16th Oct 2014 - 17th Oct 2014 - India
From wherever you stand in the city of Jodhpur, you are very aware of the gigantic Mehrangarh Fort watching over you from high above town. The fort was first built in 1459 by the Rathore leader Rao Jodha and around it grew the city of Jodhpur. The city has the nickname of “the blue city”, as all the houses are painted blue. Traditionally, just the Brahmin’s painted their houses blue, but these days more or less everyone does! The centre of the city is a hubbub of noise and commotion, centred around the clock tower and the market surrounding it.
Jodhpur is also the second largest town in Rajasthan and a popular next stop after Udaipur. Sadly, there are no trains doing the route, so instead I was on an early morning bus. First bus I’d seen in this format. Regular chairs as expected but above them bunks for people who wanted to pay more and lie flat! Mostly, though, they were full of families with multiple people in the space of one! The trip went through the Aravalli Mountains before heading on to the flat on the final way into town. It was a 7 hour journey and I was sat on the back seat of the bus with two Scottish lads, Rory and Tom. The bus arrived not so much at a bus station, more at the side of the road, so the 3 of us jumped into a tuk tuk to the clock tower, then went to find our hotel. The hotel had some steep stairs, not great for climbing up with a backpack on your back (even worse for going down with a backpack on your back) but once on the rooftop terrace, it had the most amazing view over town and out to the fort. A lovely place for a beer over dinner!
The next morning, the three of us explored the Mehrangarh Fort. The entry ticket came with a free audio guide which was handy given its size. The fort is 120m above the city, with battlements from 6 to 36m high and is still run by the Jodhpur Royal family. At the top of the slope to the main entrance, there was a gate complete with spikes to stop elephants charging and just beyond that were handprints on the walls from wives and concubines on their way to perform the mass suicide following the death of their husbands. As seen in other Forts, there were multiple courtyards connecting the various parts of the Fort. There was also a museum containing textiles, carriages and armoury from the reign of the various Mughal emperors. The Fort even had its own resident opium mixer, for anyone interested! The gardens of the Fort even have its own Flying Fox circuit over a lake behind the Fort.
Our next stop was Jaswant Thada, a white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, built in 1899. The monument is in small gardens, slightly raised up from a lake just a short 10 minute walk from Mehrangarh. Still at the same elevation, you still have views over the whole city. Back down in town, we wandered round the markets by the clock tower, where Tom got pickpocketed but thankfully only lost a couple of hundred rupees and no bank cards. Early that evening, I said goodbye to the boys who went off to do the Flying Fox circuit whilst I headed to the station, for my final overnight journey, even bagging myself a free motorbike ride to the station from a very kind local!