The last bastion of civilisation on the eastern edge of the desert known as Thar, before nature reclaims what is rightfully hers, Jodhpur, the pride of the Marwar empire of the Rajputana has bedazzled travellers with its dash of colour and taste of heritage since ages. Fondly known as the Blue City, it is known so for its network of intertwining lanes dotted with clusters of blue houses which give the city a blue appearance. Jodhpur, with the cities of Pali and Mandore offers to the viewer a fascinating insight into the Marwar kingdom.
Jodhpur Things To Do – The Blue City
1. Explore the impregnable Mehrangarh Fort:
Atop the Bhakurcheeria hill rises a fort so high that eagles can be seen flying at eye level, its name, rightfully so, is Mehrangarh, the abode of the sun. The huge multi-storeyed burnished-sandstone structure, which looks very wooden from afar is an architectural masterpiece as well, so much so that one almost forgets the ramparts that are purely defensive in nature. Surrounding this magnificent fort is the old city of Jodhpur containing the lanes of blue houses.
As you enter the fort and make your way towards the inner portions, you can see the cannonball marks on the walls, left from the siege of Mehrangarh in 1808 AD by the Jaipur army. Moving along, one can see the hand-prints from when the women of the fort committed self-immolation.
Further down the road, before heading into the fort museum, stop and admire the views at Shrinagar Chowk of the museum itself. To know more about the museum, click here.
The must-visit places inside the fort are Sheesh Mahal, Moti Mahal, Janki Mahal, Takhat Niwas and Chamunda Devi Mandir.
Each Mahal is unique, with the Sheesh Mahal being the private bedroom and the Takhat Mahal the party-room, replete with disco ball lights and colourful mirrors for reflection.
2. Lose yourself in the blue lanes of the old city of Jodhpur:
Spotting a good area to explore can be done from a couple of places at Mehrangarh – we suggest from the main parking lot just before the entry to the fort and from the upper floors of the Daulat Khana. Once you are done spotting the blue houses from the top of the fort, it is time to explore them as well. Choose your exit route carefully as you cannot reenter the fort once you exit.
To answer the most pressing question, Novchokiya area is a great place to spot blue houses; when exiting the fort, exit through Chand Pol and head towards Novchokiya. The locals here are friendly and when asked nicely, would probably let you climb to their terraces for a better view of the nearby patches of blue houses, at least some of them were happy to do so.
We tried the lanes behind Jewel Palace Haveli and we were in for a treat. People readily pointed us in directions they thought would be interesting and indeed, some of them were. The result is what you see here.
For a surreal experience, we suggest getting lost in the lanes, but if need be you could always hire one of the many Walking Tours available.
3. Head into erstwhile Baavlia terrain at the Rao Jodha Desert Natural Park:
The Prosopis Juliflora commonly known as Baavlia or ‘the mad one’ is an invasive species that was introduced during the days of the British colonisation to afforest the desert region of Rajasthan. This species, having wiped out the native species, had taken over the entire region of what is now the Rao Jodha Desert National Park, but thanks to an extensive effort undertaken by the royalty that owns this patch of land, the native species reemerged.
The entrance to the park contains an exhibition of the various rocks found across the Thar Desert. The part is a great educational venue and is ideal for travelling with kids. The park contains 3 trekking routes – easy, medium and difficult- that give you a chance to spot some of the local flora and fauna (read colourful insects) including 33 species of raptors, few of which can be easily spotted. The most amazing insects were the ones we saw near the entrance, red coloured wasps, that looked like they were straight from the movie ‘Avatar’. The helpful guides who keep roaming around in the park would be very interested in imparting knowledge to you, do feel free to ask them.
As you tread along the paths, you can see people zip-lining across from the fort. If you are interested in this soft-adventure activity, you could check this out. Choose the red trail to catch a glimpse of the prison that made Jodhpur famous when it was featured in the Christopher Nolan movie, Dark Knight Rises, in case you missed sighting it from the parking lot of the fort above. You could book tickets to the park here.
4. Navigate the lanes of the old city to tease your tastebuds:
The lanes of Jodhpur provide a fascinating insight into the city’s ecosystem and culture that have helped it thrive. The Rajasthani cuisine, meant to thrive in a desert city where water is scarce, is clearly resplendent in the dishes of Jodhpur. While roaming around in the lanes of Blue City, we decided to skip the famous Rajasthani Thali at Gypsy Restaurant, to taste the more humble foods.
The Gulab Jamun from Chaturbhuj is a classic sweetmeat, made of pure ‘Khoya’ to suit the tastebuds of Rajasthani folk as well as traveller folk as ourselves. The famous Mirch Vada, a fried concoction of gram flour and a chilli among others, is a staple evening snack here; try it at Arora Namkeen near Ghanta Ghar, which is also famous for their Shahi Samosa, the ubiquitous samosa with a small twist to the flavour, in Rajasthani style with cashews and chutney inside.
