Wednesday 19th October 2016
Accommodation-Duration: Jodhpur Heritage Haveli-1 day
Onto my second opulent Rajasthani city, Jodhpur is also known as the ‘blue city’. Unlike Jaipur which wasn’t really that pink, Jodhpur old city is actually blue! The blue signifies the house of a Brahmin (the highest Hindu caste), however most houses have got in on the act. Arriving at my traditional haveli guesthouse which I had spent plenty of time sourcing, I was astonished to find it sat at the very foot of the Mehrangarh fort, which Jodhpur is famous for. Although I was located in the modern area of Jodhpur, the rooftop terrace that lies on top of the exquisitely painted Jodhpur Heritage Haveli (£3 per night), boasts views across the whole city of rooftops and out to the palace that sits under a haze on the horizon. Over the interweaving rooftops you watch the local women hang out their washing, while the beautiful tones of Hindu chants bellow across the city. The view took my breath away.
Jodhpur is incredibly different to Jaipur. Although it is home to yet another incredible fort, which the Rajpats seem to do very well, it wasn’t until I left Jaipur that I realised how very touristy it was. Being part of the famous ‘Golden Triangle’ (Delhi, Agra & Jaipur), which is a typical route for many holidayers coming to Rajasthan for a few weeks, Jaipur is very hectic. It was a pleasant surprise to arrive in the tranquility (Indian standards) of Jodhpur. Jodhpur is also known as ‘Marwar’, which translates to the ‘land of death’ because of it’s arid climate. I can already feel the temperature rising as I travel further south. It is also, if you hadn’t already guessed, where the traditional trousers worn for polo, originate from. Polo is a huge thing in India, which I presume was because of the days of the British Raj. They still have elephant polo in Jaipur!
With only one full day in Jodhpur, which was plenty of time, we made our way to the Mehrangarh fort first thing in the morning. Having caught up with my university friend Hattie, I was beginning to feel a lot more at ease with travelling India as a female. Mehrangarh is a majestic fort that casts a shadow over the old blue city. Having loved Jaipur’s Amer fort which had a spectacular landscape, Jodhpur’s fort boasted a beautiful interior. Feeling like a true tourist with our audio guides, we weaved through the complex halls of the fort which also act as a museum. As we climbed up what was called the ‘hill of birds’, it epitomised it’s name; hundreds of pigeons made their home in the walls of the fort. It was a beautiful edition watching flocks burst across the top of the fort structure. It’s like something from a movie. At the entrance to the fort you can find sets of terracotta handprints laid into the walls. When the first Maharaja of Jodhpur died, his many wives volunteered to be part of the Hindu ritual named Sati, in which the recently widowed women give themselves as a sacrifice on their husbands funeral pyre. Before the women were burned alive with their dead husband, their handprints were embossed into the walls as a remembrance. Something eerie and hard to contemplate. We began strolling through halls full of opulent elephant howdah’s (elephant seats), palace of palanquins (seats carried by people), traditional artwork and rooms laden with mosaic mirrors and gold. In courtyards, turban clad men showed us the hookah pipes in which the Rajpats smoke their opium, “it makes them strong”.
After visiting the breathtaking Mehrangarh fort, we spiralled down into the old city on the opposite side of the fort. I immediately felt so peaceful as we meandered through the tiny streets of blue stone houses. It had the most local feel as we saw not one single other tourist that whole afternoon. What a truly great experience. Not knowing where we were going, or needing to, we roamed the streets trying lots of different street food delights along the way. I have begun to feel rather daring with where I eat, considering I haven’t had a single bout of Delhi belly! We watched as stalls made fresh chapatis, samosas, lassi etc. right in front of our eyes. In India it is known that they use their left hand to wipe their bum and their right hand to eat, but I’m pretty sure they would need both to make a chapati….maybe I will leave the chapatis to the restaurants! We also passed a man making floral decorations for the upcoming festival of Diwali, he kindly made us a small arrangement to wear in our hair. Jodhpur appears to be a typical local Rajasthani town; there are cows everywhere, donkeys running freely down the streets, open sewers, faeces on the floor, and rubbish absolutely everywhere. However, looking beyond that, there was real authenticity to our day. We eventually made our way over to the famous clock tower and Sadar market that surrounded it. Again, this was a real local market with so many treats! Stalls selling bangles, saris, fresh fruit and veg, spices, and jewellery. Just outside the market walls, we grabbed a samosa from what seemed like a very popular stand. They were absolutely yummy, well from what I had of mine. I ended up buying lassi and chapati’s for three small begging children, who seemed to get pretty confident with their requests! It has now become pretty clear who the poorer of the community are; they often have a lot darker skin and are very thin. Rajasthan seems to be one of the richer provinces though.
Having had enough of trying to barter for ‘non-tourist’ prices, we were directed towards a manufacturers warehouse which we were told provides textiles for some of the major retailers in the UK. We were invited to look around at the shelves packed full of stunning throws, jackets, sari’s etc. We were shown a collection of throws that are part of the new Anthropology range. For the first time I felt like these facts were legitimate. I could’ve spent thousands of rupees in there, and nearly did, until I realised it was pretty unrealistic carrying round 4kg heavily embroidered blankets. Something to bare in mind for any future retail ventures though.
Making our way over to the ‘white temple’ Jaswant Thada, to realise it was closed, we walked up this long flight of steep steps that spiralled upto the top of a hill with a panoramic view of the city and the fort. Watching the sun set over the city concluded a wonderful jam packed day in Jodhpur. That evening we ate at the rooftop restaurant of Pal Haveli restaurant, named Indique. Although the food was wonderful and we were dined in a very classy establisment, I have started to realise how the food is very much the same wherever you go. This was a delicious but very pricey evening.