Sambhar: Offering an otherworldly experience

Sambhar: Offering an otherworldly experience

A trip to Sambhar, the biggest inland salt lake in India, is an eye-opener. During the summer, there would be hardly any water left in the 35 sq km lake, which is fed by five rivers. Designated as a Ramsar site, Sambhar produces 9 per cent of all the salt manufactured in the country.

Most film lovers would be familiar with the lake as it is the spot where the alien character enacted by actor Aamir Khan lands in the hit Bollywood movie 'PK'. Located 80 km from Rajasthan’s capital Jaipur, Sambhar Lake resembles a desert during a good part of the year.

The road from Jaipur enters the desert soon after leaving the city. Camels with their legs tied together often cross the road. A traveller may wonder whether a lake exists in such a barren landscape, but in Google Maps, the area of Sambhar is shown in blue colour.

During the winter, pink flamingoes and other migratory birds from far off countries arrive at the lake to nest. However, there would be no sign of them during the hot season, when local lads turn the dry lake bed into a playground. The entire place would then be covered with dusty sand.

Travellers can view only a small portion of the large lake. Among the sights are factories that process salt and railway tracks laid during the British rule to cart away the item.

Rich history and myth

At some distance, on a small hill is a temple dedicated to the goddess Shakambhari Devi. Devout Rajasthani villagers arrive at the temple in covered vehicles even when searing heat is experienced in the area. They have deep belief in the various myths and legends related to Sambhar.

Among the major historical events that have taken place at Sambhar was the wedding between Mughal emperor Akbar and princess of Jaipur Jodha. The makers of the film 'Jodha Akbar' had also chosen Sambhar as the location for shooting the war scenes.

The ancient 'Puranas' have references about the lake and archaeological excavations too have found remains of Buddhist culture from the area. Several temples built following the Buddhist-Jain architectural traditions can now be seen at Osian, a desert village near the lake.

Sambhar, a crucial environmental site and tourist attraction, is also a good place to spend the evening.

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