The majestic city of Jodhpur is located at the edge of the shimmering Thar Desert in western Rajasthan. It was built in 1459 A.D by Rao Jodha, chief of the Suryavanshi Rajputs and remained the capital of the kingdom of Marwar for several years. The glory and ambience of the medieval period is well preserved in the magnificent palaces, rugged forts, age old temples and the bustle and color of bazaars. The historic city is full of stories that date back several centuries and speak of battles, court intrigues, brave kings, ferocious warriors, chivalry and romance. While the elegant art deco style Umaid Bhawan Palace, the imperial Mehrangarh fort and the many temples that are scattered throughout the city showcase the rich history and cultural grandeur of the city, it is the stunning handicrafts, melodious folk music and the hospitality of the brightly dressed people that is Jodhpur’s piece de resistance.
Popularly called the blue city, Jodhpur's old city is mostly a labyrinthine of winding, narrow passages cramped with colorful street vendors, shops selling exotic spices, people dressed in dazzling outfits and the omnipresent cows. Historically, all of the houses were painted indigo to signify their Brahman caste heritage but gradually the walled city fast turned into a blue city because the blue color repels insects and is supposed to be more cooling. The city is located within the confines of the imposing Mehrangarh fort.
The stately Mehrangarh Fort dating back to the 15th century A.D. seems to have risen out the rocks on which it is perched, majestically overlooking the plains of the city. It is surrounded by a thick wall with eight gates and innumerable bastions. As you step inside a series of palaces and courtyards that are linked together by various passages are the backbone of the main structure and what was once the ruling seat of the Marwar Empire. Legend has it that the Rathore chieftain, Rao Jodha laid the foundation of Mehrangarh in 1459 after his family goddess, Chamunda Devi appeared before him in the form of an eagle and assured him that his clan and kingdom would prosper if he built his head quarter on this barren rock. The fort has always been accessible to the public to pay homage to the deity of Chamunda. During the nine-day Navratra celebrations the deity is worshipped with great pomp and celebration. The fort chronicles the architectural history of the Rajputs from 1459 to 1952 as galleries and courtyards were added and renovated by every passing generation. This beautifully restored Fort is one of the best in India with its exquisitely latticed windows, carved panels, elaborately adorned windows and walls of Moti Mahal, Phool Mahal, and Sheesh Mahal give the feeling of having travelled back in time a few hundred years. Out of the eight gates, three were built as victory gates, Jayapol or the main gate was built by Maharaja Man Singh, who ruled Jodhpur in the first part of the 19th century, to commemorate his victory over the army of Jaipur while Fatehpol another victory gate was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh in 1708 to celebrate his victory over the Mughals. Lohpol or the Iron Gate is the most revered gate and has grown into a religious symbol. It still has the hand imprints of the wives of Maharaja Man Singh who threw themselves in the sacred fire of their husband's pyre. Devotees still worship it and smear it with red powder and silver to respect the royal ladies who preferred death to humiliation. The Courtyard of the palace is delicately adorned by arched balconies and hundreds of carved sandstone Jalies. The rooms of the palace are magnificent and opulent and decorated according to the theme that the room is named after. Phool mahal has intricately painted flowers and jalis with flower designs all around the room. Phool Mahal was the palace where traditional mujras or dances were performed. The gold plated ceiling has images of various Maharajas of Jodhpur; the splendor of this palace is enhanced even more because of the exquisite stained glasses that reflect the glitter of the gold plated ceiling. Similarly Sheesh Mahal has a few hundred pieces of glass embedded in the wall reflecting the rays of the sun into a myriad of patterns.
The Jaswant Thada lies halfway up the road that climbs up the fort. Dating back to the 19th century, this is the traditional cremation ground of the rulers of Jodhpur. Surrounded by ornate gardens and chattris, this white memorial royal cenotaph was built in commemoration of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. The cenotaph also displays some rare portraits of the Maharajas of Jodhpur.
Sprawled over an area of 26 acres, the Umaid Bhavan Palace was built by Maharaja Umaid Singh in 1929 when Jodhpur was struck with famine to provide the population with food for work. The museum displays various items of interest belonging to the Maharaja like weapons, exotic antiques, fascinating clocks, delicate crockery textiles, miniature portraits, local crafts and silver trophies. With its stone balconies, large courtyards, sprawling terraces, manicured gardens and opulent halls the palace is the perfect example of Rajput architecture. The royal family of Jodhpur still lives in a part of the palace while the other section has been converted into a hotel. The grandeur of this hotel provides guests to experience life in the royal era. Pains have been taken to preserve the lifestyle of a bygone era and yet fulfill the modern demands of the tourists.
Bal Samand Lake Palace is built on the banks of beautiful artificial lake. The 19th Century lakeside palace is set in a delightful garden. The palace was created by Maharajah Sur Singhji, as a summer palace. The very finely carved palace with latticed windows is set admit trees, pools covered with lilies and groves of mango, plum, pomegranate etc. The place is the perfect oasis of calm after a hot day sight-seeing and shopping.
Mandore is the ancient capital of Marwar. The remnants of the ruined fort and palace can be seen on the hilltop towering over the lush gardens below. The significance of this place is the hall of Heroes where sixteen huge figures have been carved out of a single rock and the shrine of 330 million Gods.
The Mahamandir Temple, renowned for its delicate cutwork on stone was built in 1812. The temple is an architectural wonder, with eighty four exquisitely carved pillars ornamented with detailed designs. The ruins of an old deserted town with skeletons of several structures are an intriguing feature of Mahamandir in Jodhpur.
