India Diaries: Jewels of Jodhpur!

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When you pack your bags for Jodhpur, I’d suggest you pack some flash cards for synonyms to the adjectives ‘majestic’ & ‘grand’ as everything in this city can be best described with these words and just two words for each and every relic of the city seems like major injustice to me. Of course, you can season them to your taste with superlatives but even so, it would be to say the least!

 

Despite the Blue City mushroomed around in no particular order it doesn’t take much ‘looking for’ its not-so-hidden gems! The first one, the biggest one on target was Mehrangarh Fort, which is at a 1o minute drive from the Clock Tower in Sardar Market. Enroute lies another jewel called Jaswant Thada, that we visited on our way back from the fort.

 

Okay first things first, its going to be a big read but you would certainly enjoy it! So pull a chair, relax and let the drum roll begin  🙂

 

 

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4oo ft tall unmissable Mehrangarh fort and the fluttering royal flags adorning the walk way.

 

 

 

 

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One more thing to pack for Jodhpur – lots of enthusiasm (for the all the steep climbs and walking)!
psst…that’s what Adi is carrying in his backpack!! ;)

 

 

 

Like we did in Udaipur, we hired a guide here as well, to make our sightseeing more meaningful. Surendar ji, our guide came from the humble backgrounds of a village near Jodhpur and was extremely kind (considering our inquisitiveness), patient (considering our desire to take so many pictures & shop!!) and a very wise man who spent a lot of time with us, sharing about Jodhpur as the home of Marwar Royals, Jodhpur as a tourist destination and Jodhpur as his homeland.

 

 

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There is no way you would take your eyes off it whenever it is in line of view in Jodhpur. It is that riveting.

 

 

 

Well, unless you are in a saree store in Jodhpur! 😉

 

 

 

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The music from the artists present all over the fort would transport even the least imaginative ones back in time!
It makes you feel like a part of this fort and you can imagine what it would be for the kings to walk here!!

 

 

 

 

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The fort was built by Rao Jodha and ‘falsa’ is a gate. A steep uphill walk takes you to the main entrance of the fort. The plaque here also shows the royal flag with the coat of arms.

 

 

 

 

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The city looks like a scaled down version of its own through this ‘falsa’ or gate.

 

 

The general design of this fort is in line with that of so many others with several gates, palaces, museums, temples and so many legends and stories tied to each one of these.

 

One such was unfolded here, at this plaque. These are the handprints of Maharajah Man Singh’s loyal and dutiful queens who immolated themselves on his funeral pyre performing the ritual (and thereby attaining the title) of Sati. While walking the few last steps on earth they passed this gate and left a mark of henna (therefore the floral design) on their hands which were later preserved in this way.

 

 

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Last imprints of the queens of Maharaja Man Singh, who performed the long abolished Sati ritual.

 

 

 

 

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Despite being outside the legal and social boundaries it is still considered as a supreme sacrifice & glorified with a garland!

 

 

Once you are through all the gates, you enter a beautiful courtyard (Zenana Deodi – the female domain guarded by eunuchs, once upon a time) with overhang jharokhas carved with the finesse & intricacy fitting for a piece of jewellery.

 

 

 

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Jharokha no.1

 

 

 

 

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Jharokha no.2

 

 

 

 

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Jharokha no.3

 

 

If you’ve scrolled down thinking why have I put so many pictures of similar looking jharokhas (or thinking this girl has serious obsession for jharokhas) you might want to take a second look (as I did too) because no two jharokhas have the same pattern on the carvings!!

Phew! As if coming up with one original filigreed window wasn’t genius enough!!!

 

 

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The beautiful Zenana Deodi, a courtyard full of sunshine!

 

 

 

 

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The devil is in the details. So look over, under, up close and as far as you can.
All you find will be jaw-dropping good!

 

The fort architecture has strong Mughal influence.

 

Having seen lots of forts, palaces, chateaus around the world, the museums and their collections start to seem repetitive and mundane. But I must state it with great stress, that the museums of Mehrangarh fort houses one of the most unique artifacts in the world. They are not overwhelmingly large or with huge stocks but bite size and pristinely maintained.

 

 

 

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From the Museum of Howdahs (the seats on the elephant) & the Museum of Palanquins.
The first howdah here is entirely of silver and the peacock carriage is wooden one and I loved the attention to detail on the third one!

 

 

On the queen of Marwar’s first visit to United Kingdom a special carriage was made that would keep the queen completely concealed from the public eye. However, a defiant ankle of queen’s was caught by the paparazzi and found its way on the newspapers at the earliest. The king would have nothing of it and recalled all the pictures ever published.

Don’t try googling. We are talking about a king here. They did quite a foolproof job then.

 

 

 

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Demonstration of the ‘spiritual’ opium ritual. The old guy is often referred to as the ‘Opium Man of Mehrangarh Fort’.

