Jodhpur – A valiant sentinel in the desert, on the eastern fringe of the Thar desert was founded in 1459, by Rao Jodha, the chief of Rathore clan of Rajputs, who claimed desent from Rama, the epic hero of the Ramyana. A high stone wall nearly 10km in length and eight gates once protected the city. Within, stands an imposing fort on a low range of sandstone hills, about 125m above the surrounding pains.
Founded in 1459 by Rao Jodhaji, chief of the Rathore Rajputs who ruled over Marwar, “land of death,” Jodhpur was to become one of Rajputana’s wealthiest cities, capitalizing on its central position on the Delhi–Gujarat trade route and protected by one of the most impenetrable forts in history. Today it is the state’s second-largest city, much of it a sprawling, polluted metropolis, but within the old walls—where every building is painted the same light blue hue, earning Jodhpur the nickname “blue city”—you’ll find a teeming maze of narrow medieval streets and bazaars, where life appears much as it has for centuries. Towering above is Mehrangarh (Majestic) Fort, its impenetrable walls rising like sheer cliffs from the rocky outcrop on which it is built. From its crenelated ramparts you enjoy postcard views of the ancient blue city below and, in the distance, the grand silhouette of Umaid Bhawan Palace, residence of the current Maharaja and heritage hotel. Within the fort is a typical Rajput palace that today houses one of the state’s best-presented museums, artfully displaying the accumulated accouterments of the royal house of Rathore in the beautifully preserved royal apartments. The labyrinthine Old City is a more visually exciting experience than Jaipur, but besides exploring these medieval streets and visiting Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Bhawan Palace, there’s not much to hold you here for more than a day or two—most people use Jodhpur as a jumping-off point to Jaisalmer or as an overnight stop before traveling on to Jaipur or Udaipur.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Having visited the fort and Umaid Bhawan Palace, there’s no reason to overextend
yourself, but some may opt to include a trip to Mandore, which lies 9km (6 miles)
north of the Old City. The previous capital of Marwar (not to be confused with
Mewar, the princely state of Udaipur), Mandore has as its principal attractions today
gardens (in dire need of attention) in which lie the templelike cenotaphs built to
honor the Rathore rulers before final rites were moved to Jaswant Thada (see Mehrangarh
Fort & Museum, below). The largest and grandest of the red-sandstone structures
was also the last to be built here; it commemorates the life of Maharaja Dhiraj
Ajit Singh, who died in 1763. Beyond, in a totally separate section (pious to the end),
is a group of smaller cenotaphs, built to commemorate the female counterparts.
Opposite the weird but ultimately missable museum is the Hall of Heroes, a collection
of 18th-century deities and Rajput heroes carved out of a rock wall. If you haven’t
tired of temples by now, you can move on to visit the Hindu and Jain temples at
Osian, 65km (40 miles) north of Jodhpur. You first come across the Vishnu and Harihara
temples, which were built between the 8th and 9th centuries, but more impressive
(or at least still alive with worship) are Sacchiya Mata (12th c.) and Mahavira
Jain temples (8th and 10th c.). See Ranakpur Temples, earlier in this chapter, for rules
on entering a Jain temple. Village safaris, in which you are taken into the arid surrounds
to get a taste of rural life, sample the food, and learn about traditional remedies
and crafts, are also offered by a number of agents in Jodhpur—best to arrange this
through the RTDC at the tourist office (see “Visitor Information,” above) or Cosy
Guest House (see “Where to Stay & Dine,” below).
Jodhpur is located at 26.29°N and 73.03°E. It has an average elevation of about 232m.
Jodhpur experiences a typical desert dry and hot climatic condition. November and March are the best time for a journey to Jodhpur with pleasant and sunny days. The maximum temperature rises to a high of 45°C and the minimum temperature drops to 2°C. Joodhpur receives an annual average rainfall of approximately 27.94cm.
Jodhpur was founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha, a Rajput chief belonging to the Rathore clan. Rao Jodha succeeded in conquering the surrounding territory and thus, founded a state which came to be known as Marwar. As Rao Jodha hailed from the nearby town of Mandore, that tpwn omotoa;;u served as the capital of this state. However, Jodhpur soon took over that role, even during the lifetime of Rao Jodha. Aurungzeb briefly sequestrated the state in 1679 on the pretext of a minority, but the rightful ruler was restored to the throne after Aurangzeb died I 1707. The Mughal expire declined gradually after 1707, but the Jodhpur court was beset by intrigue. Instead of benefitting from circumstances, Marwar descended into strife and invited the intervention of the Marathas, who soon supplanted the Mughals as overlords of the region. This however, did not make for stability or peace. Fifty years of ruinous wars and humiliating treaties dissipated the wealth of the state, which sought and gratefully entered into a subsidiary alliance with the British in 1818.
