Synonymous with beautiful palaces and majestic forts, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer are the probably the best cities to experience the glamour of the Rajputana. Their distance from Delhi coupled with Rajasthan’s fantastic roads, sangri eating camels and brightly coloured turbans make for the perfect (long) weekend getaway. Here’s what not to miss in Jodhpur:
1. The Murals at Umaid Bhawan Palace: Built between 1928 and 1943, the palace is named for H.H. Maharaja Umaid Singh, the grandfather of the present Maharaja of Jodhpur. It is one of the largest private residences in the world and is home to a unique collection of art deco murals by the Polish artist Stefan Norblin. Norblin fused his art deco style with Indian Art and mythology to create stunning murals depicting scenes from the Indian epic, Ramayana. The murals celebrate the lineage of the Rathore rulers of Jodhpur who trace their origins back to Lord Rama and Surya, the sun god. For more on Stefan Norblin, read Stefan Norblin: An Artist Comes Home by Irene Tomaszewski.
2. Mehrangarh Fort: Probably the most majestic fort in Rajasthan, Mehrangarh Fort has never been taken in a seige. It is situated 400 feet above the city of Jodhpur and surrounded by thick walls and seven gates. The marks left by the cannonballs of the attacking armies of Jaipur can still be seen around the second gate. Within the formidable walls of Mehrangarh Fort are many beautiful palaces, intricately carved and richly decorated. The Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace) and Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), among others, have rooms richly adorned with gold filigree work, mosaics and paintings.
The Fort museum also has an armoury and a lovely collection of palanquins and cradles. There’s also a Chamunda Temple in the Fort which has a lamp which has been lit for over 300 years. Jodhpur’s medieval city is filled with winding streets and alleys with blue houses on either side. Mehrangarh Fort offers the best panaromic views of the blue city, don’t miss them!
And quite possibly my favourite part, a gift shop that sells jewellery designed by the royal jewellers. There are replicas from the collection of the Maharani herself.
The Fort is open for visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tickets cost 60 INR for Indian citizens and 400 INR for foreign tourists.
For more information, check out the official website of the Mehrangarh Museum Trust: http://www.mehrangarh.org/
3. Black bucks and migratory birds at Guda Lake: The land of the Bishnoi community is around the city of Jodhpur. The Bishnois live by 29 principles prescribed by Guru Jambheshwar, 8 of which relate to the preservation of bio-diversity. As a result of this, the Bishnois revere the flora and fauna on their land, particularly the Black Buck. Many black bucks, chinkaras, foxes and migratory birds like cranes can be seen around Guda Lake.
4. Handicrafts in Kakkani Village: A haven for handicraft lovers, Kakkani village has several families which have come together to form a co-operative society. There is a family of durrie (rug) weavers, a family of potters and a family that does block printing. Its a great idea to stop by, get to know the people and their handiwork and help promote them a little. You’ll even get to try your hand at some pottery or durrie weaving! Salwas Durry Udhyog was established by them in 1897 and it is currently run by Mr. Usman Gani. Their beautiful durries are available online on their website http://salawasdurry.com/. They export as well!
5. Bal Samand Lake Palace: Initially conceived as a summer retreat for the Maharajas of Jodhpur, this is a lovely palace overlooking Bal Samand Lake. Today there is a WelcomHeritage hotel on the property with a great restaurant. This is where we had what was, quite possibly, the nicest meal on our trip. I’d suggest you try the laal maans (meat cooked in a red gravy with chillies) and the Tosha e tandoor (a sizzling kebab platter).
6. Living in a Palace: There’s really no better way to experience the glamour of the Rajputana than to live in an actual palace. We stayed at Ajit Bhawan Palace (which was built for Maharajadhiraj Ajit Singh, the younger brother of Maharaja Umaid Singh) and I loved every minute of it! There’s also Bal Samand Lake palace, which comes with the added attraction of fantastic food and the most luxurious of the lot, Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel run by the Taj Group.
7. Traditional Rajasthani Thali: This is a must. I’d recommend Gypsy on Sardarpura C Road. For more on Rajasthani food, check out my post on Jaipur.
8. Wander around Clock Tower and Nai Sarak.
The Route: The distance between Delhi and Jodhpur is 592 km. The shortest route is via NH 8, however, we went via the Balaji Temple in Salasaar. This route is substantially longer but we had the BEST mirchi (chilli) pakoras at Jai Jagdamba Bhojanalaya at a railway crossing along the way. If you do stop at Salasar, have the thali at Anjaneya Bhojanalaya. Delicious, unlimited food for only about Rs. 60 per plate.