There is something magical about Jodhpur. I knew that when I first set foot here as a child and my most recent visit only confirmed that belief. Pink sandstone and clear blue skies greeted me once again as I stepped out of the train into the hustle and bustle of the Station Road. A lot had changed and yet, nothing had. Jodhpur was no longer as green as it used to be, and the winds of modernity had taken away some of its delectable small-town feel. But, like a reassuring constant, the Mehrangarh Fort loomed over the skyline, as it did in my blue-tinted childhood memories.

Sanjay Sharma
The Blue City spreads out from the base of the imposing Mehrangarh Fort
The Blue City spreads out from the base of the imposing Mehrangarh Fort

History
Rao Jodha of the Kanauj family founded the house of Jodhpur in Marwar, the Land of ‘Maroo’ or death, thus named because of the region’s extremely hostile living conditions. Their first capital was at Mandore, an honour which went to Jodhpur after the Mehrangarh Fort was constructed towards the end of the 15th century. The fort was built with defence in mind, and the slopes and the sudden twists and turns in the structure were meant to hinder the movement of enemy elephants. There was good reason for this too – the state was often at war with the neighbouring Rajputs and Mughals.

Nevertheless, the Rathore clan managed to hold on to its possessions and expanded over time. It eventually rose to become one of the strongest and biggest kingdoms of Rajasthan, along with Mewar and Amber.

It is said that at the time of Independence, Jodhpur was so prosperous that it was slated to be the capital of the new state of Rajputana in the Union of India. However, because of its distance from Delhi, and assorted political factors, it lost out to Jaipur.

Courtesy Taj Hotels, Resorts & Palaces
The grandiose façade
The grandiose façade

Jodhpur is Rajasthan’s second largest city. The Old City that lends it the name Blue City is to the north, around the Mehrangarh Fort. The original capital of Mandore lies to the north of the town. The Station Road is the hub of all activity. A good place for shopping, it has several budget hotels and travel agencies. The airport is situated near Ratanada, 6km from the main town.

Jodhpur has good local transport, comprising buses and autos. The main bus stand is at Raika Bagh and the local buses take you almost anywhere within Jodhpur and also to Mandore and Kaylana Lake, on the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer Road. Autos don’t run on meter and what you end up paying will mostly depend on your bargaining skills. The most comfortable way of moving around is to hire a taxi from a travel agency or hotel. The average fare is ₹10 per km. Uber and Ola cabs are also available.

Things to See & Do
Jodhpur Town can be covered in two to three days in a leisurely manner. While Rohet and Luni don’t offer much by way of sightseeing, the heritage properties here are excellent stay options, provided their high tariffs are not a deterrent.

Courtesy Taj Hotels, Resorts & Palaces
Interiors of Umaid Bhawan Palace
Interiors of Umaid Bhawan Palace

Umaid Bhawan Palace
The palace is a magnificent structure that’s representative of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, and is made of sandstone that has been put together without the use of mortar. Umaid Singh, the then Maharaja of Jodhpur, ordered the construction of the palace in order to give relief and work to the people affected by the famine of the late 1920s. The project took 15 years to complete and gave employment to 3,000 artisans. In 1977, following the abolition of the privy purses, the current royal Maharaja Gaj Singh converted a part of the palace into a hotel. Today, the palace is divided into three sections: the royal apartments, the hotel that is now run by the Taj Group, and a museum. The royal wing is closed to tourists. To enter the hotel, one has to pay an entry fee of ₹6,000 per head. Eating and drinking expenses are charged extra. The museum houses royal artefacts collected over the years, such as crystals, clocks, crockery. The clock collection is perhaps the most interesting of all.

Location East of the town, adjacent to the cantonment Museum entry Indians ₹30; Foreigners ₹100 Timings 9.00am– 5.00pm Photography Not allowed

Detailed glasswork at the Mehrangarh Fort
Detailed glasswork at the Mehrangarh Fort

Mehrangarh Fort
The most imposing structure in Jodhpur is also the biggest fort in Rajasthan. Built atop a 150-m-high hill in 1459 by Rao Jodha, the fort has withstood many a battle, as is evident today from the marks of cannonballs on the fort walls. The entrance ticket has to be bought at the main entrance at Jai Pol, built by Maharaja Man Singh. From here you can either climb up or take the elevator service. For me, the best part of any visit to the fort is the walk up to the ramparts, and beyond that to the mandir located in one corner of the fort. The view from here, of the entire city, is simply breathtaking. To the south you can see the Umaid Bhawan Palace and closer to the fort, the Old City, famously painted blue to ward off Marwar’s terrible heat.

There is a museum here with an exquisite collection of artefacts, including some very fascinating war booty and even more fascinating armoury (perhaps some of the deadliest looking swords one might ever get to see). The first several rooms of the museum are arranged around a courtyard called Sangar Chowki, where coronations were held until 1952. Inside, in the delicately worked sandstone apartments, there is a wonderful collection of palanquins and elephant seats (howdahs), the outstanding one being a silver howdah gifted by Shahjahan. It is decorated with a relief of lions, whose faces look peculiarly like shocked Rajput warriors. Up one level is a room full of excellent miniature paintings in the Marwar style of the 18th and the 19th centuries. After this comes a series of apartments decorated with gilded wood, Murano glassware, Chinese tiles, an opulent mix-and-match from different regions and historical periods that covers every available square inch of space. The royal splendour of the first family of Marwar is evident in the spread of costumes on display.

The Zenana Mahal and the Phool Mahal have frescoes and stained glass. If you want to pick up souvenirs, the museum gift shop has designer items as well as stalls run by local craftspersons.