Mehrangarh Fort and Museum
Magnificent Mehrangarh crowning a perpendicular cliff, was built by Rao Hodh in 1459, when he shifted his capital from Mandore. It houses a palace intricately adorned with long carved panels and latticed windows exquisitely wrought from red sandstone. The apartments within have their own magic – the Moti mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace), sileh Khana and Daulat Khana with a rich collection of palanquins, howdas, royal cradles, miniature paintings of various schools, costumes, furniture and an impressive armoury. The display of cannons on the ramparts is among the rarest in India. The 5km long majestic fort on a 125m high hill is one of the most impressive and formidable structures. Although invincible from the outside, the fort has four gates approached by a winding road. Within the fort are some magnificent palaces with marvelously carved panels, latticed windows and evocative names. Not worthy of these are the Moti Mahal, the Phool Mahal, the Sheesh Mahal, the Sileh Khana and the Daulat Khana.
“The work of angels, fairies and giants . . . he who walks through it loses sense of being among buildings; it as though he walked through mountain gorges . . .” wrote Rudyard Kipling in 1899. Little has changed since then, and for many this looming 15th-century edifice to Rajput valor is still Rajasthan’s most impressive fort, with walls that soar like sheer cliffs 120m (400 ft.) high, literally dwarfing the city at its base, and a proud history of never having fallen to its many invaders. Before you start exploring the fort, get an audioguide (free with entry fee for foreigners; deposit of Rs 2,000/$46; passport or driver’s license required). This is probably the best audioguide you will get at a tourist site in India, with sound effects and commentaries from former rulers of Jodhpur recorded on an MP3 player in seven languages. It also contains additional information on subjects like the caste system, the maharajas, miniature paintings, and more. If you prefer a more interactive tour, hire a local guide (Rs 100/$2.30) from your hotel or at the fort entrance, most of whom of course consider the audioguide useless. There is an elevator (Rs 15/35¢), but choose to walk past cannon-pockmarked and sati-daubed Loha Gate (the Maharajas’ wives would traditionally immortalize their lives by leaving handprints on the fort walls before tossing themselves on the flames to join their deceased husbands). Once at the top, you enjoy not only the most spectacular view, but you enter one of India’s finest museums: a rich collection of palanquins, royal cradles, miniature paintings, musical instruments, costumes, furniture, and armor. Every room is worth exploring (allow at least 2 hr.), but among the highlights are the gorgeous royal chamber where the Maharaja entertained his 30-plus wives (we’re not even counting concubines); Moti Mahal, featuring the throne on which every Marwar Maharaja has been crowned; and Phool Mahal, the “dancing hall” with its pure gold ceiling. A massive silk and velvet tent, taken from Emperor Shah Jahan in Delhi, is a vivid illustration of the superlative wealth and decadent pomp with which the Rathore rulers lived. After visiting the courtyard of Chamunda (Sun Goddess) Temple (remember to remove your shoes), take the lane that leads to the left to view what is apparently among the rarest collections of cannons in India—again, the view alone is worth it. There is a very good museum shop (look out for the exquisite silk and chiffon fabrics made by Tyeb Khan, awarded the Master Craftsman award in 2001 by the president of India for his outstanding contribution to the nation) and restaurant where you can catch your breath. On the road that leads to and from the fort, you will notice Jaswant Thada, a white marble cenotaph built to commemorate the life of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, who died in 1899, and where the last rites of the Jodhpur rulers have been held since then. It’s pretty enough, but after the magnificence of the fort’s museum and forts, it can be a bit of a letdown. If you finish with the fort before sunset, descend to the cobbled streets of Sadar Market, where the sights and aromas of India’s ancient and narrow streets—packed with cows, people, goats, carts, and chickens, and remarkably untouristed—may leave you wondering whether you’ve wandered onto the set of a movie about medieval times. If it all gets too claustrophobic, hire a rickshaw in which to sit in relative comfort and watch the passing parade. All in all, this will be one of your most satisfying outings in Rajasthan.
Jodhpur Tourism Information
Jodhpur, the second largest city of Rajasthan, at the edge of the Thar Desert was once the capital of the state of Marwar. It stands on sandstone hills and is surrounded by a strong wall of 10km. It has been drawing the attention of tourists from all over the world.
This imposing white marble memorial was built in the memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, in 1899. It houses portraits of successive Marwar rulers.
Umaid Bhawan Palace
The beautiful palace built by Maharaja Umaid Singh (1929-1942) is a splendid example on Indi-colonial and art deco style of the 30’s. The palace has been converted into a luxury hotel and a portion of it remains on view to visitors in for of an excellent museum. This is the only 20th century palace built under famine relief project that gave employment to the famine struck population. The palace was completed in 16 years. This opulent edifice in sandstone is still the residence of the former rulers with a part of it running as hotel and remaining part as a museum.
