I found 2 Jodhpur’s – The “So-Blue” Jodhpur & the “Not-So-Blue” Jodhpur.
The “So-Blue” Jodhpur is elegant, adorned with culture and painted in blue. This part of the city is stationed around the Mighty Mehrangarh fort’s base. The “Not-So-Blue” part of the city stretches beyond the fort’s walls and is ever bustling with energy & people, constant honking, crowded market places and chaotic roads. There is a sense of inexplicable urgency attached to this side of the city while a sense of stillness to the former.
As the train pulled into the Jodhpur station late evening on 24th Dec 2016, we were almost immediately swept over by the city’s royal warmth.
We were staying at – Hotel Haveli (pre-booked at a very economical price from www.agoda.com). Haggling with the auto-rickshaws of Jodhpur is one mammoth task. They charge exorbitantly for hardly any distance. We ended up paying so much for the 15 minutes auto ride on the first day that we decided to walk around the city the next day!
We were happy with our hotel – it was quite haveli-like!
There was a step-well right in front of the hotel which was visible from our room window!
The street leading up to the hotel was lined up with decorated restaurants and scented shops.
As decided, next day, we decided to walk over to Mehrangarh fort, which was so closely visible from our hotel’s roof top restaurant! (More about the city’s roof top culture later). We thought it couldn’t be too far. We switched on the very reliable’ Google Maps’ and started our journey towards the magnificent fort!
This part of the city is a knot of zigzag, bright narrow lanes, with houses on both sides, which never seemed to lead us where we expected them to! The streets were so ‘slim’ that the houses were literally only at an arm’s distance from each other. I was amazed to see how people could live in such close proximity – & of not just physical space! It was quite early in the day & there were several people on the streets – sitting outside their houses engrossed in relaxed conversations with neighbors – they looked like one big family!
It was quite a long walk (45 minutes, am guessing).
We also stopped for breakfast at Shahi Heritage … a roof top café! From here the fort looked even closer. This place was like a maze … we were walking, walking & walking … & there was no fort. But the moment we climbed up to any roof top café – the fort is right there!!
We crossed the narrowest streets possible hitting several dead-end and multiple times doubted the directions of the map. But The ‘Google Map’ knows everything (believe me; we thought we wouldn’t reach anywhere! But we did & I respect the maps so much more since that day!) – We finally saw the fort! The Indomitable ‘Mehrangarh Fort’, chiseled from the rock on which it stands – one with its base!
It was a back door entry (we realized this much later!) thanks to Google! It was quiet. We sat for some time looking at the magnificence towering in front of us. And then we spotted a – Sparrow Tree! (Not Speaking Tree, Not Lemon Tree, Not even an Apple Tree – A Sparrow Tree!).
I had never seen so many sparrows perched together on a single little tree! & they were fearless – they wouldn’t fly away at all even with all the people clicking them. I think they enjoyed the well-deserved attention. That was quite a sight!
As we walked in, we couldn’t help but notice that Mehrangarh is packed with history. The fort is still run by the royal family of Jodhpur. The main entrance of the fort is at the northeast gate, called Jai Pol (we didn’t enter from there though!). Past the Jai Pol, stands the 16th century Dodh kangra Pol (basically a gate) built before Jai Pol. Through this gate, the route leads up to the 16th-century Imritia Pol and then Loha Pol, the fort’s original entrance, with iron spikes to dissuade enemy elephants. Just inside the gate are two sets of small hand prints, the sati marks of royal widows who threw themselves on their maharajas’ funeral pyres.
After the Loha Pol, there is a cozy restaurant (highly priced though!) and Suraj Pol which gives access to the fort’s museum (tickets for which are available at the main entrance just after Jai Pol). Post visiting the museum we walked along the ramparts, lined with imposing antique artillery.
Several vantage points from the ramparts offer spectacular views of the city below. From one such point, we found a really cool-blue view of the “So-Blue” Jodhpur!
We finally exited the fort from the main entrance (hence the events described above occurred in exact opposite sequence for us!).
From the fort we walked over to The Jaswant Thada, it looked like a replica of The Taj Mahal! The milky-white marble cenotaph sitting above a small lake, also serves as the cremation ground for the royal family of Marwar.
The royal mausoleum was built out of intricately carved sheets of marble. The marble sheets were so thin & well-polished that they emitted a warm glow when illuminated by the sun – I had never seen something like this!
The cenotaph has a beautiful garden around. We sat under a tree on the grass & lazed around for a while soaking in the beautiful warm sunlight.
When we got up from here, we realized we could walk no more! We finally hired an auto & went over to our hotel. We had lunch at a restaurant next to our hotel – Raula Café – Chicken Biryani & the very famous Laal-Maas were ordered & then we cared about nothing!
I had mentioned about the roof-top café culture of the city – time to talk about it.
Most of the houses, in the “So-Blue” part of the city – either run a café / restaurant on their roofs or have lent out their roofs to someone to run a café / restaurant (smart business idea!) & all of these roof-tops provide such awesome view of the fort.
I feel this culture arose out of compulsion – because of the extreme narrow lanes & lack of open space down there. Most of the houses are thin & at least a couple-of-storey tall & hence naturally provide a great view of the fort (since as said this part of the city is built around the base of the fort).
This compulsion and space-less-ness has given Jodhpur its uniqueness!
Our hotel had an amazing roof top restaurant – 360 degree Jharoka. It had the most spectacular view of the fort and served the most delicious chicken biryani! It started out to be one of our most romantic candlelight & moonlight dinner till the biryani arrived – post which we had practically forgotten each other!
Umaid Bhavan was another stunning palace we visited in Jodhpur. I was so huge; at first I thought it was a parliament building or a university or something!
It is a massive art deco palace – constructed from honey sandstone and white marble. This palace is still the residence for the royal family! Imagine people living here –
I learnt that this palace was constructed mainly to give the town residents a job to do during a famine. That’s a nice Royal Family!
This grand sandstone palace spread over 26 acres of garden – it is one of the largest private residences in the world!!!!!!
There is a museum inside the palace where visitors can admire the fine collection of Victorian and Edwardian antiques.
Most of our evenings were spent roaming around in the chaotic but colorful bazaars of the city.
Before I wrap up, I must mention about the King-Size Royal Paneer Parantha that we ate for breakfast all the days while we were there at Priya Restaurant. Priced at 80 bucks a parantha, it was the largest and tastiest parantha I have ever had. It was served with curd, pickle, butter and onions. We loved it. I can actually go back to Jodhpur just to have this parantha again –
Finally, it was time for us to bid good-bye to the city of traditions! Time flew!!
We were ready to explore the golden deserts of the Thar (Jaisalmer – covered in the earlier blog). But we sure left with a tinge of royalty! 🙂