This post is on Jodhpur/Blue City known for its blue houses,Bandhani prints,Jodhpurs and Polo to name a few. We had been to Rajasthan on a 2 week vacation in March 2011. Our first stop was at Jodhpur, the capital of the Marwar (Land of death) Kingdom. We had taken the overnight train from Gurgaon.
The first sight that I remember as we went to the hotel was the mesmerizing view of the Mehrangarh Fort which looms over the old city. We had booked a room in Hotel Haveli Inn Pal for 3 nights. This is part of the haveli that belonged to one of the aristocrats.
The rooftop restaurant of this hotel has an amazing view of the fort. After a sumptuous breakfast we were lucky to get the Fort View Room as someone who had been there for quite some time had just vacated when we came. The room lived up to its name. It was nice to relax in the room taking in the view of the fort!
After lunch we took the Bishnoi Village Safari. Our first stop was at a potter’s home where he was busy at work. We bought some of his wares.
We next stopped at a Bishnoi home where we were offered drops of opium tea! Though we were skeptical about tasting it we went ahead as we did not want to offend them. The people of Bishnoi Community apparently spend most of their earnings on opium. The owner explained that opium tea is a must at every wedding and they spend a substantial amount on it. Opium apart the Bishnoi people worship nature and protect all animals and birds around. They spoke to us about Salman Khan’s black-buck incident.
Our last stop on the safari was at a carpet weaver’s home. He and his wife were making a Jodhpur Blue colored carpet with a beautiful design. I couldn’t take my eyes off it! We ended up ordering the same type of carpet :)
All along we saw the collared doves by the dozen. They are all over the place. The sight of peacocks roaming around freely in the fields was nice. I was reminded of ‘Morni Baaga mein bole’ song from the Bollywood movie Lamhe. We also spotted a lone Nilgai in one of the fields. Also managed to get a glimpse of the Rosy Starling which we had not seen before.
The sight of the setting sun behind the fields and happy women walking back home after a hard day at work waving bye to us saw us back on the road to Jodhpur.
After having a candlelight dinner consisting of delicious Ker Sangri(a desert vegetable curry) in the rooftop restaurant watching the lit fort we retired for the night.
We woke up early the next day with the excitement of going to Mehrangarh fort. We managed to reach the fort after a memorable autorickshaw ride through the narrow lanes of the old city. After having spent some time admiring the beautiful ramparts of the fort and the paintings which adorn the gateway we went inside to buy tickets and the audio guides. I would recommend anyone going there to take the audio guide as it is very good and helps one to know everything about the history of Mehrangarh.
The word Mehrangarh stands for ‘Fort of the Sun’. Described by Rudyard Kipling as the work of angels and giants! The fort was built in 15th century when Rao Jodha, the then king of Marwar shifted his capital from Mandore to the current site of Jodhpur. The fort was unconquerable. The beautiful facades of the fort and the glimpse of the blue city/Brahmapuri were beautiful. Brahmapuri was inhabited by the Paliwal Brahmins who painted their houses blue to ward off the incessant heat.
Almost every part of the fort has its own story to tell. One of the little known facts is about the foundation of this fort. When the site of the fort was chosen, a hermit who had been meditating there was forced to leave and he cursed that the land would always have shortage of water. To protect the fort, a human sacrifice would be needed and Shree Rajaram Medhwal came of his free accord to sacrifice his life for this fort. He was buried alive in the foundation. Imagining how it would have been sends a shiver down the spine.Today a small plaque on the walls of the fort commemorates the incident. The fort has seven gates of which the famous ones are Jai Pol, Fateh Pol, Dedh Kamgra Pol (still has cannon ball marks on it) and the Loha Pol (has the handprints of the Ranis who committed Sati in the nineteenth century).
Our next stop was at the coronation courtyard which houses the throne and is surrounded by windows in the floors above with intricate lattice work. Apparently the womenfolk of the royal household would sit here behind the curtains and watch the proceedings in the courtyard below. One of the rooms in the courtyard houses the palanquins of different types used by the Marwar Rulers and their families. Another room houses treasures like paintings, weapons, turbans, folk music instruments and other items from the Royal collection. An old man seated in a small chamber in the courtyard was demonstrating the opium smoking apparatus.
This was followed by some of the most beautiful parts of the fort namely the period rooms which are mind boggling! First one being the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) which is a room whose walls are adorned with pieces of glass on which there are paintings. It was a sight to behold.
Next in line was Phool Mahal(Palace of flowers) which is so colorful that it is difficult to take your eyes off it. This is one of the grandest rooms and was used as a place for pleasure. A place where the dancing girls performed.
The third room is the Takhat Vilas which was the room of King Takhat Singh who was the last ruler to have stayed in Mehrangarh. This room has a blend of both traditional and British style depicted by the Christmas glass balls which are hung from wooden rafters.The walls are adorned with colorful paintings.