Situated on another raised outcrop, with sprawling
grounds creating an almost rural ambience, this splendid palace was built by Maharaja
Umaid Singh (the current maharaja’s father) as a poverty-relief exercise to aid his
drought-stricken subjects. With 347 rooms, including a cinema, it was at the time the
largest private residence in the world—a vivid reminder of the decadence the Rajput
rulers enjoyed during the British Raj. Designed by Henry Lanchester, a great admirer
of Lutyens (the man who designed New Delhi), it was commenced in 1929, took
3,000 laborers 13 years to complete, and remains one of the best examples of the
Indo-Saracenic Art Deco style, topped with a massive dome which rises 56m (184 ft.)
high, beyond which the buildings are perfectly symmetrical. If you don’t choose to overnight here, you should still visit—if only to sip coffee at The Pillars, from where
you enjoy a spellbinding view of the fort in the distance (note that at press time there
was some confusion as to whether non-staying guests could frequent The Pillars; to
avoid disappointment, best to check beforehand, or act the part and say your keys are at
reception). There is also a museum which features photographs of the construction and
a model of the building (where you can see that the maharaja quite rightly has kept the
best part, with outdoor pool, to himself ), as well as items collected by his ancestors.
It lies in the middle of the Umaid public garden and has a rich collection of armoury, textiles, local arts and crafts, miniature paintings and portraits.
Girdikot and Sardar Market
The narrow lane near Clock Tower is dotted with shops selling exquisite Rajasthani handicrafts. These colorful markets with tiny shops dotting the narrow lanes are situated in the heart of the city, and are popular for a wide range of handicrafts, making hem the favorite haunt of shoppers.
Mahamandir Temple (2km)
The great temple has 84 pillars ornately carved with designs and figures depicting various postures of Yoga.
Kailana Lake (11km)
Popular picnic site and sunset point.
Mandore Garden (9 km)
Mandore, the old capital of Malwar is known for its extensive gardens with high rock terraces. The garden is dotted with ornately carved cenotaphs or “Devals” of Jodhpur rulers set on a high plinth and crowned with souring spires. Another attraction is the “Hall of Heroes” with has sixteen gigantic figures of Hindu and folk deities chiselled out of one single rock. The hall of heroes has fifteen figures carved out of the rock on the wall which represent various Hindu deities. Its beautiful garden with high rock terraces makes it a popular picnic spot.
Jodhpur Tour Information
The medieval town of Thar was a great trading centre between 8th – 12th centuries. Today, it is a desert oasis with Hindu and Jain temples, beautifully sculpted. The largest of these are Sachchiya mata temple nad mahavir Jain temple which are both functional. There rows of sand dunes on western end of the village, where one can enjoy lovely sunsets and camel rides. Osian is an oasis in the desert, situated on the diversion off the main Jodhpur-Bikaner Highway. A drive to this ancient township takes one past the undulating terrain, punctuated by desert stretches and little hamlets. Osian has 15 beautifully sculptured Jain and Brahmanical temples. Of these, the most outstanding ones are the earlier Surya or Sun Temple and the later Kali temple, the Sachiya Mata Temple and the main Jain temple dedicated to Lord Mahavira.
Phalodi Khichan (135km)
Phalodi, the city of richly carved havelis and temples is 75km beyond Osian. Khichan village nearby attracts a large number of migratory Demoiselle Cranes locally called as ‘Kurjan’ during winters. Many folk songs are based on the beautiful birds that keep on coming here year after year and are greeted by the villagers with great enthusiasm and love.
Balsamand Lake and gardens
This is a pretty lake built in 1159AD. A splendid summer palace stands by the lake side surrounded by beautiful gardens. It is an idyllic spot for excursions.
Diwali, the Hindu New Year celebration that takes place in October/ November, is celebrated all over India, but the “Festival of Lights” is particularly exciting when viewed from the lawns of Umaid Bhawan Palace. At the grand bash held by Maharaja Gaj Singh II, you can experience firsthand the deep reverence with which the former ruler of Jodhpur and Marwar is still treated—everyone wants to kiss the hem and touch the hand of their beloved father figure. The 2-day Marwar Festival, held during the full moon in October, is also worth attending, particularly to see the fire dance held on the Osian dunes. Celebrations include classical folk music concerts, puppet shows, camel polo, and even turban-tying contests. The end of the festivities is heralded with the fire dance, when men jump over burning wood to the rhythm of drums and chants. Sometimes dancers perform on top of red-hot coals, moving in an almost trancelike state to percussion beats.
Nag Panchami is celebrated in honor of the serpent king, Cobra (Naga). This fair is held on Bhadtapada Budi Panchami (August - September) of ever year. People of all communities participate and gather in this fair. The snake charmers from the whole area gather and especially women worship their cobras. Huge effigies of the mythical serpent are displayed during the fair. The panorama during this festival is very color and eye-catching.
Jodhpur Distance Guide
|Jodhpur||to||Sawai Madhopur||419 Km|