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The Blue City and Mehrangarh Fort by Sean Hsu

Discover Jodhpur, India’s stunning blue city

Have you ever dreamed of wandering around an indigo metropolis, drenched in soft pink skies as soon as the sun calls it a day? Some call Jodhpur ‘an exploration

India’s colourful cities

Have you ever dreamed of wandering around an indigo metropolis, drenched in soft pink skies as soon as the sun calls it a day? Some call Jodhpur ‘an exploration to the senses’, others would say it’s an intriguing maze of azure alleyways. One thing is for sure: this humming city in the Indian state Rajasthan is full of colours, exciting architecture and ancient traditions.

Alleyways and architecture

In Jodhpur’s lanes, rickshaw drivers and bikes rush to their next destination, accompanied by flocks of pigeons. Tiny courtyards breathe a more peaceful air, a blue serenity that’s rarely found on the main streets of Jodhpur. Here’s where chai vendors sell their milky delights and shoe polishers carefully brush leathery footgear. Certain houses in Jodhpur’s used to be decorated with indigo paste because priests of the Brahmin caste lived there. These days many more buildings are covered in blue, providing cooler air while dispersing the afternoon glow that makes every living creature simmer away in ‘Sun City’.

Traditional blue windows and wall in Blue City Jodhpur
Traditional blue windows and wall in Blue City Jodhpur

Interior of Mehrangarh Fort by Don Mammoser
Interior of Mehrangarh Fort by Don Mammoser

During a private tour through Jodhpur, one gets to see the lively pathways and serene yards, but also spectacular pieces of architecture. One specific sight that’s hard to miss is the majestically Mehrangarh Fort. Overlooking the entire blue oasis at its feet, this 17th-century stronghold is the icon of this ancient city. Brave souls can choose to see the fortress and its surrounding from above. An adrenaline pumping network of zip lines connects several towers and walls of the ancient fortification, providing a birds-eye view of Jodhpur.

Old man smoking water pipe by Mark52
Old man smoking water pipe by Mark52

Flying through the air or with both feet on the ground; the guide will provide all information concerning the halls, staircases and rooms and their former inhabitants. In this jewel in Jodhpur’s crown, you’ll follow in the footsteps of mighty rulers and medieval princesses. Seven of the maharajas built their own entrance gate, giving the visitor a choice of where to enter the magnificent fortress. Black kites circulating high in the sky have replaced the traditional royal guards, keeping an eye on Mehrangarh Fort.

Celebrate the Makar Sankranti festival

During Makar Sankranti, the amount of kites in the blazing atmosphere is drastically multiplied. But rather than the birds of prey, this festival revolves around plastic or paper playthings on an invisible string for three days in a row. Makar Sankranti is celebrated every year starting on January 14 and is one of India’s few festivals dedicated to Surya, the god of the sun. Showing gratitude for the harvest in the year that’s behind, the locals send kites and lampions towards the sun. In Jodhpur, the festivities are also held at the Polo Ground.
Scenes of the silhouette of Mehrangarh Fort and the illuminated lampions trying to chase the setting sun will be printed in the visitors’ memories.

Explore the Mandore Gardens

Between the lanes of Jodhpur and the deserted ghost town Mandore lies only ten miles, but the surreal difference in experience seems to tell a time travelling story. Mandore housed the thrones of many kings, but after the construction of an elevated fortress further south, the city lost its once noble purpose. Jodhpur became the most important metropolis in the region, and the citizens of Mandore left their previously beloved capital leaving nothing but silent witnesses. Lovers of royal Indian architecture will bask in the ruins of the Mandore Gardens, the evidence of a glorious king’s residence.

Umaid Bhawan Palace is today a large luxury hotel by Stefano Barzellotti
Umaid Bhawan Palace is today a large luxury hotel by Stefano Barzellotti

Excursions around Jodhpur

The pattern of rolling sand dunes around Osian ranges beyond anyone’s perception. A sandy ocean called the Thar Desert covers a large part of Rajasthan, including this old town 45 miles north of Jodhpur. It is believed that the people of Osian got converted to Jainism, given the sculptures and shrines enclosed in the city walls. Exploring the stairs, arches and delicate shrines of this sacred well in the desert awakens the fantasy of every traveller without any effort. The imagination might wander off to past times when the kingdom of Marwar reigned in this part of Rajasthan. One of the most exciting ways to explore the vast emptiness of the Thar Desert around town is on the back of a camel. Go for a ride just before sunset, when the sand dunes blush in the lowering sun. In case the appetite increases on arrival, a traditional Marwari style dinner will be served while the last daylight proceeds to the other side of the globe. Private tours that include a traditional meal can be arranged in Jodhpur as well.

Stay overnight in Jodhpur

The Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel used to be the residency of the former Jodhpur royal family. The 4,850 square feet Maharani Suite makes the guest feel like a monarch indeed. A pink bathtub made from Italian marble, a private yoga room and 24-hour in-room dining are just a few of the superior amenities.

Getting to Jodhpur

Jodhpur’s domestic airport is located a mere 5 kilometres from the city centre. The Jodhpur Airport (JDH) is well-connected to other major cities in India, including Delhi and Mumbai, and you’re likely to find multiple flights from Air India and Jet Airways arriving daily.
For the more scenic route, head to Jodhpur by a luxury train. The historic Palace on Wheels, an ultra-luxurious train service that travels through India, offers routes that depart from New Delhi and makes a stop at Jodhpur. Regular express trains also frequently depart train terminals in New Delhi and Mumbai. ◼

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© This article was first published in Dec-Jan 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.
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