The first thing that strikes a visitor to Jodhpur is the massive Mehranghar Fort that looms 400 feet above the ancient “blue city” in Rajasthan.
After touring so many forts and palaces and the Taj Mahal during our 10-day Diwali trip, you’d think we’d be a bit tired of fort- and castle-hopping.
This fort is part museum, with an incredible collection of items from the Maharaja’s days of glory in Rajasthan, including at least a dozen palanquins (the man-powered, over-the-shoulder carriages for the female and sometimes male royals, who wore so much jewelry and elaborate clothing for certain functions that they really couldn’t walk very far on their own); an entire hall filled with baby carriages for new little princes and princesses; and a variety of other items too numerous to list but including jewelry, artwork and costumes.
Indents from cannon balls can still be seen along the walls of Mehranghar Fort, which was started in 1459 by Jodhpur’s founding father, Rao Jodha. Most of the fort dates from the reign of Jaswant Singh, who ruled until 1678.
Within the fort are numerous palaces, including the opulent Flower Palace, Hall of Mirrors and the king’s personal chambers. Our guide told us that when Britain sent Prince Charles on a diplomatic trip to India a few years back, they used the beautiful setting of the Flower Palace for the official meeting and formalities.
“Mmmm…I’m pretty sure I was meant to be a princess,” I remarked to Brian on more than one occasion.
Not far from the fort is Jaswant Thada, the burial grounds of the royal family. This creamy white structure built out of the translucent Rajasthan marble is simply stunning, turning a warm orange color when the sun shines through it. We spent quite a bit of time there, even though it’s a lot smaller than Mehranghar Fort. It was peaceful and the grounds kept very clean.
Also in Jodhpur we went to Umaid Bawan Palace, one of the world’s largest private residences and still used by the royal family’s heirs today. Part of it since the 1970s has been a luxury hotel and another part (the part we visited) is a museum. The palace is one of the most modern palaces in India and perhaps the world, having been built from 1929 to 1943.
Indian tourists wanting to have their pictures taken with us delayed our entry into the palace by about a half hour. This has happened quite a bit in India, but never to the extent as it did in Jodhpur.
One man that we met later at Jaswant Thada explained it’s because not many Western tourists visit India with their small children. Rachel’s cheek was tweaked so many times, with plenty of coos of “baby!” accompanying the tweak, that after a while our own little princess became quite irritable.
We also visited the Clock Tower Market in Jodhpur, where we bought spices and masalas, teas, several of the distinctive Rajasthan tie-dye scarves and several bed quilts and coverings that we’ll somehow manage to lug back to Alaska at the appointed time before our visas expire. We went to dinner that night at a place called On the Rocks, a beautiful outdoor restaurant that served delicious Indian food. The candle-lit ambiance, the service–everything at this restaurant was spot on, and it was fairly close to our hotel, too.
Ever tried shopping with a husband and three kids who really don’t want to be there with you? Mix in the haggling and negotiating that is the art and culture of procuring goods in India, and you may find the entire experience not for the casual looky loo.
The shopkeepers liked my determination, however, and thanked me as we walked out the door with our rupees left behind in their wallets.
As for my family? They’ll thank me someday.