The Blue city of Jodhpur is a magical place. From the impenetrable Mehrangarh Fort, high on a rocky outcrop to the colourful Brahmin blue homes, Jodhpur never ceases to amaze.
Mehrangarh Fort was built in the 1400s on a rocky hill in what is now the middle of Rajasthan. The fort’s imposing walls with turrets and watchtowers, surround a large palace and two lovely gardens. It’s a large fort that takes over the entire top of this large rock outcrop. The main entrance is through a large, arched doorway with colourful frescoes on either side. At the fort’s rear entrance is another decorated gate. There are large chhatris and small domes on the roof but the main difference is the huge metal spikes on the gate. These were part of the fort security system which prevented enemy armies from sneaking into the fort. The soldiers typically rode elephants. Those elephants wouldn’t be able to fit through the gates without injury.
Inside the fort is an opulent palace with many narrow passageways leading to lavishly decorated rooms and open courtyards. Surrounding the courtyards are skillfully carved windows, balconies and doors. The rooms are coloured in gold and have lovely arched doorways and stained-glass windows. Some ceilings are covered in mirrors, others have Christmas ball-like ornaments hanging from them. There are bright cushions of the floors instead of chairs. One room is used to display the royal cradles which had very unusual designs. Another displays the elaborate Royal Palanquins (litters). It’s easy to imagine a Maharja, dressed in bright clothes, being carried on a palanquin through the streets of Jodhpur.
The outer walls of the palace have more extravagant balconies and turrets looking onto the gardens and walkways. In the gardens are open courtyards offering views of the Blue City below. At one end of the fort grounds is a small Hindu temple where we were lucky to see a wedding ceremony. The bride and groom were dressed in bright, traditional clothes. The bride didn’t look very happy; in fact she looked terrified. Marriages in India are still often arranged and that may be the case for this one.
Below the fort is the magical Blue City with a maze of narrow alleys leading off in all directions. Many of the buildings of this Old Town are painted bright azure blue, making this a very interesting neighbourhood. Originally, most of the blue buildings were home to people from the Brahmin caste who have been painting their homes this colour for many generations. Today, there are other castes living in this neighbourhood who have also painted their houses blue. There are differing views on why the buildings are blue. The stories range from the blue being an insect repellent to providing natural cooling to the homes. Whatever the reason, it is a unique area to explore and makes for interesting pictures.
Since it is located on the edge of the Thar desert, water storage and distribution was an important concern for Jodhpur. There are a few old water tanks in town. When they were built, most were designated for a specific caste. We found an interesting stepped tank that only the Brahmin caste was allowed to use. It has symmetrical steps leading down to the bottom so the water could be reached at any water level. These stepwells are common in Rajasthan and are usually a very interesting and photographic site. Apparently, this stepwell has recently undergone renovation, but the slimy green water didn’t look at all appealing. Nearby, Gulab Sagar Tank is a large man-made lake that was used for general water consumption. It’s surrounded by brick walls that were built during the 1700s. It was probably a lovely site in the day, but when we were there it was another green slimy mess.
There’s an old clock tower in Old Town and a busy local market in the surrounding streets. It’s always a busy, hectic place where you can feel the buzz of the city. It’s a great place to people watch and we saw a few men wearing the traditional Rajasthani turbans. As we were walking through the area, we happened to see two other wedding processions. In both, the grooms were dressed in colourful traditional Rajasthani outfits. They were also both on horses who were adorned in jewels and sequined cloth. The grooms were surrounded by their families who were dancing and singing in the streets, accompanied by a group of musicians. It was so much fun, seeing the excitement in the family, and the dread in the grooms’ faces. We felt very fortunate to have seen these local customs first hand.
On a small hill near the fort is a mausoleum called Jaswant Thada. Built in 1906 for the Maharaja, it’s a lovely marble cenotaph with delicate carvings on the walls. The roof is edged by domed chhatris with a temple-style pillar at the centre. The inside is also marble with a large open room with marble walls and floor. The Maharaja’s family are still cremated at this site and smaller memorials are built on the grounds. The views of the fort from here were spectacular.
In historic Jodhpur, money was made by trading sandalwood, dates copper and opium. We stayed in an old blue Haveli in the old city, right below the fort. Havelis are traditional, ornately decorated mansions, typical in Rajasthan. Our room had one of the craziest decors we’ve ever seen. We think it was one of the opium dealer’s Havelis as it had dark, heavy furniture and wooden accents. We felt like we were staying in part of the history. It was a great, unique stay. The best part though, was the view of the fort from the hotel’s restaurant.
On the bus ride to our next destination we were lucky to see another wedding procession go by on the street. This one was a group of women walking behind a band. We’re not sure which one was the bride as they were all dressed in very colourful saris.
West of Jodhpur is the holy town of Pushkar. The small, dusty town is set around Pushkar Lake, surrounded by small hillocks. The lake is sacred to Hindus. Legend says, the god Rama dropped a lotus flower on to earth and created Pushkar Lake. Pushkar means ‘blue lotus’ so Rama named the lake Pushkar. Hindus come to Pushkar Lake to bathe in its waters, thereby attaining salvation. The lake’s edge is a series of ghats (steps) and temples. As it was off-season when we were in Pushkar, the area was very quiet. There were a few pilgrims at the lake, but not many. In the evening there are usually Aartis performed at the water’s edge. We did see two ceremonies, but they were very underwhelming compared to what we have seen in Varanasi, Haridwar and Rishikesh.
Beyond the lake is an Indian tourist market selling religious trinkets, flower offerings as well as t-shirts and clothing.
Coming up next: Jaipur – The Pink City
To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.
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