 

 

Opium was consumed by the soldiers going on war or women going to perform ‘sati’ or ‘jauhar’, with the aim of infusing enthusiasm and to alleviate any fears or pain during their combat. Rural Rajasthan still being a stronghold of old traditions, the ‘opium tea ceremony’ is very much performed till date in some of its Bishnoi villages!!

 

 

 

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The instrument ceremoniously pays the first offering of opium to God Shiva before being consumed by any worldly being.

 

 

 

 

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The museums are white and bright, spic and span. Neither overstocked nor under.
There is a very good chance that non museum lovers might like them!

 

 

 

 

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Some of the articles from the museum’s silver collection. The dagger has a rose bud at its end, how very thoughtful of the maker!! 😉
And the dancing figurine is actually a wine container!!!

 

 

A most unique ‘Museums of Turban’ was sorely missed, as it was closed for some reason that day. You get a turban tying demostration (on yourself, with your permission) and that would have been splendid!

 

 

 

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From the gallery of Marwar school of paintings. I particularly like this one depicting a scene from the festival of ‘Holi’

 

 

 

 

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A very interesting ‘paisley’ shaped staircase inside the Mehrangarh Fort.

 

 

There are several period rooms in the fort, worth taking a peak in old regal ways.

 

 

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Sheesh Mahal or the Chamber of Mirrors

 

 

 

 

 

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Moti Mahal or the ‘Pearl Palace’ the walls of which have a pearly lustre and still resonate with the song and dance that kept the gathering merry till dawn.

 

 

 

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I felt very ‘out of place’ standing in there. This corner awash with affluence was only fitting for the one born under a lucky star. But I’m fortunate enough to be able to visit such places!

 

 

 

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This is no ‘special’ room but can there be such a thing in a place like Mehrangarh?
Just look at the extraordinarily brilliant jali work that makes even something as simple as flowing in of daylight, a magic.

 

 

One of the most amusing and prettiest museum collections comprises of The Gallery of Cradles in Jhanki Mahal (The Palace of Glimpses). Beautifully preserved cradles of all the kings of Jodhpur are exhibited here.

 

 

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This one comes from the Gallery of Cradles! The entire collection here has cradled some of the most powerful kings in them and have such charming details such as little fairies & birds on them.

 

 

 

 

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The electric powered cradle of the present Maharaja of Jodhpur!

 

 

 

 

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Catching a glimpse in the Palace of Glimpses.

 

 

The Jhanki Mahal or the Palace of Glimpses is called so for these little jharokhas opened views to two different courtyards, into which the ladies could steal discreet glimpses.

 

 

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There is another wonderful gallery of textiles that I was very keen on.
It has drapes, tents, canopies & clothes of the kings and queens. The exquisite pieces are meticulously preserved in glass casings.

 

 

 

 

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The embroidered canopy still seems to be going strong.
And the second picture that gives the impression of a painting done on the window blind is actually NOT SO.
Those are individual silk threads woven with such precision that it looks like strokes of paint! It pains to realise that such brilliant art and artist have long disappeared. Why did no one care enough to save them?

 

 

 

 

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A folding staircase!
Its not just the architects or the taste for such architecture that has vanished, something happened to the engineering as well.

 

 

The last of the museums that we saw was ‘Sileh Khana’ or the Armoury.

 

 

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Ruby studded dagger, a carved ivory dagger and a tortoise carapace & rhino skin shields are just a few among the intriguing lot!

 

 

 

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Capture and admire the city from one of these narrow draughty corridors.

 

 

 

 

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Adi & I :)

 

 

 

It is, perhaps, one of the most impeccably maintained forts in India but even so the abundance of pigeons stay at work undoing all the cleaning. I guess nobody complains for they are the rightful owners and l’original inhabitants of Mehrangarh!

 

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Where the fort stands today was originally called the ‘mountain of birds’ inhabited by a hermit who was the ‘lord of the birds’.
The hermit was unwillingly moved from the mountain who in turn cursed the city to always have shortage of water!

 

 

I know its been a long read if you’ve reached here! But I’m not done yet. There’s more on Mehrangarh Fort. And what I’ve been calling fort all along (following popular convention) is in true sense a fortress!

 

 

 

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Take your time to explore every nook and cranny. It is not just a splendid sight but also gives splendid views of the city. The Umaid Bhavan Palace faintly seen in the background here.

 

 

 

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And its not just the fort but also the foundation on which it stands deserves a mention here for it is a National Geological Monument!

 

 

 

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On lieu of the ongoing Flamenco festival a part of the fort was closed where there is the famous ‘kilkila’ cannon

 

 

 

 

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A giant old wood and iron door in the fort.

 

 

 

What Rudyard Kipling called the ‘work of giants & angels’ was certainly not doable in its entirety in half a day, so being in much awe and admiration of this old giant we returned back the next day after a disappointing day trip to Osian.