Another important collection of the museum is the cradle gallery which is filled with cradles of various designs used for infants of the royal family.
The fourth and last period room is the Moti Mahal(Pearl Palace). A place where darbars were held. There are 5 hidden balconies in this room where the Queens could sit and listen to the proceedings. The walls of this room have a pearly sheen. Supreme quality lime plaster with crushed shells was used to create this effect.
We then proceeded to the Zenana Deodi or the Women’s Courtyard. This is where the womenfolk of the royal family spent most of their time and were guarded by eunuchs. The carvings in the windows adorning this courtyard are splendid.
After browsing the Museum curio shop we decided to have lunch and headed to the Mehran Cafe inside the fort. Lunch was followed by a walk along the ramparts where the cannons are housed soaking in vistas of the blue city below.
Next came the Chamunda Devi temple. This is the temple dedicated to Chamunda Devi who was the favorite Goddess of Rao Jodha,the founder of Jodhpur. The idol was brought from the old capital Mandore and installed here. As per local mythology the goddess protected the fort from a Pakistani bomb attack by appearing as a huge Kite during the Indo Pak war.
Now it was time to head towards Chokelao Bagh where Flying Fox conducts zipline tours. We were contemplating whether to try zipping or not since both of us had never been into adventure before. Though we had planned long back that we would try it in this trip, there was some hesitation before getting in. Finally we decided to give it a try :) And it was definitely worthy!
The zipline here consists of six zips around the fort. We were a group of five and there were two instructors accompanying us. After some initial practice next to their office, we embarked on what would be one of the most thrilling moments of our lives. I took a deep breath and started the first zip and just enjoyed it. Nagesh tried to back out as he was the last one in the group and the rest of us had reached the other end. But the instructor managed to make him do it and he lost his fear :)
The sights we got to see when zipping were amazing and it was a wonderful feeling. One of the zips is over the Maharani lake which looked so pristine. The pic below is of yours truly zipping over the Maharani Lake :)
The view of the fort before taking the last zip was picture perfect.
It was finally time to leave.We got into an autorickshaw and stopped en route at Jaswant Thada where the cenotaphs of the Kings are housed. It was already closed by then but the driver took us to a spot from where one can get nice pictures of the reflections of this place in a nearby lake.
Now it was time to savor some local delicacies about which we had researched quite a bit :) We went for a walk towards Nai Sarak which was at a stone’s throw from the hotel. The first pit stop was at Shahi Samosas where we had heavenly Mirchi Wadas and Samosas. After the spicy food, it was time for some sweets and we headed to Mishrilals near the clock tower where we tried the famous Makhaniya Lassi and Mawa Kachori (sweet). This small place lived up to its reputation.
We went back to the hotel and had a light dinner consisting of some amazing Kadi Pakora prepared by the cook.
We started our next day pretty early to get a glimpse of sunrise near the fort. After breakfast we had planned to cover other places in the city like Umaid Bhavan palace, Jaswant Thada and then head towards Mandore.
Umaid Bhavan is on the outskirts of Jodhpur. This palace was completed in the 1940s and the current Maharaja stays here. Once this palace was built the royal family abandoned Mehrangarh which fell into a state of disrepair for quite a while. In the 1970s Maharaja Gaj Singh returned from Oxford and made considerable efforts to restore the fort back to its glorious past. Since then there has been no turning back and the fort generates quite a bit of revenue I am sure. Getting back to the main thread, Umaid Bhavan is divided into 3 sections. The private residence of the royal family, a 5 star hotel and a museum (public section). The palace is beautiful and surrounded by lush green lawns and garden. We went into the Museum which houses items from the royal collection. Most notable were the old clocks which came as gifts to the Kings from various countries.
We bought some souvenirs from the museum shop and proceeded towards Jaswant Thada named after the King Jaswant Singh whose wife got the main white marble cenotaph constructed when he died.This place is so serene and was devoid of tourists when we went. An apt place for the cenotaphs.
We went to Mandore next which was the capital of the Parihar rulers before Jodhpur. It is 7 kms from Jodhpur. It houses the remains of Mandore fort, gardens with ruined temples and cenotaphs. There is a small museum showcasing paintings and various stone sculptures. In addition to these there is a hall of heroes to commemorate the popular heroes from the regional folk tales.
It was time for lunch and our driver had been suggesting us to go to Jodhpur’s best restaurant ‘On The Rocks’ which according to him should not be missed by anyone visiting the city. Ambiance was good at the restaurant. The food was pretty normal (the only highlight being a moong gravy dish which was very tasty). Lunch was followed by some shopping for bandhani dress materials and sarees.
It was time for us to start packing up. We were taking a cab the next day to Osian the next morning which is around 65-70 kms from Jodhpur. Before winding up dinner we walked to Nai Sarak again and tried some “gulab jamun ki sabzi” which was pretty good. The fried gulab jamuns are put into a gravy instead of sugar syrup.