On the edge of a desert, along an ancient silk route, in the very centre of Rajasthan, exists a place some call the Blue City1, others call the Sun City2, but all know of as the eponymous birthplace of a very tight, very horsey type of trouser: Welcome to Jodhpur.
Founded in 1459AD by Rajput chief Rao Jodha, Jodhpur was the capital of the former princely state of Marwar and soon to become a fief under the Mughal Empire. Its positioning on the silk route made it a major sixteenth century trading centre and following the decline of the Mughal Empire control was wrested back by the Marathas. After decades of infighting and wars Jodhpur eventually entered into a subsidiary alliance with the British. Stable, and with a degree of autonomy, the city flourished once more, becoming part of Rajasthan after Independence and now holding over a million souls.
Visit the last palace to be built in India, and perhaps the world’s only example of Indo-Colonial Art-Deco fusion – the grand Umaid Bhawan Palace. Built between 1929 and 1944 by Maharaja Umaid Singh to provide work and drought relief for the poor, it had the happy side effect of creating a rather pleasant place to stay for the rich. Much of the palace is now set aside for royal residence and a plush hotel, but there is a portion accessible to the public which contains a marvellous museum full of Jodhpur’s royal heritage. The stunning exterior of the palace can be viewed from its substantial grounds and looks spectacular when illuminated at night.
When a sage advised Rao Jodha to build Mehrangarh Fort in 1459 the design brief was to repel the enemy, with little concern as to how the charging army might respond to it aesthetically. As a result it’s a fort’s fort, a big bulky brute peering down on the little blue city below. Sandstone blocks rise seamlessly from a sandstone hill, the blocks held together by Tetris-like interlocks rather than mortar.
Stepping inside the fort though, presents you with a hidden beauty. Multi-coloured stained glass windows flood the interior with a wash of strong primary colours, and along with exquisite gold leaf detailing and intricately carved panels provide a wonderful setting for the collection of royal costumes, paintings and furniture. Follow the steep path away from the fort and then submerge yourself into the blue labyrinthine streets of the old city, heaving with textiles, marble and clay ornaments, jewellery, rugs and puppets.
Some Key Jodhpur sites
Jaswant Thada (Intricately carved late 19 century marble memorial)
Osiyan Temple (Ancient Jain temple about 60km outside Jodhpur)
Maha Mandir (Ancient temple)
Kaman art gallery (One of the main Indian contemporary art galleries in Rajasthan)
Nagaur Fair (Second biggest fair in India and primarily about trading animals)
March to April
September to October
How to get there
International Airport – Located in Vasco
Regular services to Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai and Pune
International flights to Kuwait, UAE, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia and Switzerland.
1 – All the houses near the fort are whitewashed with an indigo hue, hence “Blue City”. Some claim this is because the colour had a unique but secret meaning to the powerful Brahim family but others, the sort less interested in stories, claim it has more to do with a chemical added to tackle termites.
2 – Because it is sunny – not a hugely helpful way to demarcate an Indian city.