Lady in Indian dress with a goat
Culture & tradition,  Just One Person,  Rajasthan

Meeting the locals in Narlai, Rajasthan

The village of Narlai in Rajasthan would be completely off the tourist track were it not for the hotel that has been created in the former hunting lodge of Jodhpur’s royal family. It is a small village which faces some of the same challenges as rural communities everywhere. Its population is declining as younger people drift away, tempted by big city life and its wider opportunities.

But its streets have thriving little shops, mainly catering only to locals; its farmers manage to feed their families and have produce over to sell; its people benefit from the opportunity to work for Rawla Narlai, the hotel on the edge of the village; and overall it has a more affluent (or more accurately perhaps, a less struggling) character than many similar places, probably largely due to the lodge. As well as providing work for many villagers, it works constructively with the community to ensure both lodge and locals benefit from its presence. For instance, every Monday morning the village elders are invited in for tea and a chat about village matters.

Men in Indian dress sitting on rugs
The village elders meeting at Rawla Narlai

A walk in the village

One option when staying here is to take a walk in the village in the company of a member of the hotel staff, a local resident. Of course you are welcome to walk around on your own; but going with one of their own like this ensures an even warmer welcome from the locals.

During our walk we visited a couple of local shops and saw some of the village’s many temples.

Lady in blue and red surrounded by vegetables
Shop in Narlai

But the highlight, or rather many highlights, of this walk were the large number of village people who greeted us, willingly posed for photos and generally made us feel very welcome here.

Smiling lady in Indian dress
Welcoming me

I was lagging behind our small group, taking loads of photos as always. All the locals seemed happy to be included, but when I wanted to photograph a particular person I would ask. And so it was with the lady pictured above and alongside. Everyone else had simply agreed, but her reaction puzzled me. She darted into her house, then peeped out and beckoned me over. Did she not want her neighbours to see her being photographed? Did she prefer the subdued light inside to the bright morning sunshine?

I went in and immediately all became clear. She was happy to pose for me but only if I included her goat in the shot! Of course I had no problem doing so and the featured photo above is the result. She’s another memorable person from around the world whom I’ve encountered on my travels.

Here’s a selection of the other photos I took of the friendly locals in Narlai:

Women’s dress in Rajasthan

In particular this walk gave me a great opportunity to photograph the colourful traditional dress of Rajasthan, thanks to the openness of the women we met and their willingness to pose for us. This is always very colourful. It consists of an ankle length skirt, a short top (this may just skim the waist or stop higher up, leaving the midriff bare) and a long piece of cloth known as a chunari. This protects them from the heat and is also often used to cover or partly cover the face.

I was told by our driver that it is the village daughters-in-law (those who have married into local families and come to live with their husband’s family, as is customary) who are expected to cover their faces, especially in the presence of older relatives, men and strangers. Having said that, many whom we met, here and elsewhere, seemed pretty relaxed about dropping the cloth to say hello, smile and pose for photos etc. I noticed that different colours seem popular in different villages. In some we had passed through the predominant shades were orange and yellow, or red and green, while here in Narlai it was pink, purple and reds for the most part.


The women’s adornments often include a large number of bangles worn on the upper arms. These are usually just of white plastic; But wealthier women wear metal, even sometimes gold, bangles.

Regardless of wealth though, it is traditional to wear an elaborate gold decoration in one side of the nose, a tradition that some here still follow even on a regular working day it seems. These nose rings are worn throughout India, with different styles popular in different region. In Rajasthan the most usually worn is the nathni, a large but delicate hoop connected to the hair with a thin chain. Some of the women in my photos above have a rather more elaborate version of this. I didn’t ask, but maybe it was a special occasion in their family (we met them in the same house).

So in the end this post features not ‘just’ one person but a whole village of them!

I visited Narlai in 2015


  • wetanddustyroads

    What a wonderful gesture to invite the elderly to discuss village matters … a brilliant way of including those growing older 👍🏻.
    As always, I love all the photo’s of the people – sincere, friendly and inviting are the words when I look at them – well done on your selection of photo’s Sarah!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Corna 🙂 In these communities it will be the elders who make the main decisions for the village, so it’s not so much a matter of the hotel including those growing older but a way of including the WHOLE village. The hotel provides a meeting place for them and also an opportunity to talk about shared issues – the impact the hotel is having, any problems in how they work together, any opportunities and so on.


    Great People photos, such interesting faces. We also met some interesting people in India, it is an amazing colourful country. We are yet to visit Rajathan but it is on the list! It is sad to near that youngsters are leaving for the big city life, we have seen this in other places on our travels, some places turning into ghost towns, sad to see but understandable

    • Toonsarah

      Thank you 😀 If you like India then I think you will love Rajasthan – it is so colourful, so chaotic, so Indian!!

      Yes, that trend for the young to leave their villages is happening in many places, including in parts of the UK. It’s understandable when jobs and excitement lure them to the big cities. But we find that often when they get older they want to return, and nowadays with remote working it’s more practical to live in a village than it used to be. Apparently there has been a rise in people wanting to move away from cities during the pandemic as they’re realising they don’t have to live near the office any more 🙂

      Having said that, I was born in London, live in London and can’t imagine ever choosing village life over a city!!


        😁Yes, you either love living in the city or hate it. We absolutely love visiting London and in normal times would wake up in the morning and just decide to hop on the train for a saunter round London, find new hidden gems, have a few beers a nice meal and home again but have never fancied actually living there. However, we both have family who would live nowhere else but the big City 😊

        • Toonsarah

          That sounds exactly how we like to enjoy our city 😀 In ‘normal times’ we would do something pretty much like that at least once a week, especially now we’re retired and have more time (plus free travel in the city too!!)

  • katieshevlin62gmailcom

    I love travelling in India, people always tend to be really friendly and welcoming. All the mens turbans are really colourful too! Was fascinated by those nose rings especially the chain leading to the hair. Thanks.

    • Toonsarah

      Yes, that’s one of the things I love there. Everyone welcomes you, everyone is happy to see your camera 🙂 The main challenge can be that they are too happy to pose, when I would prefer to get more candid shots sometimes. And I remember visiting Chittargaugh we encountered a class of school boys, every single one of whom wanted us to take their photo! They didn’t want the photos, often didn’t even want to see them – they just wanted to be included! In the end we had to start saying no or we’d have run out of time to explore the fort 😂

  • CadyLuck Leedy

    Wow, all the color! Reading about these folks is very interesting! I am glad you learned about and named the clothing, the jewelry and the different colors worn in different villages! The Goat girl looked young to me! Is the temple similar to a church or is it a burial ground of some sort? I know nothing about these places and their culture as you can tell by my questions, but I look forward to your posts every week and it makes me want to travel there! Thanks for joining in again this week!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      HI Cady, glad you enjoyed this so much! The temples here will all be Hindu. The big one is the main place of worship for the village while the others will be shrines to various gods (Hindus believe in many gods, perhaps more akin to Christian saints in some ways). I think the woman with the goat was probably in her early 30s, or maybe slightly younger.

  • SandyL

    A vibrant and colorful selection of village life. I enjoyed taking this photo walk with you. The lady & her goat must have been a surprise. Obviously she must have been very proud of it.

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