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I have seen various people referring to Jodhpur as Sun City as well as Blue City. It is not difficult to understand the first epithet. The Sun shines brightly and mercilessly here. And yes, the sky mostly remains dull thus exposing my limited photographic skills. But that is true for entire Rajasthan, the state with the lone Indian desert, Thar. That is why I find the epithet Blue City more unique and appropriate although in order to understand why it is called so, you must look at it from above and the best way for that is to visit the Mehrangarh Fort as you can see below.
Now, Jodhpur was the first major stop of my Late Autumn Sonata. I barely had one morning here but the good thing is that it was my second trip here and so I knew what exactly I wanted to do. When you are short in time, the must watch item here is undoubtedly the Mehrangarh Fort. Í also have pre-DSLR era images from my previous visit which was a longer and more comprehensive trip, but more about them later on.
At the Mehrangarh Fort:
Rudyard Kipling thought it is the “work of angels, fairies and giants… built by Titans and coloured by the morning sun…” and Aldous Huxley exclaimed “from the bastions of the Jodhpur Fort one hears as the gods must hear from Olympus…”.
When it has fascinated such minds over the ages, muggles like me cannot help but get overawed by this imposing structure. Forts always have this aura of invincibility and audacity about them and Mehrangarh is simply one of the most intricately build as well as best maintained forts in this country. It is not merely a fort but a world of its own complete with museums, eateries and shops.
As far as the formalities are concerned, you have to get the tickets at the entrance. You have to pay extra for your camera and you can pay even more for audio devices that guide you through the fortress. I personally avoided this luxury as I always do and moved inside. The first thing I noticed was that it was much more “alive” compared to the last time. It seemed that they are getting ready for some festival involving the royal family (For the uninitiated… yes, the royals still exist, although the titles are merely symbolic). The entire compound was adorned with flags and curtains.
I have always had a fascination for cannons. I think it was developed during early schooldays watching those historical serials in Doordarshan. Forts like these are the best places to see and even touch cannons. I can imagine how perversely powerful one might have felt owning these guns and looming over the city.
Inside the Fort:
While the view of the Blue City from the fort is the most distinctive image associated with it, there is much to see inside the fort too. There are several small museums scattered around the complex. These are mostly the collections of the kings now being displayed for the public. There is a room dedicated to turbans, one for weapons another for royal palanquins, apparels, jewelry and yes finally there is also a collection of paintings. Some of the paintings seemed to have distinct Europeans influence…
There are various other rooms which served different purposes in the olden days. For instance the one below was definitely the place to hold a royal meeting.
The “Sheesh Mahal” (Glass Palace) is also a nice little room with nice glass work.
The compound also houses shops where you can by clothes, shoes and souvenirs. But not all the shopkeepers were friendly enough to allow good snapshots.
But the most satisfying image that I got was that of a local guy in traditional Rajasthani attire…
Light and Shadow:
As I mentioned earlier, the whole fort was being decorated for some occasion. There were brightly colored lamps and curtains everywhere. Coupled with the windows with colored glasses, they created some interesting shades.
But the one that drove my imaginations wild was the one with empty birdcages. Somehow the whole setup reminded me of Mani Kaul’s erotic masterpiece Cloud Door. Those who have seen the film will know what I am trying to say.
Mehrangarh also boasts of live folk performers. You are expected to tip them while they sing their heart out. I made a short video of one of them, check this out.
Some other performers also show you how to tie the turbarn and there is another one doing nothing but showcasing his extra large moustache and hookah. All of them expect tips from the visitors.
I spent around two hours inside the fortress and covered each and every corner. It was November already but still heat was becoming unbearable and I had a bus to catch. So, this is where my Jodhpur trip ends. But I’d covered much more during the 2008 trip. I especially want to share the images of Mandor from that trip.
Mandor: Blast from 2008
In 2008, I visited Mehrangarh, which I loved and hence repeated this time. Here are a couple of Mehrangarh images from that visit.
I also visited the Umaid Bhavan Palace but was not too kicked by it. It is basically a place of luxurious residence. Part of it has been turned into another museum and the other part is a luxury hotel that my wallet could not afford then as well as now. But the place I liked more was Mandor, which is around 9 kms away from the city. Most people skip this one but it is not really remote and if you can find a friend auto rickshaw driver, he’ll take you to the place.
Mandor is in fact the ancient capital of the region, even older than Jodhpur. The capital was moved to newly build Jodhpur sometime around 15th century as it was better located to meet new security challenged and Mandor was mainly used after that as a place for royal cenotaphs. All the deceased kings have one named after them. All the structures boast of intricate mythological sculptures as well as Kamasutra postures. It is spread across a large area but unfortunately it is not well maintained like its more famous counterparts within the city. Nevertheless, here are some images from the old visit. Please forgive the low resolution images.
So, this is all about Jodhpur. I will be back with another half-baked story from Jaipur in a few days time.
How to Reach?
Jodhpur is a major town in Rajasthan and is well connected with all major cities in India. It has an airport too and road condition is mostly good. It is also a major railhead and hence transportaion will not be an issue.
When to visit?
It can be visited throughout the year but considering the heat I felt in November, I’d suggest people to avoid the peak of summer.
What to see:
The main attractions are the Mehrangarh Fort (and adjacent Jaswant Thada) and Umaid Bhavan Palace. But if you have time do venture out of the city a bit and visit Mandor which is less than 10 km away.
Tourism is well developed and hence there are enough hotels and homestays to cater to all kind of budgets. If you need a decent A/C room, you may have to shell out anything between INR1000-1500. Considering the heat, A/C is not a mere luxury here.