Learning from Chokhi Dhani venture

Greater Kashmir

We can showcase our rich art and culture by replicating such creative ventures

Not long ago the name Rajasthan was synonymous with vast deserts, camel rides, forts and Rajasthani Safa, the traditional headgear. For the city dwellers the village life is always appealing and it’s a wish of every city dweller to experience village life.

This is especially true among people living in big cities who have never seen a village, leave alone the idea of having experienced village life.

Not many people knew about the roots of Rajasthani culture and its village life. In 1990, with the aim of preserving and encouraging Rajasthani culture and to make people aware about the roots of Rajasthani culture, the foundation of Chokhi Dhani, which literally means a “fine hamlet”, was laid in the outskirts of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan.

Today Chokhi Dhani has eight sub franchises in cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Surat and others giving people the rich experience of an ideal village life in Rajasthan.

Usually located on the outskirts of the city but within a drivable distance from the city – usually within a range of 20-30 Kms from the city – is the village of Chokhi Dhani. At the main gate of the village, boys and girls in ethnic dresses combining modernity and rustic life greet the visitors with the beating of the drum.

An artificial horse, which appears very much like the real one, greets a visitor too and many visitors feign to be riding the horse to the shutterbugs in the front. The guests are welcomed in the most courteous ways and I’ve always been apologized to with utmost respect when I refuse them to mark a Tilak ( a colored mark worn by Hindus) on my forehead.

As you step inside the village, you get a true feel of the real village life. Traditional huts decorated with splendid workmanship present a feeling of splendor untouched by vanity.

A complete experience of a prosperous village enthralls every visitor. Monkeys trained perfectly to obey every order of their master are a treat, especially for the first time visitor.

On the other side women prepare Rotis of Jowar and Makai. The puppet show awaits a visitor when he is done with things like body massage or a true feel of a traditional haircut by those antique machines we used to have in 90’s.

The mastery which the people of Rajasthan have acquired over the art of puppet show leaves a visitor spellbound. The puppets dance in perfect rhythm and play games with each other, thereby amusing the visitors.

Camel and horse rides appeal to people, especially the ones who are not from Rajasthan. The feel of riding a camel in the rustic environs adds to the beauty of the ride.

Then there is traditional Rajasthani folk singing and dancing. Very few people resist the temptation not to sing or dance to the tunes of a humble musical or dance performance.

The dance on broken glass or the act of balancing many utensils on the head while dancing is an amazing experience for anybody. It shows how even the most difficult tasks can be mastered and performed with ease.

If you are still not satisfied, then hold your heart and be ready for a show of boys dancing only on a rope held by two high bamboo sticks. The skill with which they run and dance on a high rope will leave you thrilled with joy.

No, it’s not done yet. After having seen all this, they treat you with a traditional Rajasthani food and make sure you are filled completely. The guests sit in large rooms and are served many varieties though the entire food is vegetarian only and may not appeal a Kashmiri.

After having food if you still have some time left, you may spend it by seeing an astrologer or watching a magic show. The magic show is another brilliance which people have mastered over a period of time.

The magician will tell you that it’s all an illusion but will challenge you to catch him which no one does. At least in my many visits I never saw anyone catching him though infinite number of people tried.

The entire fee for the evening is around Rs 600-700 at most of the locations and all the above mentioned things are inclusive of the price. To mention it again so that no confusion prevails, the food is also included.

In Kashmir such an innovative venture can be replicated for better results. It is a great concept and I am sure Kashmir has much more to show to the world.

We can showcase our rich art and culture and run successful business out of it provided we remain honest.