The Dhawa wildlife Sanctuary is a must visit for all animal and nature lovers. Home to blackbucks, partridges, desert foxes and nilgais it is especially famous for Desert Rats and Antelopes. This sanctuary is about 40km southwest of Jodhpur even though there are no guest houses here its well worth visiting as a day trip.
Nagaur has an interesting history and the architecture here is witness to the changing rulers. The majestic fort with hand painted murals set in this picturesque Rajput town is a must see. Besides the mosque that Emperor Akbar built, there is a shrine of the disciple of Muinuddin Chishti of Ajmer. Badal Mahal, Sheesh Mahal & Hadi Rani Mahal are worth seeing. All three palaces have painfully painted frescos dating back to the 18th century on the ceilings. Other attractions include an enchanting medieval air cooling system and an elaborate old hammam or bath. Every year in the month of February, a weeklong cattle fair is held at Nagaur that attracts plenty of foreigners.
Innumerable festivities celebrating the rich history and culture of this state have been continued over the years. The Marwar Festival and the Nagaur festival held annually is a splendid display of color, ceremony and traditions.
The Nagaur Cattle Fair is an eight day fair celebrated in Nagaur in February. A few thousand bullocks, camels and horses are gathered at the cattle fair for trading. Be prepared to witness brilliantly attired women dazzling in shades of orange, red and yellow while the men sport equally chromatic turbans almost competing with their lavishly bejeweled animals. The fair has several attractions besides the animals which includes the spice bazaar, also the largest red-chilly market of India, tribal handicrafts like wooden items, iron-crafts and camel leather accessories are displayed while sports such as tug-of-war, camel races, bullock races and cock fights, sheep shearing contests and bartering handsome marwari horses are played.
The Marwar Festival is celebrated in Jodhpur in the month of October for two days during the full moon of sharad poornima. The festival is celebrated with music, dance and joviality in memory of the heroes of Rajasthan. A great way to watch the folk traditions and dances of yester years, these artistes let you experience the valor and bravery of warriors, made immortal by their songs. Other attractions at this cultural extravaganza are the camel tattoo show and polo.
Jodhpur is heaven for connoisseurs of cuisine. The cuisine tempts the taste buds with a wide range of gourmet dishes from mouth watering main courses to delectable sweet meats, which are fiery and aromatic. Don’t forget to try the famous kachori, at Jalori gate, with its varied fillings, onion and mava being the absolute best. Several delicacies like spicy mirchi vada, gatte ki sabzi, tehri or yellow rice are Jodhpur specialties. Paradise for all hard core non vegetarians the food here is spicy and delicious, try the red meat and white meat preparations along with the grilled kebabs and tikkas. All gulab jamun lovers must try the ones made by Chatarbuj sweets, at the heart of old Jodhpur city. These are the most scrumptious gulab jamuns, made without any preservatives and have no filling and tend to melt in your mouth. For authentic dal baati, visit the lesser known hotels such as Priya, Poonam and Pokar. Kebab Corner at the Umaid Bhawan, Marwar Earth at Taj Hari Mahal and On The Rocks at Ajit Bhawan Palace are very popular with tourists and have a warm ambient feel to them. Every meal must end with a tall glass of buttermilk or lassi. Enjoy a makhania lassi at the Clock Tower, a specialty of Jodhpur made with saffron, yoghurt and sugar. The thick lassies are topped with a small piece of home made butter and are a treat to the taste buds.
Shopping in the bazaars transports you to an Arabian night fantasy. Colorful skirts, embroidered mirror work bags, exquisite handicrafts, 'jutis' or slippers in suede, camel skin, velvet and a variety of wooden artifacts line the shops. The clock tower is the center of the old town in Jodhpur and countless markets, each street with its own specialty divert into busy bylanes from the main square. Girdikot market and Sardar Market have a range of Rajasthani handicrafts. Cell like shops line both sides of the narrow lanes offering exotic textiles, handicrafts, aromatic spices and savory Indian sweets fresh vegetables and fruits to tribal jewelry and silverwork. Pick up the vibrant textiles at Kapra Bazaar, where you can buy the famous Rajasthani fabrics like bandhini and lehariya. They are tie-dyed and come in varied patterns and motifs like, waves or stripes in materials like cotton, silk and chiffon. Jodhpur is also an antique collector’s haven; traditionally designed old artifacts like treasure chests, cabinets, furniture, small boxes, doors, windows, inscribed swords, rare pictures, first edition books and other memorabilia.
The Jodhpur airport is 5 km from the main city. Airlines link Jodhpur with Bombay and Delhi, usually on flights that also connect with Jaipur and Udaipur. One can take taxis or auto-rickshaws from the airport to the city.
Jodhpur is well connected by road. Luxury and deluxe coaches ply between Jodhpur and the other cities. The Bus Stand is near the Rai Ka Bagh Railway Station. Some important distances are Jaipur 340 km, Ajmer - 208 km, Mount Abu - 292 km, Bikaner - 256 km, Udaipur - 275 km, Jaisalmer - 285 km, Agra - 575 km and Delhi - 594 km. State Roadways Bus Reservation can be made at Tourist Reception Centre, High Court, and Jodhpur.
Jodhpur is on the Western Railway broad gauge network in Rajasthan, and is linked to various centers in the region by express and passenger trains. Some important links are those that connect with New Delhi, Agra, Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Udaipur and Ahmedabad.