A city that can take you back in time with its towering forts, culture and lifestyle, Jodhpur is a perfect weekend getaway
The magnificence of Mehrangarh, the exorbitant Umaid Bhawan or simply the romance of the Blue City – Jodhpur boasts some of the most exemplary landmarks in Rajasthan. Most travelling to the desert State only include Jodhpur for an overnight stay in a wider tour, but Rajashtan’s second-most populated city can be enjoyed for a weekend trip as well with overnight trains from Mumbai and Delhi. Jodhpur, a city that still whispers epic tales of heroism, valour and treachery, is hewn out of the southern sands of the Thar. A historical mine, the city is replete with palaces and forts. It was once part of the celebrated Silk Route that ran from Central Asia to the seaports of Gujarat. Magic, mysticism, modernity mingled with tradition, sports and a flamboyant spirit is blend to enchant visitors to the city. The city center of the metropolis is a riot of colours and always bustling, its sweeping streets dotted with pavement vendors peddling their wares. Women in brightly coloured ghagra cholis, add luster to the ambience, breaking the monotony of Jodhpur’s compelling traits – the golden sands and blue edifices.
Without doubt, Mehrangarh Fort is Jodhpur’s crown jewel. The city skyline is pinned into place by the 450 feet high fort on one side, and the Umaid Bhavan Palace on the other. The fort stands at an elevation of 120 mt on a hill that was once known as the ‘mountain of birds’ and from its lofty heights, a breathtaking view of the Blue city pulsating with life captures your attention. It is an imposing structure built of burnished red sandstone, and opens up into a broad, stone-cobbled courtyard bordered by massive ramparts.
It is one of India’s best preserved forts that served as home to the royal family for over 500 years until the construction of the Umaid Bhavan Palace in 1943. Incidentally, it enjoys a unique place among the citadels of India for being the only fort to have an elevator to take you to its top!
The fort is home to the State deity Chamunda who is worshipped even today during the nine-day Navratra celebrations coinciding with Dussehra. The fort also plays host to several music festivals every year, including the World Sufi Festival.
Umaid Bhavan Palace
Three km towards the southeast of the old city, one reaches the hilltop palace that accommodates the royal incumbent Maharaj Gaj Singh II. This majestic fort was built for Maharaj Umaid Singh back in 1929, which was designed by the British architect Henry Lanchester. A part of the palace was converted into a hotel and 64 rooms and suites out of a total of 347 were converted into accommodation for tourists.
Over the years, several celebrities have enjoyed visiting this property like Brad Pitt, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Christian Bale, Sting, Shah Rukh Khan and the Ambanis, to name a few. It is also a Mecca for celebrity weddings, the most talked-about being the Liz Hurley- Arun Nayyar marriage in 2007. The palace is voted as the ‘Hottest Travel Property’ by a popular American travel website company in 2016.
The edifice, which at first glance resembles a temple, stands serene in the midst of lush gardens. Referred to as the Taj Mahal of Marwar, Jaswant Thada is a royal cenotaph built in 1899 by Sardar Singh in memory of his father Raja Jaswant II, the ruler who purged Jodhpur of dacoits and also gave a boost to its agrarian economy by developing an irrigation system. One is particularly struck by the architecture of its domes, which reflect the brilliant glow of the giant orange star above. The interior walls of the cenotaph showcase rare portraits of several Jodhpur rulers.
Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park
A model of eco-tourism, this 178 acre park sits in the lee of Mehrangarh. It holds numerous indigenous species of plants displaying the mélange of the desert region. The place also has walking trails guiding visitors towards the city walls, Devkund Lake for spotting local birds.
The best way to explore the Blue city is by foot, both for shopping and trying out the local cuisine. One can pick up souvenirs from Girdikot and Sardar bazaars. Embroidered fabrics with mirror work, tie-and-dye attires that are ethnic to Rajasthan are available as saris, dress material and wall hangings. Ethnic Rajasthani footwear (jootis), lacquer ware and inlay work in marble is also available at these bazaars.
Written by: Chitra Ramaswamy