When you’re done with the museum, turn left and take a short walk past the Chamunda Mata Temple to catch wonderful views of the Old City. Exit the fort via Loha Pol, where you can see handprints of Raja Man Singh’s widows, who committed sati in 1843. On your way down you’ll pass Rao Jodha Ka Phalsa, where folk musicians will greet you. This used to be the last point of the old fort in the times of Rao Jodha. Walk past Fateh Pol and turn right for Jai Pol to exit the fort. To get to the Old City go straight down from Fateh Pol.

Entry Indians ₹70; Foreigners ₹600 (this includes the charge for the audio guide) Timings 9.00am–5.00pm Photography ₹100 Videography ₹200 Guide fee ₹200 (for 4 pax) Elevator fee ₹40 mehrangarh.org

Jaswant Thada
This is a marble cenotaph that was built by Sardar Singhji in the memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, who ruled over Marwar in the latter part of the 19th century. Jaswant Singh tried to set up a welfare state and was known for his reform measures. The grounds became the crematoria for subsequent rulers.

Entry Indians ₹15; Foreigners ₹30 Timings: 9.00am–5.00pm Photography ₹35 Videography ₹50 Guide fee ₹80

Mandore
Mandore, the erstwhile capital of Marwar, lies on the outskirts of Jodhpur, about 9km north of the main city. The Mandore Gardens today are better known for the cenotaphs of the former rulers, built not as chhatris but like temples. The Hall of Heroes and the Shrine of the Three Hundred Million Gods here are worth a dekko. Further on lie the ruins of the abandoned Mandore City, which today serve as the stage for a number of cultural programmes. Also at Mandore is a temple dedicated to Mirabai.

Kaylana Lake
On the western outskirts of Jodhpur, about 11km from the city, lie the Kaylana and Takhat Sagar lakes, adjacent to each other, separated only by a narrow strip of land through which the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer Highway passes. The Kaylana Lake is a picnic spot where visitors can go boating. Even though Kaylana is not clean, it is still popular with the locals, given the picturesque landscape.

Shopping
For tie-dyed fabrics, head to Kapra Bazaar, and for silver jewellery, Sarafa Bazaar. National Handlooms, which has branches on Nai Sarak, near the Circuit House, Pratap Nagar and Gandhi Maidan, and Thar Handlooms and Lucky Silk Store, all near Sojati Gate, are good for saris, dupattas, block-printed textiles and suit pieces. The best place to shop for traditional Jodhpuri mojaris and jootis is Juti Corner, right across the railway station. The area between the Palace Road and the Circuit House has a number of antique and woodwork shops. Doors, jharokhas, chowkis and Jodhpur’s trademark miniature wooden musicians may be picked up from here. Prices start at around ₹250, and can go up to a lakh or more! Some of the better known handicraft stores in Jodhpur include Lalji Handicrafts, Shekhawati Art Emporium, Rajasthan Art Emporium, Maharani and Heritage Art School.

Where to Stay
Accommodation here suits various budgets and, since the sights in Jodhpur are well spread out, which area you stay in doesn’t matter much.

The Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace (Tel: 0291-2510101; Tariff: ₹45,000–8,00,000) is the most obvious option for those who can afford a royal experience. With its quiescent splendour, the hotel offers the facilities of a luxury spa, an indoor swimming pool and other sports facilities.

An excellent heritage-cum-homestay option is the Ratan Vilas Haveli (Tel: 2614418; Tariff: ₹4,250–7,500), on Loco Shed Road, a 1920s villa set in a garden, centred around a pretty courtyard, with exquisite antiques dotting the house. Ajit Bhawan Palace (Tel: 2510410; Tariff: ₹10,000–1,50,000) has a rather grand ambience. The rooms are exquisite.

Hotel Durag Villas (Tel: 2512298; Tariff: ₹800–1,800) is in a comparatively quiet location, and is furnished in traditional Rajasthani style. Mandore Guest House (Tel: 2545210, Cell: 09829147470; Tariff: ₹2,950), located near Mandore Gardens, offers 18 garden cottages and also arranges trips to Bishnoi villages. Its restaurant is quite famous for its Rajasthani cuisine.

Indrashan Homestay (Tel: 2440665; Tariff: ₹2,570), located in Jodhpur’s High Court Colony, has a handful of AC double rooms. The rooms are charming and spotlessly clean and the best open into a lovely courtyard in the middle of the house. The food is exceptional.

Where to Eat
The Chokelao Mahal Terrace
is an evening restaurant at the Mehrangarh Fort. The tables are laid out on the ramparts, and you can enjoy a beautiful view of the lit-up city as you enjoy a traditional Rajasthani thali. Remember that it is better to book in advance because you may not be able to get a table otherwise.

The Gypsy restaurant chain is extremely popular. The Gypsy Dining Hall in Sardarpura is known for its thalis. The chhach is noteworthy.

On the Rocks near Ajit Bhawan is one of the more upmarket establishments in Jodhpur. It has a bar and a discotheque. It also boasts of a lovely confectionery. The kachoris, samosas and mirchi vadas at Sojati Gate are not to be missed.

Fast Facts

When to go October to March is the best time to visit Jodhpur

Tourist Office

Tourist Reception Centre, RTDC Hotel Ghoomar Campus, High Court Road, Jodhpur, Tel: 0291-2545083, Cell: 08769347849

STD code 0291

GettingThere

Air Jodhpur Airport, connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Udaipur

Rail Jodhpur Junction, connected to major cities. Taxi ₹500 upwards

Road Travellers from Delhi should turn off NH8 on to NH14 at Beawar. At Bar, turn right onto NH112 to Jodhpur via Nimaj Bus Plenty of buses connect Jodhpur with in-state cities like Jaipur