Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jodhpur - Part I

The Blue City

The Blue City

That's what it is called. That is how it looks when you look down from one side of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.

Travelling to Jodhpur

We travelled from Udaipur to Jodhpur by car. The distance from Udaipur is around 266 kms which makes it a journey of around 5-6 hours. On the way are two places that you should visit: Kumbhalgad fort and Ranakpur Jain Temple. I'll talk about them momentarily.

Neatly piled flat stones that make the farm hedges
What thrilled me in the road travel was the landscape that changed from Udaipur to Jodhpur. Udaipur falls in the Mewar area which has a fair amount of greenery. As you travel towards northwest, the vegetation becomes sparse. Trees change into shrubs and bushes that line the borders of farmlands. Farms are neatly arranged with hedges that are flat stones piled neatly to form a small wall.

Passing through villages, you can see similar kinds of village houses. Each, however small it may be, has the same design. The facade is a small door with a couple of rooms to welcome the guests. Inside is an open square bordered on all four sides by rooms. At the far end is the kitchen. Peek inside and you'll see the women folks busy with their household chores. That's the real Rajasthan that you can see.

As the sun set while we were travelling to Jodhpur, we could enjoy the orange hues of the sunset and the long, increasing shadows.There were still miles to travel and we were quite tired as we reached our destination.

There was an exciting moment as we traversed the long highways. We were going at quite some speed when our driver suddenly slowed down, and for good reason too. Right in front of our eyes passed a pair of beautiful nilgai, the largest Indian antelopes. To see them in the wild was quite a treat and we really felt ourselves to be lucky.

Kumbhalgad Fort

Kumbhalgad
Situated around 82 kms from Udaipur, this is the birthplace of Maharana Pratap. Kumbhalgad is a beautiful fort whose boundaries extend to up to 36 kms. From the top of the fort, you can view the boundary on all sides far into the distance.

Built by Rana Kumbha, Prince Udai, the founder of the city of Udaipur was smuggled here for safety when Chittorgarh was under siege. There is an interesting tale about Prince Udai. His Dai Ma, his caretaker sacrificed her own son for Prince Udai. When Chittorgarh was under siege, she hid Prince Udai. She laid her own son on the bed that Udai was sleeping on. When soldiers came in to kill Prince Udai, she pointed to her son who was sleeping as Prince Udai. Her son was killed by the enemy soldiers and she smuggled Prince Udai to safety to Kumbhalgad.
Ranakpur temple

Kumbhalgad is a massive structure and definitely worth a dekko. We were in a hurry to reach Jodhpur and could spare only half an hour here. But to reach the top of the fort and to see everything, it would take at least two hours.

Ranakpur

The next stop was at Ranakpur. Ranakpur is famous for its Jain marble temple which houses 1444 marble pillars. No two pillars are alike. All pillars are carved in minute details and are full of animals, humans, gods, goddesses, and imagery. The roof too is intricately carved and it is mesmerizing to look at the beauty of the temple.
Roof of the Ranakpur temple
It is also said that it is almost impossible to count all pillars. With each pillar carved differently, it would definitely take hours together to look and admire each of them.

What to See in Jodhpur?

In Jodhpur, you should certainly not miss the Mehrangarh fort. If you really are interested, you can visit the Jaswant-da-Thada. And you should also visit the Umaid Bhavan Palace. Also, do not miss the main market place, also known as the Clock Tower area. It is always fun to walk around in the market place and enjoy the local life. 

One of the pillars in the Ranakpur temple
I am going to create separate posts for the attractions of Jodhpur, because this would otherwise be a very, very long post.

Where to Stay?

We stayed at Kiran Vilas and Marvel Umed. 

Kiran Vilas is owned by a Col. Rathore and is a decent place. Col. Rathore has converted his old home into a hotel. They serve good food and the service is good as well. Col. Rathore is a man of around 60 years, complete with a typical military-like moustache. He likes to regale you of tales of how his other haveli is converted to a hotel too where only firangis stay. He has a benign attitude towards life itself, which perhaps comes from his yoga practice, for which he gets up daily at three in the morning. He'll also tell, if you are keen and patient enough to listen, of how he and his son are advocates and happy with what they are doing. He'll boast of all the places that he has visited and the various hotels that he has stayed in. As a gift (of listening to his banter,) he'll give you lots of almonds. But despite all that, the hotel was good and we had a comfortable stay.

Jodhpur and Umaid Bhavan seen from the Mehrangarh Fort
Marvel Umed was the best hotel in our entire trip. We had booked their super deluxe room and really liked the room. The room was equipped with a nice, warm bed with side tables on each side. A big wooden cupboard was provided to keep our belongings. A beautiful wooden writing table was also given which served a nice place to keep our things that were frequently required.

What we really liked was their service. The hotel is professionally managed and the staff goes out of their way to make sure that your stay is not just comfortable but also something to remember forever. Marvel Umed has their restaurant in an open space. It's private and relaxing. But the open space also makes it very cold. The staff was very helpful and made a separate "shekoti" for us. They prepared a small portable fire for us while we had our dinner. The food was very good and with the warmth of the fire, we really enjoyed it to the fullest.

The next day, we were supposed to leave early by 7.30. Their breakfast is served by 8 a.m. When we inquired if we could get our breakfast before that, they readily agreed to serving it before we checked out. Our breakfast was served to our room within 15 minutes of our informing them, and a complete breakfast it was: parathas, chai, toast, jam, bread, sugar. Hot and yummy. We really had a great stay at Marvel Umed and advise you to book it if you are planning to visit Jodhpur.

Where to Eat in Jodhpur?

The market place! Seriously! If you do not want to eat at your hotel, the central market place offers a great variety of eating options. At a small corner just before the Clock Tower, is a good samosa and chat center which was pretty decent. It is a road-side eatery joint. Have a samosa there or some chat.

But if you want to try Rajasthani thali or any such item, go to Priya Thali. This shop is right at the main corner of the market. It is a proper hotel, but interestingly, it is not housed in proper rooms. It's an extension of the footpath, and you can sit there and enjoy the market sounds, traffic, chaos around you. It is a welcome change and the price is also not too high. You'll see a lot of firangis too here. Priya Thali is indeed a good place to have your lunch or dinner.

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