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India: Rajasthan: Chittorgarh, Devigarh, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Kumbhalgarh, Ranakpur, Ranthambore, Ranthambore (Visit 2), Udaipur
Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India: The Sun City
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
This bustling desert city is the second largest in Rajasthan after Jaipur. It was founded in 1459 AD by Rao Jodha, the leader of the Rathore clan. Thanks to the city’s sunny weather all year round and the fact that the ruling clan were ‘Suryavanshi’ – followers of the Sun God, Jodhpur got the name of being the Sun City. Jodhpur lies near the geographic centre of Rajasthan State, which makes it a convenient base for travel in a region much frequented by tourists.
I was less on business and more on holiday with my family. The trip included a 3-day stay each in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. We landed in Jodhpur at 2pm which was about an hour’s flight from Mumbai. Jodhpur is well connected by air, rail and road. Our 3-day stay in Jodhpur was divided in 2 parts. The day of arrival was to be at Park hotel and the last 2 days of the trip were to be at Taj Vivanta.
After a quick lunch at Park’s restaurant, we departed to visit the famous Mehrangarh Fort. We had hired a car for our trip. We had to rush through as the fort gates close at 5PM. The fort is a 20-minute drive from city centre.
Situated on a steep hill, Mehrangarh Fort is one of the largest forts in India. The beauty and the grandeur of numerous palaces in the fort narrates a saga of hard sandstones yielding to the chisels of skilled Jodhpuri sculptures. Mehrangarh Fort, has ramparts that are 5 kilometres in length and overlooks 125 metres from above. The fort offers excellent views of the city. Most of the houses below are painted in blue. That basically is to let the folks know that a Brahmin (followers of Lord Shiva) family lives within. In the good old days, the houses that were coloured blue were saved from attacks.
I would suggest hiring the services of a guide to visit the fort. Mehrangarh Fort was built on the advice of a saint in 1459 to establish an impregnable head-quarter. This fort is one of the best in India with its exquisitely latticed windows, carved panels, elaborately adorned windows & walls of Moti Mahal, Phool Mahal, and Sheesh Mahal. A collection of musical instruments, palanquins, royal costumes, furniture and the cannons on the fort's ramparts are well preserved. There’s an entry fee and an additional fee to use the lift, which I recommend. That way, one can save time and energy to climb up the fort. A walk downhill on the return journey makes sense too.
The fort is quite popular location for holding weddings & festivals. At the time of my visit, the fort was decked up to prepare itself to host a music festival with international artists. Close to the fort complex is Jaswant Thada. Since it was late in the evening, we thought of visiting the same later in the week.
Jodhpur is quite a shopper’s paradise, especially for the ones looking for ethnic artefacts & produce that include bandhni sarees, mojris (footwear) and red chillies. Since there were females accompanying me, there was no way I could avoid a visit to the local markets around the Clock Tower area.
Dinner that night was at Gypsy, a popular restaurant that serves authentic Rajasthani cuisine that includes churma, baati, ker saangri and gatta subzi.
The next morning, post breakfast we departed for Jaisalmer. A direct route is only a 3-hour drive. But we decided to go via Mundwa, via Nagaur. The detour added 6 hours to our journey but it also gave me the opportunity to visit my ancestral town of Mundwa and pay my respect to Lord Narsimha, the Lion headed God and Goddess Khandalmata. Both the temples are located on the banks of Lake Gyan. Narsimha and Khandalmata are the Bang clan’s deities.
Enroute to Jaisalmer comes Phalodi. Just 4 kms from this quaint town is Khichan, one of India’s fine bird sanctuary. The ideal time to visit the location is from December to February. Sadly, I got to know about the sanctuary only later, else I would have surely visited the location. A stupid mistake on my part indeed.
By the time we reached Jaisalmer it was late evening. We were booked at Mahindra Resorts which is located about 10 kms from Jaisalmer town. Since we had a car on hand, the distance didn’t really matter much. My Jaisalmer experience appears separately.
After 3 days in Jaisalmer, we returned to Jodhpur. This time we stayed at Taj Vivanta. Built on the themes of Rajasthani architecture, it’s a great property to relax. And that’s exactly what I did on the day of arrival. The day was spent enjoying the hospitality and the facilities of the property.
After a lazy breakfast the next morning, we first visited Jaswant Thada.
Close to the fort complex, lies Jaswant Thada. This 19th century royal cenotaph built in white marble in commemoration of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II and three other cenotaphs, stand nearby. The cenotaph of Maharaja Jaswant Singh holds the rare portraits of the rulers and Maharajas of Jodhpur. The premises has other cenotaphs of the ruling family members. The structure is known as Taj mahal of Rajasthan – thanks to its translucent marble and intricate carvings.
No visit to Jodhpur would be complete without a visit to Umaid Bhavan Palace. The palace has 3 divisions. The royal family’s residence; the Palace Museum and the hotel. Visitors have access only to the museum by paying a fee. The museum guards double up as guides. Tipping is recommended.
The romantic looking Umaid Bhawan Palace was actually built with the purpose of giving employment to the people of Jodhpur during a long drawn famine. The royal family of Jodhpur still lives in a part of the palace. Another part of the palace houses a well-maintained museum, displaying an amazing array of items belonging to the Maharaja and the royal family - weapons, antiques & fascinating clocks, crockery and trophies. Other prized possession of the royal family is the collection of vintage cars, all in running condition. In fact, few of the cars are still used to transfer the hotel's guests from and to the airport - of course it comes at a fee which not everybody can afford!
The entry to the hotel is restricted only to the hotel’s guests or to people who have table reservations for lunch or dinner. Thanks to my association with the travel industry, we could get a table for lunch at the palace hotel. That gave us the opportunity to see the hotel, its fascinating lobbies and domes; bars; restaurants and gardens.
After a leisurely lunch, we reached our hotel. While my wife went for a stroll in the market, I decided to stay back. After 6 days of running around, it was time to chill.
The next morning we would head back home.
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