The city is sprawled below in a chaotic maze of alleys snaking around houses awash with blue. From your vantage point atop the imposing fort, you almost feel like royalty looking over your subjects. Welcome to Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan and truly a traveller’s delight.
The ‘Blue City’ really is blue! Traditionally, blue signified the home of a Brahmin, but non-Brahmins have got in on the act too. As well as glowing with a mysterious light, the blue tint is thought to repel insects.
Inside is a tangle of winding, glittering, medieval streets, which never seem to lead where you expect them to, scented by incense, roses and sewers, with shops and bazaars selling everything from trumpets and temple decorations to snuff and saris.
Jodhpur was founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha, a Rajput chief of the Rathore clan. Jodha succeeded in conquering the surrounding territory and thus founded a state which came to be known as Marwar. As Jodha hailed from the nearby town of Mandore, that town initially served as the capital of this state; however, Jodhpur soon took over that role, even during the lifetime of Jodha. The city was located on the strategic road linking Delhi to Gujarat. This enabled it to profit from a flourishing trade in opium, copper, silk, sandals, date palms and coffee.
Modern Jodhpur stretches well beyond the city walls, but it’s the immediacy and buzz of the old Blue City and the larger-than life fort that capture travellers’ imaginations. This crowded, hectic zone is also Jodhpur’s main tourist area, and it often seems you can’t speak to anyone without them trying to sell you something. Areas of the old city further west, such as Navchokiya, are just as atmospheric, with far less hustling.
Jodhpur is the most important city of western Rajasthan and lies about 250 kilometres from the border with Pakistan. This location makes it an important base for the Indian army, Indian Air Force and Border Security Force (BSF). Jodhpur’s air base is Asia’s largest and one of the most critical and strategically located (Jodhpur Airport played the crucial role during Indo-Pakistan wars in 1965 &1971) airbases of the IAF deployed with fighter jets Sukhoi Su-30MKI and Advanced Light Helicopters Dhruv.
While in Jodhpur do not forget to visit the following places of interest :
Mehrangarh Fort – Mehrangarh Fort is the proverbial cherry on Jodhpur’s cake, an awe-inspiring sprawl of burnished sandstone that prompted Rudyard Kipling to describe it as “the work of giants”. It continues to be run by Jodhpur’s Maharaja. Mehrangarh’s original name is said to be Chintamani, the mystical gem that frees its owner of worries. ‘Mehr’ is a local word for ‘sun’, so it’s possible that later Rathores renamed it in honour of their celestial ancestor. The formidable walls appear to grow organically from its rocky perch.
Successive rulers added to the original fort, which makes it a fabulous blend of varied influences and styles. Meherangarh Fort was never conquered, a reason why touring the fort is arguably the most exciting history lesson one could encounter, with innumerable tales of valour, scandal, lust, vengeance and eye-popping decadence.
For more on Mehrangarh Fort, read here > Mighty Mehrangarh
Umaid Bhawan Palace – One of the largest private residences in the world, the Umaid Bhawan Palace, can be best described as the perfect mix of Indian and Art Deco styles. With 347 rooms, the palace used to provide employment to more than 3000 people when the royal family was still in power.
In fact, a section of the palace is still the private residence of Jodhpur’s royal family. Another section has been acquired by the ITC Group of Hotels, and caters to the needs of numerous tourists throughout the year.
Jaswant Thada Mausoleum – Close to Mehrangarh Fort is the beautifully carved marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh built in the 19th century. The marble is extremely thin and when the sun rays fall on the monument, it is aglow with a golden light.
This milky-white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, sitting above a small lake 1km northeast of Mehrangarh, is an array of whimsical domes. It’s a welcome, peaceful spot after the hubbub of the city, and the views across to the fort and over the city are superb. Built in 1899, the cenotaph has some beautiful jalis (carved marble lattice screens) and is hung with portraits of Rathore rulers going back to the 13th century.Look out for the memorial to a peacock that flew into a funeral pyre.
Mandore Gardens – Home to scores of monkeys, Mandore, the erstwhile capital of the Marwar region, is replete with old temples, cenotaphs and several other monuments.
A walk around the gardens showcases the rich architecture of a bygone era. Climb up a small hill and explore the old palace as well. It’s like taking a trip back in time.
Did you Know ? Jodhpur topped Lonely Planet’s list of most extraordinary places to stay in 2013.
See more pictures from Jodhpur here > Anil Vohra on Flickr