Last summer, I packed my bags to explore the blue city of Rajasthan, Jodhpur. It was a long-awaited holiday. I was excited all through the morning flight from Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi to Jodhpur Airport. The rains welcomed me as I stepped out of the airport, a harbinger of a great stay ahead. I hopped on to a taxi and headed towards “Nirvana Home” my address for the next few days at Jodhpur. I wondered at the landscape of the erstwhile Marwa Kingdom as I made my way through the city lanes.
Nirvana Home is an old heritage haveli which is adorned with exquisite Jodhpur heritage paintings and with a big courtyard decorated with flowerpots. It is located near the iconic clock tower at Ghasmandi. It has an old temple named “Tija Mata ka Mandir” at one end of the courtyard. The evening aarti along with the sound of the pealing of bells transcends one through a mystical journey. This beautiful architecture has a rooftop restaurant with all modern amenities and an amazing close frontal view of the famed Mehrangarh Fort. A narrow steep stone-built staircase leads all the way up to the rooftop. Sitting at the rooftop restaurant, I was left awestruck by the sheer magnitude of the magnificent Mehrangarh fort which overlooks the city. The fort is located at a stone’s throw away distance of 15 minutes of walk from Nirvana Home.
After having a hearty delicious breakfast, I could not resist my urge to visit this colossal creation by the Jodhpur maharajas. The inhabitants of the city considered the color blue to be sacred as it is associated with the venom turning the body of Lord Shiva blue. It is for this reason that the houses near the fort are painted blue. These houses have been immortalized in many of the Bollywood movies.
On the way to the fort, I spotted a beautiful temple like monument. On inquiry, I came to know that it is Jaswant Thara, a marble monument built in 1899 in the memory of the Jaswant Singh II by his son Maharaja Sardar Singh. It is the place where the mortal remains of the once great maharajas are laid to rest. It is an architectural landmark.
The perfect way to know about the history of a place is to hire an expert guide. The guide gave me lot of insights and valuable information about the fort and the lifestyle of the maharajas which I surely would have missed had I ventured on my own. The fort is built on a cliff named Bakhurcheeria which is 400 meters above the skyline of Jodhpur and spreads over 5 kms. The high walls scaling up to an impressive height of 36 meters and 21 meters wide leaves one wondering at the amount of hard work put in to build the huge edifice. Its richness and grandeur oozes out and strikes you as you sojourn your walk from the entrance. It was built by Rao Jodha around 1459. It is a quintessential reminiscence of its glorious past, of great Maharajas and tales of bravery.
I learnt that the fort has seven gates made by different rulers in different era. Chief among them is Jai Pol which was built to commemorate the victory over Bikaner and Jaipur army. The Dedh Kangra Pol has imprints of cannonballs, a testimony of the fierce bombardments showcasing the sturdiness of the walls of the fort. As I crossed Loha Pol, the last of the seven gates, I was intrigued by the hand imprints made on the walls which I came to know later that those were of the widow queens of Maharaja Man Singh when they performed Jauhar to end their life at his demise. There is also the option of taking the elevator, bypassing the long way thru the seven gates and reach the top floor. However, to walk thru the seven gates is worth the effort as I came to know a lot of history and significance of this impressive fort.
Once inside the fort, I was greeted by a huge courtyard named Shrinagar Chowk which has a marble throne. The throne was used by the newly crowned king to make his public appearances. The Mehrangarh Fort is famous for its elaborate museum which treasures rich heritage, artifacts and memories of the royals. The Mehrangarh Museum has seven period rooms and six galleries. It took me about five hours to explore the history of Mehrangarh Fort but a few more spaces were still left unexplored. It is not possible to visit the entire fort at a day’s time. I also saw many people trying ziplining at the fort. When I stepped out of the fort in the evening with my mind completely lost in the annals of the rich history of the royals, I felt the lights of the city below like scattered diamonds of the Maharaja.
One cannot miss the view of the mammoth fort from any corner of the city. In the daytime, it seems like a maharani who is protecting the city like a guardian angel and at night, illuminated under floodlights, it metamorphoses into a beautiful newly wedded bride hiding a lot of treasures in her bosom.
To unwind myself from the heavy dose of history, I visited the Clock Tower better known as Ghanta Ghar which is in the heart of Sadar Market. It is near to my place of stay. To refuel my hungry stomach, I tasted the famous mirchi vada, mawa kachori and aadrak wali chai at the Shahi Samosa which was very refreshing. I was amazed by the variety of items on display at the various stalls in the market like jewelry, Rajasthani handicrafts, clothes, traditional bangles etc.
The next day, I started my day early. I planned to visit two exclusive places, Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum and Machia Biological Park, the city zoo. Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum is divided into three parts. One being the residence of the current Maharaja Gaj Singh, the middle part being converted into a sprawling museum housing some of the beautiful artifacts of the Rajput heritage and the other part is a luxury hotel run by the Taj Group of Hotels. I was smitten by the elaborate collection of antique cars of the maharaja displayed in the Umaid Bhawan Palace.
My next stop was the state zoo, Machia Biological Park. It is a modest zoo which can be explored by battery operated cars.
To experience further the uniqueness of Jodhpur, I visited the famous Bishnoi Village which is located 22 kms away from the city of Jodhpur. The efforts of the Bishnoi community to conserve nature is truly laudable. It has a natural lake which makes it a perfect place to spend some serene time. I enjoyed pottery making and relished local cuisine. In the evening, I lost myself in the rich Rajasthani folk music and dance.
I also visited Osian Village which is 68 kms from Jodhpur. It is an oasis in the Thar desert. It offers camping and sand dune safari. It is really an enjoyable experience.
Some more attractions during my stay at Jodhpur were Sardar Samand Lake Palace - a former summer palace of the royal family now being converted into a heritage hotel, Rai Ka Baag Palace – a 15th century palace and Toorji ka Jalra – an old step well. International Kite Festival, Folk Music Festival, Marwar Festival and Nagaur Fair, World Sacred Spirit Festival – a meeting ground for Sufi music are some of the activities that happen all through the year at Jodhpur. For an adrenaline rush, Camel Safari is also a good option.
Jodhpur, with all its incredible history and rich heritage left me thrilled and I really had an amazing experience, memories of which will perpetually last in my mind. Many of the places went unexplored during my short visit. Jodhpur is a place that I will definitely want to visit again.