The Blue City

Trip Start Mar 06, 2005
Trip End ??? ??, 2006

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

29th May Johdpur

The Merherangarh (Majestic) fort in Jodhpur turned out to live upto it's name and was our favourite from all the forts we visited in Rajisthan. Not because it was the most intact or necessarily the most beautiful but because for us it had the most atmosphere and a truly imposing presence, perched 125 metres atop a sheer cliff. The 'blue city' founded in 1459 is some 5K away from the fort down a narrow winding road and looking up from the city streets the fort is a formidable sight.

There are some great stories attached to its history one such example is the body entombed in the wall of the palace leading to its entrance. The story goes that a terrible drought had struck the region and it was thought that a sacrifice / offering was required to prevent it from worsening / happening again so one of the Maharajas loyal attendands VOLUNTEERED to be buried alive within the wall of the palace to resolve the situation, a small keystone marks the spot.

Some of the forts entrance gates are scarred as a result of cannon fire, testament to its turbulent past and the fact it was built as a true fortress, not just a robust palacial home. The main entrance has large 'Anti elephant' spikes jutting out from its gates positioned so as to prevent hostile troops from using elephants to simply 'push' their way in. As you enter the forts final Iron gate, red hand prints (Sati marks) can be seen on its archway. They were placed there in 1843 by the Widows of Maharaja Man Singh as they left the fort for the last time to commit suicide by throwing themselves onto their husbands funeral pyre . This practice of 'Sati' was not banned by law in India until 1987!!(the handprints are still revered today!).

The views to be had from the top of the palace and the ramparts of the fort are truly marvellous overlooking the 'Blue' houses below. Originally only Brahmin were allowed to paint their houses this colour but nowadays many people do and to great effect. From a practical point of view they also beleive it repels mosquitos! The bright indigo radiating from the city in the midday sun is a sight that stays with you!
Also on the ramparts are a collection of different cannon captured by the Mahrajahs troops during various battles and skirmishes, one in particular is from China, taken during the Boxer rebellion when the Maharaja sent troops to aid the British.

The museum within the fort has some great exhibits, collections of Howdahs (elephant 'saddles'), ceremonial swords and the interiors of many of the rooms are interesting and brought alive by the Audio guide. The main inner courtyard contains a marble throne where all of the Maharajas (including the latest) were 'crowned'.

During our tour of the fort we met alot of Indian holidaymakers and they were often keen to have their photos taken with us, (why we don't know?..maybe because there were so few western tourists around.) They were always polite and very curious about England... especially its weather!

The city itself is a real 'mish mash' and its bustling streets are lined with shops selling everything from tractor tyres to toothpaste and compared to Jaisalmer it is far more 'developed'. We visited one of the very busy central markets to buy some of the high quality spices available. We were told to beware as fake spices abound. We were shown how you can use vegetable dye to make thin slivers of newspaper resemble Saffron!. Originally The city was built on profits from trading Opium, Sandalwood and Copper, but nowadays anything and everything is traded.

We stayed at Newtons Manor guest house and AGAIN we were the only guests. It was a great place clean and with very friendly staff. The house is full of stuffed creatures including a 90 year old Tiger and the front end of a massive Buffalo. They have an upstairs snooker room the scene of my glorious victories over, the Chef, the manager, and the cleaner. They all tried and failed....though Jane thought it might not be such a good idea to 'thrash' the Chef a second time BEFORE we ate dinner.

We really enjoyed our stay in Jodhpur and would reccommend a visit to anyone, (And yes the riding trousers did get their name from here).

Next... we drive to the more remote Ranakpur, so far our 'road trip' was proving to have been a good choice, and excellent value for money!
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