….. Rajesh Deshpande (based on my personal visit in January 2010)
Jodhpur is known as the ‘Blue City’ due to the blue colour of houses in the old city surrounding the Mehrangarh fort. It is believed that the Blue colour works as a mosquito repellent, another belief is that the blue colour renders a soothing effect in the scorching hot summers while yet another belief identifies the blue colour with upper caste houses. Located in the Marwar region, Jodhpur is the second largest city of Rajasthan; it was founded by Rao Jodha, a Rathore chieftain. The original capital of Marwar was Mandore to the North of Jodhpur which was shifted to Jodhpur in the 15th century CE after the Mehrangarh Fort was built. Jodhpur is rich in colour, architecture and history.
The old city of Jodhpur can be reached from Sojati gate and Jalori gate. Station road is the hub of all activity leading to Sojati gate together with Nayi Sadak flanking to its north up to the clock tower down beneath the Mehrangarh fort. The main bus station of Jodhpur is at Rai Ka Bagh and the airport is 6 Kms on the outskirts of the city, basically an Air force base of the IAF, both on the other side of the railway line. Jodhpur has good local transport comprising of buses and auto rickshaws. Auto Rickshaws don’t run on Meter and one needs to haggle for a good deal.
Best time to visit Jodhpur is in the winters. Summers are very hot.
How to reach?
By Rail – Jodhpur is well connected to all major Indian cities. From Mumbai, the superfast Suryanagari Express is the fastest train to Jodhpur reaching in 18 hrs.
By Road – Jodhpur can be reached from Delhi and Mumbai from NH-8 (connecting Mumbai and Delhi) till Ajmer and then through NH-14 to Bar and onward through state highway.
By Air – Domestic flights from all major Indian cities fly to Jodhpur. The airport being an Indian Air Force base 6 Kms from the city hub.
Where to stay?
Jodhpur has no dearth of hotels. Varieties of stay options are available – from Luxury hotels to Heritage hotels and Business hotels to Budget hotels. For a splurge of royal treatment, the swanky Taj Umaid Bhavan Palace is undoubtedly the best choice. The present royal family and King of Jodhpur, Maharaja Gaj Singh resides in a part of Umaid Bhavan palace. A section of the palace is converted in to a museum. Tariff is from Rs. 15,000/- onwards per night making it a place only for the super swanks.
Another option for an affordable but royal stay and undoubtedly the best affordable hotel in Jodhpur is the Ratan Vilas haveli on Loco Shed road in Ratanada. Ratan Vilas was the palatial house of Maharaja Ratan Singh of Raoti, a royal of Jodhpur. The palatial house was converted in to a hotel by Ratan Singh’s descendants. Ratan Vilas is a true heritage mansion reminiscent of the era bygone. Taj Hari Mahal on Residency Road is a modern but expensive hotel while Abhay Days Inn is a 3-Star hotel near the bus stand reasonably priced.
Things to see
Jodhpur is a historic city also called as the Sun City or ‘Suryanagari’. There are many historical monuments, cenotaphs, museums, forts and palaces to be seen. All important sites can be leisurely visited in three days of which one whole day must be reserved for shopping and eating, one whole day must be spent for an excursion to Mandore, Kaylana lake and Osian while a whole day to be kept aside for visiting Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada and the Umaid Bhavan palace.
Mehrangarh Fort – The main attraction of Jodhpur is the imposing Mehrangarh fort, which has now been converted into a museum, with only a few of the palaces open to public. Mehrangarh demonstrates the extravagant lifestyle of the Rathore rulers in the era bygone. The air in the precincts of the fort is invigorating and the ambience enchanting. The fort is approached by a series of darwajas (gates), past which is the fort palace. Tourists get immersed in history the moment they step into the fort. One of the walls still bear the marks of canon fire, on another, there are a number of handprints, which are carvings of the hands of all the queens who committed sati, and there are some huge copper cauldrons – so huge that a man could fit into them – that were used for cooking.
A short steep walk leads to the main fort area that is open to visitors. Most of the fort has been converted into a sprawling museum, and there are some amazing sights to be seen. On display are a lot of elephant seats (ambaris) made of wood plated with gold and silver carvings, palanquins of queens and princesses, including the queen’s wedding palanquin, which is carved in gold. One entire room is dedicated to the cradles of prince and princesses, which are huge with lovely statues and birds forming arches around it, painted with vegetable dyes and gold, and some of them were even made of silver.