Wash the spices down with a glass of Makhaniya Lassi from Mishrilal, which, with its thick frothy texture is bound to get you drowsy, but just enough that you could have a small helping of the amazing Rabdi here.
If you would rather not risk it, then go for the one-stop-for-all Janta Sweet Home, where all of the above items would be available, in addition to their own speciality Pyaaz Kachori and Mawa Kachori, variants of the Kachori.
We cannot vouch for it, but the Mutton and Lal Maas at ‘On the Rocks’ definitely seems be great. Also, when in Jodhpur, if your stomach can process it, do try one of the local aerated beverages such as the Black Horse or Perry, the former has a stronger taste that would reign supreme if there were a bout against the traditional colas available.
5. Get your camelid selfie at the Osian Oasis:
Known fondly as the ‘Ship of the desert’, the camel is a wonderful creature that rules the Thar desert, though it is very unlikely that you will find wild ones near Jodhpur. So make do with these tame ones here at this oasis, some 70 kilometres away from Jodhpur and get your selfie clicked. You could opt for a camel ride here, although we doubt if the jeep rides are as fun as the ones that you could get at Jaisalmer.
Osian is also thronged by countless devotees who throng the temple of Sachiya Mata that is a brilliant example of architectural splendour that has earned Osian a place among the most important temples of Northern India alongside the likes of Khajuraho. Talking of Khajuraho, the Harihara and Jainia temples found here, predating the Khajuraho temples, depict many erotic scenes. A trip to Osian is definitely not complete without a visit to these temples, which ironically have put Osian on the map, but are themselves in neglect today.
6. Stroll through the splendid cenotaphs of Mandore:
Mandore was the capital of the Rathore clan until Rao Jodha decided to shift it to the hill nearby, creating the city of Jodhpur. Consequently, the gardens here are a remnant of the civilisation that existed before Jodhpur. The Chattris or cenotaphs at Mandore Gardens are classic examples of Hindu architecture, with touches of Islamic architecture, which are in slight contrast with the Chattris at Devi Kund Sagar, Bikaner.
The Panchkunda cenotaphs nearby are quite remote and may be difficult to find, but they are worth the time that you would spend in finding them. Panchkunda cenotaphs are the perfect offbeat places to explore near Jodhpur.
7. Get shopaholic at Tripolia Bazaar:
Rajasthan has always been a hub for all things colourful and attractive, right from its vivid handicraft items to decorative puppets, to camel-leather mojris and bags, to lehariya sarees and dupattas and what not.
You can shop to your heart’s content at Jodhpur’s Tripolia Bazaar and Sardar Market at very affordable prices.
The four lanes in four directions, away from the Ghanta Ghar are the hub of shopping in Jodhpur and are not be missed when here. The layout of the shopping lanes here is very similar to those around Kot Gate at Bikaner.
8. Gawk at the majestic Umaid Bhawan Palace:
Built on socialistic tendencies, the Umaid Bhawan Palace, which today hosts the present-day Rathore king, Gaj Singh, was built by his grandfather, Umaid Singh, as a project to provide employment to the people of Jodhpur when a famine hit the state in early 20th century. Situated on Chittar Hill, the highest point at Jodhpur, it is considered one of the finest examples of Indo-Deco architecture, a mix of Indo-Saracenic and Western Art Deco styles.
Umaid Bhawan is divided into three parts – one which houses a museum and is open for public viewing, the second which houses a grand Taj Hotel and the third where the royal family still lives. The royal quarters are completely off limits for visitors, whereas the hotel is accessible to people willing to pay for a room or a meal that is consistent with the quality of the Taj Hotels.
9. Dash along the sand-dunes of Dechu:
Jodhpur may have broken the stereotype about the setting of a desert-city, but the places nearby do the job of reinforcing the same with their dunes. Many dunes are unnamed and seasonal too, but the tall and imposing ones at Dechu are anything but seasonal. And these dunes are not difficult to spot either, just ask the locals for the route to Aai Mata Mandir, the temple is atop one of the dunes and is accessible by road too. If you are not planning on visiting Jaisalmer, then the Dechu dunes will ensure that you have not missed out much.
10. Search for the beautiful step-wells or Baoris:
While step-wells or ‘Baoris’ in the Jaipur region have been retained mostly for their cultural significance and tourism purposes, the ones at Jodhpur are still functional and a few are even used by the locals. The step-wells are found in unimaginable areas, such as one at the foothills of the Fort, that is found in a narrow lane and is easily missed unless you pay attention. What caught our attention was its name, Chand Baori, a reference to the famous step-well near Jaipur. Houses have developed around such step-wells, but they still retain their functionality and could still be used to meet the water needs of the neighbourhood. Here is a helpful link to discovering step-wells across the world.
The most famous of the step-wells, Toorji ka Jalra, now serves as an unofficial pool for the locals near Tripolia Bazaar. Young children can be seen taking turns with the tourists to dive into its green waters. The surrounding area plays host to a few hostels and even a cafe where you could enjoy a warm drink after a plunge.