Balotra is known for its lac, silver and textile. Our first stop was buying some lac bangles from a corner store in the city. The beautiful bangles are made by men and women by hand, using melted lac pieces and flakes of coloured glass and metal pieces. Our next stop was getting some kurtis from a clothing store called BPL Handlooms. Fabrics like cotton, Kota Doria and chanderi are very famous in the region. And lastly, we got some silver earrings from one of many silver stores in the city. The oxidized silver earrings from Balotra, are my favourite thing to buy.
While shopping, we also explored the market of the city. Local artisans were making jootis (Indian shoes made out of wood), pottery and even delicious snacks. Pukhaji Namkeen is the most famous snack shop in Balotra. They serve piping hot kachoris, samosas and jalebis. The name of the store is an ode to a god popular in the region. Balotra’s market reminds me of the streets of Chandni Chowk, always hustling with people.
Before we were ready to say goodbye to Balotra, one last dinner remained. Right outside our hotel was a street full of street vendors. From chats to pizza, everything was served. After looking at a bunch of options, we decided to feast on the famous Balotra Pav Bhaji. Bhaji is a delicious concoction made out of potatoes, peas, butter and spices; it served with toasted bread called pav. We finished our night with fresh lime soda and paan.
And we were ready to come back to Delhi!
From Balotra to Delhi
After praying, shopping and feasting, my family and I were ready to drive back to Delhi, and our journey began at 5 in the morning. The sun was yet to say hello, as we started the drive. The travel back to Delhi wasn’t as exciting as before; everyone was tired and a little sad, how the trip will soon end.
For our first stop, we decided to take a tea break after crossing Jodhpur. As the sun rose, we sat on wooden chairs, on a cold winter morning enjoying hot cardamon-ginger tea. The temperature around us was close to 8-degree Celsius, but the tea made it better. After finishing up and stretching out our muscles, we were back on the road.
Soon came the lunchtime, by this time we were near Jaipur city. We stopped at Hotel Highway King, again to have lunch. The food there, like before was great; we had Paneer Butter Masala and Butter Naan. A delicious combination if you ask me. After stuffing our faces and stomach, we walked around the complex, enjoying the beautiful restraint and with that, lunchtime was over.
Our journey came to an end soon after. We drove all the way back home without taking any breaks. The 17-hour drive, we took from Delhi to Balotra was a great way to spend time with my family and have fun. My family and I love travelling. Growing up, I remember, we used to take many spontaneous trips to different parts of the country. It was great to do that again, and I know we’ll never stop!