Of Angels and Giants : Jodhpur

By @Saravana |
[Jodhpur, Rajasthan. 21'st to 22'nd Oct, 2006]

If i could do it all over again, i would spend more time in Jodhpur. Two days was just not enough to experience the Blue city, it was definitely the most laid back, immersive, historical Rajasthan experience i had in my whole trip. Read on for more details.

My train arrived in Jodhpur 5 hours late, on getting out of the station it looked like any other small city in India, nothing special, kinda reminded me of Coimbatore. All ordinary except for one striking feature, the Auto Rickshaws. They were huge.. taller, wider and well decorated than any other Auto that i have seen in India. Unfortunately i didn't take any pictures (kick myself). The first thing i did was to go book a train to Jaisalmer the next day. After doing that i took an auto to the Clock tower at the Sardar market, this i've been told is the tourist hangout, the start of the old city.

Sardar Market and the old city area :

I was not prepared for the explosion of colour that i encountered at the Sardar Market. It was Diwali that day and everybody had turned up to do their shopping. The streets were laid out with all sort of shops selling bangles, colorful textiles, jewellery, spices, household stuff and all sorts of decorative ornaments. At the middle is this huge clock tower, marking the entrance to the old city. The old city like any other in Rajasthan is enclosed by ancient city walls and all the traffic in and out of it flows through the small city gates. Enter the city walls and you find yourself in the old city, with its numerous alleyways criss crossing the in between the houses. It was noisy, crowded, charming.

Whenever i had time, i'll come down to the market and roam the streets, watching the people shop and get a general feel of the place. Unfortunately there was not much in terms of street food there and i took to eating omelettes. There were some 3 to 4 omelette shops near the old city gates, each claiming to be the original omelette shop recommended by LP. I didn't care though, omelette's are omelette's, how different can you make them. Anyway the place i had for breakfast was pretty good. Masala omlette sandwiches. 

I had the best food of my trip in Jodhpur. The first day i arrived, i had my lunch very late at around 4pm. I went to a local place (trying to avoid LP recommended restaurants), ordered a thali. It was yumm.. everything had an extra dose of butter, the rotis were dripping with it and calories were the last thing on my mind. I polished it all off in a jiffy and kept asking for more. In the evening again the food was good, i went to a place close to the railway station (btw.. the sardar market is just 2km from the station, easily walkable) and had some awesome nawabi briyani. The good food fest continued on the 2'nd day also, i kept experimenting and tried a lot of their local stuff like Chakki, Kadi, Bajra rotis etc.

Home alone on Diwali :

It was around 3pm when i entered the old city, thanks to the late train. After a brief stop at a Satyam iWay center to upload my Agra pics, i went in search for a place to stay. The options for stay are galore, lots of Haveli type guest houses. I just went into one which caught my eye, Sunrise guesthouse, i went in to enquire. The guy running the place showed me a room, it was huge with a double bed, a couple of cane chairs and lots and lots of room. Figure this, the room had three doors opening up to balconies outside. And the price.. just 150Rs, i took it immediately without even checking the other rooms. The only downside was that the bathroom was shared, i didn't mind it much as there were no other people staying there. The next day, i moved into a double room with attached bathroom, it was a little smaller but for 200 Rs a steal. Everything, including the bathrooms was clean, modern and spotless. I loved the place and will recommend it to anyone travelling to Jodhpur.

Old city area is rather flat without any tall buildings, so you get great views of the magnificient Mehrangarh fort from anywhere in the city, especially from the rooftops. Since it was Diwali night and there were no other tourists staying at the guesthouse, the owners left the keys with me and went home to celebrate the festival with their families. I had the whole guesthouse to myself and it was fun, i spent the entire evening that day on the roof top watching the fireworks light up the Jodhpur sky. It was tough taking pictures though, whenever i point my camera at a certain direction the fireworks will go off in a totally different area, it kept happening again and again. Patience is not one of my greatest virtues, so after a while i gave up and took to taking pictures of the fort instead. It was a fun night..

Mehrangarh Fort :
This is the reason most people come to Jodhpur and it doesn't disappoint one bit. The fort is perched high up on a cliff some 400ft over the city. Rudyard Kipling (i know ,its been quoted countless times already) exclaimed that the fort must've been a work of Angels and Giants and you can easily see why. Standing underneath, it is a colossal structure that rises high up into the sky, its walls are heavily fortified (near the entrance you can see the scars of an age old siege where canon balls bombarded the city walls), the iron gates protecting the fort are thick and covered with numerous spikes, anyone would think twice before knocking on those doors with a battering ram. Yet for all its monstrosity the palace is surprisingly beautiful, both on the outside and the inside. Even little things like the color variations along the walls, the intricately carved arch windows, the long passage ways etc etc.

The audio tour being offered at the fort is highly recommended. Its a little pricey though, 150Rs for the mp3 based gadget as compared to just 100Rs for a regular guide. But the audio tour is very nicely done and lets you do things at your own pace, with lots of extra titbit's of information. Without it i don't think it would've appreciated the place as much as i did. For instance there was this place at the entrance where an brave volunteer was buried alive inside the foundation when the fort was being built. Supposedly a hermit lived on this hill and when they wanted him to move inorder for the fort to be built, he put a curse on it and they had to sacrifice a person inorder to nullify the curse. And then there was this place where you had lots of hand prints, the Hands of the Sati. When a certain Maharaja Mansingh died, his 15 or so young wives willingly committed Sati, even though the practise was banned by the British at that time. There was a procession leading from the fort all the way into the FatehPur old town, where the funeral was held. There is tons of other info like this which will keep you interested all the way through the tour.

After a nice lunch and beer at the Mehrengargh cafe, i headed out to the explore the Fatehpur old town. From the east side of the fort a path leads all the way down to the town. It was striking, the first few dwellings were actually inside the fort gates, they were not houses per se but a room here a room there, extensions of the fort. Past the gates, you come to the regular living area, similar to the other side of the city where my guest house was. But the difference is, over here there were no guest houses, no internet cafes just houses of regular people living in a place unchanged over the years. The high point for me was when i met a bunch of kids and they invited me into their house for a drink of water. I talked with them for a bit and then moved on to explore the rest of the place.

Finally, tired after all the constant walking around in the hot sun, i found a nice little shady place by the fort walls and lied down to take a break. It was wonderful, i was in the shade, the breeze was cool and the views infront of me breath taking. I lay there for a while, taking mini naps, messaging a certain friend and just feeling happy about life. After a while the sun came out too strong and it was time for me to go back.

Two days was just not enough to experience all that this magnificient city has to offer. I just went to the Mehrangarh fort and to the old town area. Missed a lot of other attractions, but I'm happy that i took my time and experienced these two places to the maximum than rushing around in an attempt to see everything at one. And on the bright side, it gives me a reason to visit the city once again. Perhaps i will.
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