On display are swords, cutting knives, battle axes, javelins, and rifles, as well as tapestries, jharokas (windows), and the queen’s cosmetic box. The most stunning, though, is a palanquin made of pure silver, intricately and finely wrought, with such workmanship that has no parallel today.
The palaces that are open to the public are breathtakingly beautiful. The pierced screen windows of Moti Mahal overlook the coronation seat where Rathore rulers have been traditionally been anointed to rule; Jhanki Mahal is the apartment from where the women would watch ceremonial events; and the royal throne room with its octagonal throne and seating for ministers. The Moti Mahal has lovely Belgian glass stained windows, and the afternoon light filtering in renders it a mystical look. All four walls have niches carved from floor to ceiling, which were filled with oil lamps and lit in the evenings, throwing the whole room in a glow of color reflected from the windows. The ceilings are gold plated while the floors are covered with expensive Kaleen’s (carpets).
Entry fees to the fort are different for Indians and foreigners. An additional fee is charged for still cameras and camcorders. An audio guide is also available at the ticket counter.
The Fort has an in-house restaurant named Mehran serving delectable authentic Marwari cuisine. The Veg. Thali is a must try with the Non-Veg. Thali equally good. Food is served in traditional brass utensils rendering a rustic charm.The Fort also has a temple of Chamunda Mata worshipped by thousands during the annual fair. There are many canons mounted on carriages still in good condition on the ramparts of the fort.
Mehrangarh Fort also has shops selling souvenirs and artifacts, although pricey. A wide range of paintings, books, handicrafts, bandhanis, mojris and durries are on sale, the customers are however largely foreigners. Indian tourists prefer shopping at the nearby Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) market and the adjacent Nai Sadak which offers a wider choice at a fraction of cost.
From the top of the fort, spread of the entire city below can be seen with the famous blue colored houses that give Jodhpur the name of Blue City.
Jaswant Thada – on the way uphill to Mehrangarh Fort, a small diversion leads to Jaswant Thada, a complex of Cenotaphs of members of the Royal families of Jodhpur, of which the main and the largest cenotaph is of Maharaja Jaswant Singh, intricately carved in marble, it is a popular spot featured in many Bollywood films.
Umaid Bhavan palace – is the world’s largest residential palace constructed in marble and pink sandstone. It was built by Maharaja Umaid Singh and was designed by the British Royal Institute of Architects. Construction begun in 1927 and took 15 years to complete. In late 1920’s the entire Marwar region was struck by severe famine and it is said that Maharaja Umaid Singh thus undertook this project in order to provide employment to the dying populace, a story hard to believe. Ironically, Umaid Singh died in 1948, four years after the palace was completed; the present day King Gaj Singh II still lives in a part of the palace, the rest has been converted into a hotel leased to the Taj group – an extremely expensive hotel, only for the brave hearts.
The palace has a museum where many antiques are on display – expensive pottery, chandeliers, tiger skins, jewelry, precious stones and clocks, demonstrating the lavish lifestyle of the erstwhile royals. Also on display in the lawns of the palace are many vintage cars that were used by the royal family. The palace lacks the intricacy of Rajasthani architecture but resembles closely to the Roman Gothic architecture except for the pink sandstone used for its construction, though it does cut an elegant and imposing figure.
Where and what to eat?
Jodhpur is also famous for its sweets. The food culture of Jodhpur requires a meal to be begun with something sweet and then proceed on to the main course. Some of the popular sweets of Jodhpur are Mave ki Kachori, Besan ki Chaaki, Maakhan Vade and Gulab Jamun. Other popular and exclusive dishes of Jodhpur are Dal Bhati Churma, Gulab Jamun Ki Subzi, Kabuli and Gatte Ka Saag. Snacks exclusive to Jodhpur are Mirchi Bada, Mogar Kachori, Pyaz Kachori and Samosas. All deep fried in desi ghee. The overload of oil can be balanced by a glass of divine Makhaniya Lassi.
The popular eating joints in Jodhpur are Janata Sweets and Pokhar Sweets, both diagonally opposite to each other on Nayi Sadak. Shandar Sweet Home at Jalori gate is famous for Gulab Jamun Ki Subzi. For the best Makhaniya Lassi of Jodhpur, head on straight to Shri Mishrilal’s, a no frills place in the clock tower market. The lassi’s are made out of hung curd with a dash of kevda for flavour. The taste is divine. The lassi’s are smooth, creamy and so thick that it has to be eaten with a spoon.
