In Tilonia village, about 25km northeast of Kishangarh and 7km off the Ajmer to Jaipur road, is the inspiring Barefoot College. This NGO is run by and for villagers, and uses their skills for development work in the area to address problems of water supply, housing, education, health and employment.
Part of the complex is devoted to an impressive showroom where goods made by villagers are on sale.
It’s a fantastic place to pick up high-quality, reasonably priced souvenirs, including everything from textiles to furniture and leather goods. Other great gifts include bell totas (colourful strings of toy birds), painted ceramic bowls and wooden toys. All proceeds go towards maintaining and developing rural projects.
The entire complex is solar powered, and Barefoot has been instrumental in bringing solar power to many communities. It’s even pulled women out of purdah (seclusion) to teach them how to become solar-power engineers. Other major projects are the installation of hand pumps and the implementation of rainwater harvesting projects.
The easiest way to get to Tilonia is to hire a taxi from Ajmer, Pushkar or Kishangarh. From Ajmer you could take a Harmara-bound bus (₹35) and ask to be dropped off at Tilonia. There are also local buses from Kishangarh (₹18, one hour). The Barefoot College centre is about 1km from the bus stop.