The magic of Jodhpur: Why Rajasthan’s ‘Blue City’ is one of India’s best historical hangouts
OFTEN only an afternoon afterthought in a hectic Rajasthan itinerary, Jodhpur is actually a great place to linger and get a feel for medieval India.
Home to the eponymous trouser, sporting a perfectly preserved fort and boasting the bluest of residences, this city has a lot to offer history lovers. Forgo Europe’s expensive Gothic capitals.
If your idea of fun is more fifteenth century than funky hotspot, then pull up your metaphorical drawbridge and stay awhile at this desert delight.
Roam the ramparts
Magnificent Mehrangarh Fort was built in the fourteen hundreds when, so goes the folklore, a local peasant was sealed alive in its foundations for luck.
You can reach it by rickshaw but save yourself the haggle and wander up through the winding streets of the old town peeking into its bijou blue houses.
History differs on the reason for this startling hue – the mark of a Brahmin priest’s household, a pigment to ward off termites or just for luck depending on which fable you believe in.
On your way into the fortress, don’t miss the tiny handprints of the Maharanis (queens) who threw themselves on their husbands’ funeral pyres. Also be sure to take in the elaborate palace quarters festooned with mirrored mosaics and encrusted in gemstones.
For the best views, take the zip wire tour from the fort ramparts; you’ll feel like you’re flying above a film set and then discover from your guide that it was indeed a set location for the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises.
Live like a Maharajah
For the ultimate historical experience, stay in one of Jodhpur’s “haveli” hotels. Originally built as mansions for the royals, these pretty palaces are designed around a central courtyard and bedecked with ornate features and period artwork.
Pal Haveli within the city walls has stunning guest rooms and a rooftop restaurant where you can sample ancient dishes.
Go for the laal maas, a mouthwatering mutton dish redolent with spices and red chili or treat yourself to something sweet (before, during and after the meal as is the Rajasthani tradition).
For a brush with more recent royalty, stay at Umaid Bhawan Palace, luxury hotel and home to the current Maharajah. Built in 1929, it took 3,000 workers and 15 years to complete this marble marvel. Non-residents can visit the museum to check out a wicked collection of classic cars.
Haggle like a camel trader
Its position on the vital trade route between Delhi and Gujarat in the 1400s made Jodhpur a center of commerce. The kingdom once thrived on the proceeds of opium, sandalwood, dates, and copper.
Time seems hardly to have moved at the hectic Sardar Market. Head for the charming clock tower where you’ll find a knot of stalls selling all manner of glittery bangles. Erupting in every direction are purveyors of spices, silks, and sweets.
If it’s all a bit hectic, take a seat at the nearby Shri Mishrilal Hotel to sip on a saffron-laced lassi and watch retail history in the making.