Jodhpur is a place for shopaholics with the variety of things it has to offer – Antiques, Bandhani, Mojaris, Furniture, Jewellery, Handicrafts, Paintings and a lot more.
Antiques – Jodhpur is an antique hunter’s paradise. Jodhpur antiques include textiles, silver jewellery, pottery, carved ducks, metalwork, marble sculptures, frescos, ivory artefacts, bed covers, wall hangings, puppets, clothes, furniture, old furniture, chests, cabinets, doors, windows, carved lintels, old murals, memorabilia and rare first edition books.
Most of the Antique shops in Jodhpur are located at the foothill of the Umaid Bhavan palace. The prices of antiques are not too high and more or less fixed. Beware of fake antiques in Jodhpur that are sold quite cheap. Some popular antique shops in Jodhpur are the Rajasthan Art Emporium, Rajasthan Arts and Crafts House and Sun City Art Exporters.
Bandhani – is an ancient, resin-dyeing technique, widely used in Rajasthan. Bandhani is a unique pattern of vibrant colours. It is also known as Tie and dye. Bandhani is used in Sarees, Jodhpuri coats, Rajasthani dresses, Salwar Kameez and yardages for turbans. Shop for Bandhani at Sojati Gate, Nayi Sadak and Sadar Bazar.
Mojaris – Jodhpur Mojaris are famous throughout India. Also known as Jodhpuri Jutis, Mojaris render a royal touch to the traditional Indian attire. Mojaris go well on traditional Indian dresses like Sherwanis, Achkans, Kurta Pyjama, Salwar Kameez and Jodhpuri suits. Jodhpur offers a wide and fascinating range of Mojaris – from the embroidered Jutis to the beaded ones to the plain ones, as per your choice. The best place to buy Mojaris in Jodhpur is at the Mochi bazar in the old city and at the juti corner on station road.
Shekhawati Furniture – is a unique speciality of Jodhpur. This artistic, durable, solid wood furniture is made out of Shesham wood. The furniture stands out due to its royal looks. The best place to buy Shekhawati furniture in Jodhpur is at Shekhawati Art exports at Rai Ka Bagh and Sunrise Furniture mart at Shastri Nagar. The furniture is made to order and delivered to the customer at any nook and corner of India.
Jodhpuri Suit – the hallmark of Jodhpur and the ceremonial costume of the royals is famous all over India. Best places to get a Jodhpuri stitched is at Jodhpur tailors on Nayi Sadak. Abhipri on circuit house road is also a good option.
Mandore – was the capital of Marwar till the 15th century CE. It is situated 6 Kms to the north of Jodhpur and is famous for the Mandore Gardens, a beautiful, sprawling garden that has the chhatries (cenotaphs) of the Rathore rulers. One of the most imposing is the cenotaph of Maharaja Ajit Singh which sports carved elephants and a pillared chamber with fine sculptures.
Kaylana Lake – is situated 8 Kms west of Jodhpur, on the Jaisalmer Road. The artificial lake was constructed in 1872 on the site of two former palaces and gardens. Built by Pratap Singh, the then Prime Minister of Jodhpur, the lake is spread over an area of 84 sq. km. Apart from boating, it is an ideal spot for picnics.
Ossian – is a small town amidst the Thar desert, 65 Kms North West of Jodhpur. Ossian has many attractions, of which the prominent ones are the Jain Temple and the Sachiya Mata temple. Sachiya Mata is worshiped by the Oswal Jain community along with Mahavir. Ossian is also well known for its sand dunes, camel races and camel rides in the desert. It also has a camel camp (told to be the first of its kind in India). Locals also claim that the Thar desert actually begins from Ossian and extends beyond the borders of India.
Ossian can be reached by road from Jodhpur in about an hour and half. Ossian is also a railhead on the Jodhpur – Jaisalmer railway link. A visit to Ossian can be planned as a stopover while going to Jaisalmer from Jodhpur. Ossian can also be planned as a full day sightseeing activity, while visiting Jodhpur. The only hotel in Ossian is in the Camel camp. There are a few local restaurants. People from Jain community can stay at the in house lodge within the Jain temple. For shopping, one can look for sundried vegetables, spices, and red chillies at Ossian.
Rajesh Deshpande © 2013