There was only one reason I decided to go to Jodhpur, and that was to see the Mehrangarh fort. One thing that I’ve noticed about Rajasthan and the north so far is that, unlike the south which is filled with temples, there is an abundance of forts here. The northern states, especially Rajasthan, are definitely more militarized than the southern ones, possibly due to there being more borders and a greater risk of foreign attack in the past; this creates a very strong and perhaps safer atmosphere than the south.
The fort, visible from many miles away, is a towering authority over the city; its many ages of architectural styles clambering on top of each other out of a solid foundation of rock is a awe-inspiring sight. Out of the countless temples, palaces, and other forts I’ve seen throughout the sub-continent so far, this is without a doubt the most intimidating; I believe it’s only been defeated once in its lifetime and is one of the most enduring forts in India. This fort, with its high walls, impenetrably deep gates and yards, is brutal. I spent the best part of a day wandering around it and the nearby desert rock park (for which you have to pay, but I managed to climb the wall- no one stopped me). One thing of note here for film fans is that the fort and its exterior landscape were used in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ -though sadly, but unsurprisingly, the pit that is seen in the film doesn’t actually exist.
Within the fort itself lay many palaces of different ages and architectural styles. The palaces were used until the early 1900’s before the royal family left the Fort and its Palaces to the state. Many of the rooms within the palaces are open to view, which give a real insight into how previous Maharajas lived and, along with the stories given, make you think of a bygone era which you kind of wish was still around. I’ve often thought that places like Buckingham palace in England should be open to the public (which would generate a huge amount of revenue) just like the many palaces in India; there’s no need for a family that lives in such selfish indulgence, which they owe to the country, to live in such an opulent way.
One of the things I noticed during my time in Jodhpur was the military presence. The Air Force base is a 30 min walk from the city ‘centre’, which inevitably means there are convoys of army vehicles riding around the city’s network of half built roads and, perhaps reassuringly, jets flying overhead every hour or so; these jets and their thundering, resonating roar are a reminder that India is indeed still a part of the real world (when travelling through the south you could be forgiven for thinking that India is separate from the problems the outside world face, given that you rarely see military presence and the police are scarce). However, this presence does little to deter the general attitude and behaviour of the local people; whilst here I saw two things happen, one of which I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
The first involved a minor collision between a rickshaw and a car; the rickshaw driver emerged with what looked like a broken, bloody nose and attempted to attack the car driver before a mob appeared and blocked the road and any attempt at fighting (mobs appear quickly in India, partly out of curiosity, partly out of interference). This crowd of shouting and tugging went on for at least 20 mins before it started to disperse (the outcome of which I’m unsure as I left sharply).
The second, more disturbing incident, involved two young kids (no older than 9) who, as I was walking past them, were throwing rocks at 4-5 dogs that were lying nearby. One rock caught a puppy and, after giving out a yelp, was floored and quickly died. I stopped in shock, staring at the kids; they looked at me with a look of guilt I’ve never seen on a kid’s face before: they knew what they’d done but had awry smiles on their faces; they were aware that this act had no consequence whatsoever. I mean, this was by a busy roadside, and many people must’ve seen it, but there was nothing to be done; no one else even stopped or flinched and I was left there in complete shock (even after my dog altercation in Goa I wouldn’t kill one). The kids then quickly ran off before the now smaller group of dogs slowly reappeared, whimpering. This act of brutality pretty much sums up the darker, lesser shown side of India (even on my blog and social media I think I’ve subconsciously hidden the more uncomfortable, ugly side to this country-which I’ve only just realised).
Of course, Jodhpur isn’t just about Mehrangarh fort and murderous children; it is also home to the blue city (yes, there’s a recurring theme here: Jaipur is pink, Udaipur is white etc). The city, which is better viewed from the fort, is an area that meanders around the fort to the west and north west; it is a tightly crammed network of streets, alleys, and gutters that are, as the name suggests, painted in various shades of blue. The streets are kept shaded by many overhanging lengths of plastic, tarpaulin, and cloth, which is a nice break from the sizzling heat that engulfs the rest of the city. Though the majority of the buildings are blue, you don’t really notice too much until you view the city from the outside, especially from a higher viewpoint.
To the east of the blue city is the Ghantagar market which surrounds the Ghanta Gar clocktower. This central area of the market acts as a walkway through to the fort and the northern side of the city; here you will find stalls aimed at the more touristic hoard of people that flock through the city (if you want to see the ‘local’ markets then head east/south east of here into the tightly-knit bazaar).
Whilst in the market I strongly suggest visiting one of the numerous Lassi shops, where you will find some of the nicest that India has to offer and they aren’t really too expensive, though of course that depends on which Lassi you go for, but 30r should do you right. In fact, the prices in general here are quite decent; I didn’t manage to have a meal for more than 200r (the full works) and the street food is the standard 10-20r per chai and a snack. No matter where you stay in Jodhpur, there’s no need to get a taxi or a rickshaw anywhere; even the furthest guesthouses and hostels are only 3 miles away from the market (which I consider the city centre) and not walking is frankly lazy.
Now, if you don’t spend a full day in the fort, there are a few places on the hills nearby that are worth a look at; these being the Amarnath temple (which has an unparalleled view of the fort) and the Jaswant Thada. The latter is a mausoleum for the rulers of Marwar containing many cenotaphs of previous rulers who lay there. You have to pay to enter this area plus the nearby desert rock park (which is split into 4-5 different sections around the area) but it’s worth the fee. From here you can see the fort in a new light, especially around sunset or sunrise, and the peaceful, other worldly atmosphere of the gardens creates a stark contrast to the formidable looking, conflicting feel of the fort. It’s a good idea to come here after visiting the fort before walking down through the lower neighbourhood towards the marketplace which, after around 6pm, starts to quieten down and becomes a far more peaceful place.
It’s fitting to say that my time in Jodhpur has reminded me of how India really is still a developing country. Yes, there are some areas, perhaps socially, that are actually far more developed than the west, but in terms of general common sense, maybe even right and wrong, India seems to fall short. My time here has been, once again, eye opening and I’m still madly in love with this country but, having been reminded of the brutality of everyday life here (a lot of which I haven’t mentioned), I can see how many people may not like, or may possibly hate, this beautiful country.
Anyway, to round things off; as with the rest of my Rajasthan posts, I’ll say this: if Jaipur is the gateway, and Udaipur the crowning jewel, then Jodhpur is definitely the firm hand…