Men with vibrant turbans, women wearing Rajasthani print ghagras, fancy jewellery, folk dance, scrumptious Rajasthani dishes, camel rides and infinite sand dunes. When you think of Rajasthan you envisage these images. Except for sand dunes, at Chokhi Dhani you get to see all these and much more. Away from the hustle of Jaipur city, Chokhi Dhani is a resort mimicking the rural life of Rajasthan. Cultural programs, art and craft stores, animal rides, classical music and basically everything else that depicts Rajasthan can be found in a nutshell within its premises.
After a hectic yet exciting day at Jaipur, we had our evening booked for Chokhi Dhani. One of us had Rajasthani roots and through her we had a brief idea of what to expect. On arrival, we were greeted with tilak on forehead. Then we reached the reception area where there are four booking counters which provide entry slip on payment. The entry fee was Rs.600 per head which included a traditional Rajasthani thali. There were other tickets for multi cuisine buffet and ac dining but we opted for the traditional thali as our primary focus was more on enjoying the motley cultural experience rather than the dinning. However what disappointed was the absence of card swiping machines and all payment had to be done in cash. So please carry cash with you..
As you step in, it is a completely different world. Chokhi Dhani is a cultural jamboree, a peek into the multiple facets of Rajasthani village life- they have mud huts, folk dancers, local singers, camel and elephant rides, bullock carts and a hell lot more. The archetypal village theme is designed to cater an ultimate rural and rustic experience. There is a wrestling arena (locally known as akhada) where wrestlers grapple each other and entertain the crowd with their moves.
There is a playing area for the kids where there are few rides. Rajasthani folk dance shows like girls with so many pots on their head, ghoomer and even Punjabi dhol and bhangra are there. There are some music artists playing traditional instruments. However, within the crowd and fancier events, these artists seemed ignored which was appalling to see.
There is a section for games which can be enjoyed by kids and grown ups alike. We tried archery..!!! There was dart, balloon shooting, bowling and many other small games. As the dusk set in, the atmosphere became a lot more jubilant with a large number of visitors pouring in. The entire place was lit up with beautiful lanterns and the scene became more exciting. In fact, one should visit Chokhi Dhani before sunset and visualize how the scene changes from dusk to evening.
There is big market called Kalagram inside where you will find handicrafts, decor items, jewellery, toys, marionettes, footwear and various arts and craft items. The items seemed to be reasonably priced. There was a clay potter who helped visitors make a small pottery item of their own.
At last, we went to the dinner area which is set up in an open courtyard where people could sit together in groups. It was an open buffet where dishes were available at designated stalls. The buffet had typical Rajasthani cuisines-lehsun chatni, dhaniya chatni, daal baati churma, aloo pyaaz sabji, gatta sabji, kadi pakodi, bazra roti, chhachh, lassi, wheat roti, malpua, and a lot more. Men dressed in traditional dresses served the visitors. However, the taste of the food failed to match the hype of the place. Though the food was good, it didn’t have that wow factor which I expected. I found the food too spicy for my liking (I admit I am no connoisseur of food). Anyway, it is perhaps the most authentic place to taste Rajasthani dishes and I never miss such places while travelling.
If you are visiting Jaipur and you don’t have Rajasthani roots, reserve this place as a must visit in your itinerary. Get there just before dusk, so that you can view the place in daylight and see how it transforms as the sun sets. Please share your experiences in the comments section below. Till then as they say in Chokhi Dhani, Ram Ram Saaaaaa…