Our copy of the Lonely Planet describes Jodhpur as “crowded and dirty”. What utter tosh. Being in India ‘crowded’ is a given but The Blue City is by far the cleanest place we have visited. Its smart clock tower in the centre gives it a friendly market-town ambiance, and the streets between our niwas (home-stay) and the centre were wide, airy and populated by some rather grand houses.
The old city itself, splashed in indigo blue and shadowed by the dominance of the huge fort that grows from the rocks, is just beautiful.
We opted to spend some time in Durag Niwas, our first home-stay in India. A home-stay is a very sensible idea, not too dissimilar from a British B&B, the difference being that with a home-stay one really does share one’s home with the owners. Home-stays are not expensive and are a great way of getting under the skin of Indian family life.
Durag Niwas is one such place. A three story building that has grown up around a central courtyard with many stories to tell, it is home to Govind and his wife Muktah, their son, his brother, his mother and his grandmother. Over the years the building has grown to accommodate not only his family but a growing demand for guests too.
What made Durag Niwas special, however, was Govind and his project, the Sambhali Trust. More on that in a later post coming to your screen soon.
Read Liz’s review of this home from home on Tripadvisor if you are interested. If not, take a peek at Govind’s house in this slideshow:
Jodhpur Old Town
Jodhpur is The Blue City, but we hadn’t seen much of it close up, so we put on our walking boots and got a rickshaw into town. First stop, the lassi shop.
Made of yoghurt and normally sweet — though you can opt for sour — lassi, as you may be aware, is India’s national drink. In this shop, just inside the south entrance to the market square, was a lassi like no other. Old portraits hung from the walls lit by artificial light, whilst the five formica tables were teeming with people young and old, all clutching at glasses filled with a lemon-yellow gloop.
This was the famous Jodhpur Saffron lassi, a yoghurt drink served so thick with cream one could stand a spoon up in it. Its zesty bitter-sweet flavour excited the taste buds of all who drank it, leaving smiling, moustachioed lips all round.
An Impressive Fort
We’d already taken in the Mehrangarh Fort the day before, which is worth a visit if for no other reason than to view the majestic elephant howdahs, and to grab a view of the city from the battlements. It’s one of the largest forts in India and sits impressively atop a rock over-looking The Blue City. Built by Maharaja Man Singh after defeating the Jaipur and Bikaner armies. The foundations were laid in 1459 though most of what you see today was built around 1650. Whether you like forts or not, Mehrangarh Fort does not fail to impress.
Check out this little slide show to see what we mean:
At the end of the grounds of the fort is a tranquil temple that overlooks the old city: this is from where we planned to launch our walk. As soon as we turned off the main bazaar area we were within the residential back streets, almost all painted in a pale indigo colour that is supposed to be cooling in the desert heat.
Back streets and lanes twist and turn and could very quickly lose the easily confused. Children and young lads played cricket in any available courtyard whilst women hung over balconies and walls to talk to neighbours below or laugh at us.
Even in the cool shadows of the three story buildings trekking through the streets was thirsty work. “Just keep turning right”, was one piece of advice we’d received from a shop vendor who sold us a refreshing fresh lemon drink. It was sound advice and as long as one sighted the huge rock upon which the fort was carved every few minutes, it was quite easy to work out where we had to go.
We’d been told the oldest part of the town lay to the west of the fort and as we ventured in that direction the buildings became more ornate, with overhanging first floor balconies, decorated wooden alcoves and stone lattice work, which had been painted so many times most of the holes had filled up.
Finally, having walked in a great semi circle, we reached the bottom of the fort where one could ascend from the street to the base of the fort itself. It was around 4pm and the sun had cooled, so we decided to take in Jaswant Thada, the white marbled memorial that sits back from the fort and provides a great view of the setting sun across the city. Here, once again, indigo dominates the plains. Below is a little slide show of the sights of Jodhpur, including the Jaswant Thada.
In our next post we’ll have a few more slide shows of Jodhpur.