To get to Jodhpur we have another long day on the road. We continue to entertain ourselves with the matrimonials in the Indian Times and the antics from our fellow road users. We stopped for the usual morning tea (banana lassie or chai), and again for lunch. Lunch is the usual curry for those who’s stomachs have settled into Indian food, and cheese toasties and chips for those of us who haven’t.
We left the Thar desert early and arrived in Jodhpur at 2:30 in the afternoon. Our first stop is the Mehrangarh fort (1459 AD), an impressive building that towers over the town with its massive walls of up to 36 metres high.
The fort was built by Rao Jodha, as one of the mightiest fort of all time, and it is called Citadel of the Sun, Mehrangarh. Inside the fort there are several palaces. A number of the palaces have been converted into a museum that houses a impressive collection of palanquins, elephant howdahs (effectively the “bed carried by an elephant”), cradles, miniature paintings, weapons and clothing. The heritage of the Rathores of Marwan-Jodhpur.
After paying the entrance fee for access to the museum and the inside of the palaces, we get provided with a headset and an audio tour that takes us around. I love these, as I can stroll around at my own pace and soak up the atmosphere while listening to the guide explaining what there is to see as well as providing some interesting background stories.
Mike hates these audio tours and walks around without the headset, creating his own impression and memories.
We walk up slowly, through the seven gates. The main gate is called Loha Pol. Just inside this gate are two sets of small handprints, “sati” marks of royal widows who threw themselves on their maharajas’ funeral pyre. The last to do so were Maharaja Man Singh’s widows in 1843. However, this was not the last sati. Sadly, the tradition of sati continued well into the 20th Century (there was a case as recently as 1987) and was seen as an act of love by the widow. However, if the widow doesn’t have anybody willing to take over looking after her after her husband dies, this could be a desperate move.
Another gruesome fact is that to provide good fortune, a man volunteered to be buried alive at the site of the new fort prior to construction taking place, Raja Ram Meghwal. In return his family was and continues to be looked after by the Rathore family. As far as we know, at least this tradition has ended much earlier.
The fortified area is huge and the audio tour takes us just through the palaces and museums. The collections are interesting and varied, and the architecture is equally varied as additions and changes were made to the structures over the years.
The view from the fort is amazing too! In the distance you see another palace of the Rathore family, the cream building with the domes in the middle of a green area.
Also notice the cannons on the walls, this place was well fortified!
We stroll down from the Mehrangarh, winding our way through the old city that has the famous blue painted houses that gives Jodhpur its nick name. Blue painted houses traditionally signified the presence of the Brahmin cast, however, over the years others have gotten into the spirit too.
It is lovely, just wandering through the medieval streets that wind their way down the hillside, in a tangle of lanes, steps and stairs that go any which way. Besides residential houses and small hostels, you find many small shops, bazaars and cafe’s in this area.
We continue our stroll, and head to the market of Jodhpur. A century old clock tower is the key landmark of the Sardar Market, which also has some interesting gateways.
I just love the smells, colours and sights, strolling through the market. You don’t realise we are still in a desert, in an area that is cheerily known as Marwar, the Land of Death, due to its harsh topography and climate.
One other must-do in Jodhpur is to taste their world famous lassie; it is creamy and thick yoghurt drink and contains saffron, cardamom and honey. The amazing makhania lassi shop is just next to the market, just follow the crowd! Interestingly, lassi is original from Punjab, but this was definitely the best one we tasted in Rajasthan.
On our way out of town the next morning we stop at a small weaving collective, Roopraj Dhurry Udyog, which is run by a man called Roopraj Prajapat, near the village of Salawas. They use an interlocking technique which is special to this area, creating lovely dhurries (rugs). We get to see a demonstration of the technique while enjoying the usual offer of chai and samosas.
Many famous people have visited before us, and Roopraj happily shares his photo and magazine collection. We recognise Prince Charles and Richard Gere immediately. This collective is also listed in the lonely planet, and the visitors area is well set up and includes a western toilet. The collective consists of more than 40 families, and all profits go back to these families.
Mike sees a camelhair carpet made by Roopraj himself, and his fond memories of Gerald lead us to the purchase of a nice camel hair rug. And we are not the only ones shopping here. The rugs are beautiful, you can pay by credit card, and if you don’t have space in your luggage they happily sent the rugs internationally across the world.
Naturally, as everywhere, you are expected to bargain to get a better price, and just accept that you will probably still pay over the odds. Having a local along may help drive the price down, but then, they could also be in getting a cut. Still, if you are happy with the purchase and what you have paid for it, don’t fret further and enjoy yourself! Life is too short to fret over small things!
So, with an additional purchase in our extendable bag (very happy we brought it), we continue our drive to Udaipur.
Travel details and tips
Accomodation: We were staying at the Mandore Guest House, a boutique resort on the outskirts of Jodhpur. It is set around a lovely garden and pool, with plenty of space to chill and relax in some of the largest rooms we have had to date.
They also serve the best cheese toasties to date! And yes, the normal food was really nice too. We can highly recommend this place.
Tip: We have only brought two duffel bags on holiday with us, carrying less than 10 kg each. However, we have also brought one expandable bag, which is now slowly filling up with our purchases of rugs, quilts etc.
Intrepid, our tour company, runs a clothing collection scheme, and on our return to the hotel in Delhi we can donate any clothes or shoes we don’t want anymore creating space in our check-in luggage. They will clean them, and distribute them to those in need.