 

 

 

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It was so heartwarming to be back and almost everyone recognised & greeted us (so, not many people revisit it!).
These artists invited me to sit next to them while they sang a beautiful folk song that echoed in the walkway!

 

 

 

 

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A bit more exploring and shopping was in line!

 

 

Whether you are in Jodhpur for shopping or sightseeing, Mehrangarh fort is the place to start. The fort’s museum shop stocks beautiful souvenirs, paintings of all the Rajasthani schools of art and some locally made perfumes. And that’s not all. Right outside the museum store is a local artisans market wherein they sell tie and dye scarves, durries/carpets, mojaris/jootis or the Indian shoes, lac jewellery and lots of toys and artifacts. The prices are reasonable and otherwise negotiable. The dealings are fair and the products are of good quality. Although you do get similar things in the city markets as well, its just that you’ll have to hunt for them, here, the few good ones are handpicked and found under one roof. Although they prefer to take cash, you can make a payment with the card.

We bought a pair of softest camel leather shoes from here. You can see them here.

 

 

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You’ll be spoilt for choices!

 

 

 

 

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‘When’s mum going to finish shopping?’

 

 

 

 

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Adi under the weight of durries we bought, amusing the visitors!!

 

 

 

 

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No perfect parallel line no perfect symmetry, still spectacularly gorgeous!

 

 

 

 

We walked towards the rear end of the fort and found two little hands at work, making these puppets.

We walked towards the rear end of the fort and found two little hands at work, making these puppets.

 

 

 

 

We walked towards the rear end of the fort and found two little hands at work, making these puppets.

Its also THE place to buy some Indian puppets should you fancy. It will help the little girl go to school one day. Or for that matter have a proper meal.

 

 

 

 

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I just loved them all! If I could, I would buy them all but then I had to settle for a few of her crafts.

 

 

Bravo reader! You’ve pretty much gone through a comprehensive tour of the Mehrangarh Fort. 🙂

But I haven’t really spoilt it for you, there’s lot that you might surprise yourself with! Perhaps, even we haven’t seen everything yet.

Mehrangarh Fort should be first on your Jodhpur ‘things to do list’. Although Jaswant Thada is on the way to Mehrangarh, I’d suggest you do that later. Since its ‘the work of giants’ covering it during day when your energy level is highest is a good idea. Also you can escape the peak sun hours by being here.  This fort is easily worth a day’s work so you can take a lunch break at Cafe Mehran which has really good Rajasthani Thali and lot more meal options.

 

 

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At Cafe Mehran.

 

 

 

 

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Or perhaps you could just have a drink here. It’s a sort of period room in itself.

 

 

 

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View of Jaswant Thada from Mehrangarh Fort.

 

 

 

 

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Saying we loved this colossal burnished pink, sun-kissed sand stone marvel is redundant.

 

It is The Best Fort I’ve Ever Seen anywhere in the world!

 

General tips and Information:

Wear sunblock and sunglasses (you are at the highest point in what is also known as the ‘Suncity’)

 

I personally prefer hiring a human guide (for they come from humble backgrounds, they are well read, well versed in many languages and therefore I want to help them in this way now that the audio-guide is stealing away their jobs. I like the charming old ways, a guide is one of them! )

 

Contrary to what one might picture, they don’t push you or harass you into hiring them (or even tipping them) but are officially allotted at the time of buying tickets. Economically speaking, one guide serves for a group of upto 6-7 people whereas an audio-guide is a personal use device. However, a guide (of any kind) is a must to truly make sense of the place, the choice is entirely yours.

 

I do not generally mention fares of museums or transport or other attractions because that is such a labile entity. They would have probably changed by the time you make it there. Also one wouldn’t turn back on finding the prices are not what one thought but I do understand the point of getting a general idea for overall budget estimation. Frankly, I haven’t ever found the prices to be same from my pre-reading ever.

 

For such information one should always rely on the official websites. Here is the link for the same.

 

Although history and art lovers will be satiated here the adventure lovers can do a zipline from the fort. Here is a link to check that out.

 

 

 

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“A palace that might have been built by Titans and coloured by morning sun”
Rudyard Kipling
(and sprinkled with droppings by vengeful pigeons 😉 )

 

 

If I were to make a list of seven wonders of India, Mehrangarh Fort would find a place right next to Taj Mahal!

 

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My dear readers, without any ado or delay jot it down on your Travel Bucket List.

 

Next post on Jaswant Thada & Day trips from Jodhpur, be back soon!

Although I’m going to write another post on Jodhpur, please feel free to write (drop an email or leave a comment ) in case you have any queries regarding Mehrangarh Fort or Jodhpur. I would be happy to help! 🙂

Comments

  1. Very interesting reading. Majestic ,splendid marvellous grand……………….all adjectives are short of describing the beauty of the fort.Yes you are right Nikita it is the best fort in the world.Congrats and keep writing,waiting for your next post.