The Blue City sprawls at the foot of Meherangarh Fort, like the mirage of an oasis at the edge of the Thar Desert. But what appears to be a chaotic maze from up above, is actually a warren of tiny lanes, like rivulets, that wind their way around the indigo stained dwellings of the city. Looming overhead, Meherangarh Fort is perched in its very heart, a powerful testament to an era of courage and bravery – the foundations on which Jodhpur was raised.
Meherangarh Fort comes alive several times a year, thanks to the current Maharaja of Jodhpur, who is a driving force behind preserving the kingdom’s heritage and culture. From polo tournaments to music festivals, weddings and grand events, Meherangarh’s ramparts echo with spirit and life.
Founded by the Rathore clan, Jodhpur was named for its dynamic leader, Rao Jodha of Mandore, who grew the city to become a thriving kingdom, under his reign. Even though the Mughals and the British did have some control over the dominion, the Rathores retained a semi independence right up until the Partition of India and Pakistan.
Jodhpur is known for its magnificent palaces and havelis (several of which have now been turned into gorgeous boutique hotels). The Umaid Bhawan Palace is perhaps one of the finest examples of palace architecture – and one of the largest residences in the world – in existence today. It’s magnificent gold sand-stone facade is crowned by an enormous dome that can be seen for miles around. The palace has an interesting history. It was commissioned by Maharaja Umaid Singh during a drastic famine in the 1920s, to provide employment to the populace. The exterior is an exotic blend of Indo-Saracenic and European elements, while the interiors are entirely art deco – right down to the wall murals by a Polish artist called Norbilsk. The ship carrying the palace’s first consignments of furniture sank, but once finished, it has proudly stood the test of time to become one of the finest palace residences in the world. Today, it is a luxury heritage hotel that is operated by The Taj Group. Sleeker and more chic, is the “new” Raas – a heritage haveli that has been converted into a Design Hotel. A crisp and contemporary flair emerges out of the bedrock of this gorgeous ancient haveli – which even has its own stepwell restaurant!
If you’re a shopaholic at heart, Jodhpur is a pleasure to explore. From charmingly discreet antique shops, to old silver and semi-precious stone jewellery, hand woven textiles and ethnic furniture, to camel leather shoes and world class haute-couture – Jodhpur is home to the atelier of top fashion designer, Raghuvinder Rathore – Jodhpur is a delightful place to shop till you drop. The bazaars of the old city have to be explored and here you will find everything from copper vessels to glass bangles.
A short distance from the city will find you amidst the sand dunes of the Thar, where several members of the Bishnoi and Bhil tribes reside. Discover their tribal way of life, the music and dance, and their arts and crafts. This is a far cry from urban India. This desert wilderness is also home to several species of birds and animals, including the beautiful Black Buck, which roams wild in these parts. Set off into the desert for a picnic or better yet – an evening of tribal song, dance and music amid the sand dunes underneath the stars.
Come August and September, when a little rain has splattered this frontier city, the harsh summer sun cools down to a pleasing temperature, the oases and lakes are refilled, and new green shoots dot the sandy countryside. Jodhpur is a terrific destination for honeymooners and families, alike. The city has many layers that can be tapped to suit a range of interests and age-groups. A range of activities from equestrian sports to bicycling to ziplining make it fun for young adults (or just adults who are young at heart!), while those who prefer a gentler pace can literally cool their heels at Jodhpur’s gorgeous hotel spas.
Travel before the crowds of high season hit. Visit our website (www.wiyotravel) now to plan your Jodhpur getaway.