Once the bath is over, everyone scatters to the stalls to do their shopping or meet up with distant relatives in an atmosphere of joyful fervour. Baneshwar is at once a sacred place, a meeting place and a gigantic market. In this unusual bric-a-brac, there is something for everyone: tools for working the land, kitchen utensils, kitschy knick-knacks or icons from the Hindu pantheon? Dressed in their brightly coloured saris and jewellery, the women go in groups to visit the stalls. The men sell, buy or barter. They wear simple white clothes, a symbol of simplicity and modesty. As for the young girls, their faces full of make-up and eyes highlighted with kohl, you'd think they were straight out of one of those Bollywood films that Indians are particularly fond of.
We eat standing up, sitting down or squatting on the floor, from a bowl or newspaper. You drink milk tea flavoured with cardamom, surrounded by the smell of incense, sandalwood and spices. You stroll past a stall selling sugar cane juice or a tattooist whose hygiene is not guaranteed.
In the evening, the vigil begins in the temple with offerings to Shiva: rice, peanuts, milk, candles? It continues in the open air. The women cook the meal over braziers fuelled by dried dung. While storytellers and singers entertain the crowd, accompanied by players of the satara, a bewitching-sounding flute. You get the impression of being in another world, a world where the spirit wanders in peace with itself. Henri Michaux once said, "The Orient to orient yourself"?
The Baneshwar tribal festival is still rarely visited by Western tourists. Baneshwar is located 70 km from Dungarpur, the "City of Hills", in the Arawallis mountains, not far from the border with Gujarat. Accommodation is at the Udai Bilas Palace in Dungarpur, a magnificent lakeside location whose owner, the current Maharajah, has preserved the old-fashioned yet grandiose atmosphere of the India of his ancestors.
Lands of adventure offers a two-week tour of Rajasthan that will give you the chance to discover the Taj Mahal, the romantic city of Udaipur, Jodhpur and its fortress, as well as traditional life in the countryside and the Thar Desert.
Lands of adventure
Tel.: 01 70 82 90 00
World travellers offers a number of tours of North India based around the legendary cities of Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Udaipur.
Tel.: 01 84 17 21 64