Hello, how are you?
In Marwari dialect, spoken widely across Western Rajasthan, especially in and around Jodhpur, this greeting reverberates every now and then – in every street, every shop, every neighbourhood. The cultural capital of Rajasthan, popularly referred to as ‘the Blue City’ is a sublime repository of ‘apnaayat’ (extreme affection in hospitality).
Here, everything is vivid and vivacious, with jubilation evident in every pixel. The blue city, which boasts a beautiful old walled city or “Shahar” area, has a maze of indigo-blue painted houses, narrow alleyways congested with colourfully attired women, turban-laden men, shoppers, tourists and residents alike. It’s often punctuated with honking traffic which invariably, along with people, includes the likes of cows, bullocks, and dogs.
The richness of festivities, blend of vibrant communities, glorious history, friendly neighbourhoods, diversity in languages and dialects, repertoire of culinary extravaganza… Jodhpur’s soul is hard to describe in words. It is an enchantment, it is a way of life, it is transmigration of your souls and hearts. It is falling in love – with life, with people, with jubilations.
And this is where my home is! This is where I have grown up. Where I’ve seen legions of colourful moments of celebrations in our rich festivals, religious fairs and community celebrations. We have a saying here in Jodhpur: A Festival Every Day; A Sweet Every Minute and A Smile Every Second. It’s what we Jodhpurites are comprised of!
Being a ‘local friend’ as I lead Intrepid’s India trips through the city, I ensure people relish in the real Jodhpur.
A joyous vibe
Coincidentally, Jodhpur happens to be the second largest city in Rajasthan, the gateway to the Thar Desert. But it’s the streets where the city’s soul becomes apparent.
Parkota, Sadar Bazaar, Ghantaghar, Navchokia, Bhrahampuri, Jhalra, Gulab Sagar… All these are bustling, pedestrian-friendly, colourful streets laced with numerous shops, temples and gregarious residents (who often invite you to have a look into their lives and homes, and maybe share a cup of chai!). Jodhpur brims with selfless, affectionate hospitality at its best.
Walking through the old city quarter past the clock tower, climb the hilltop fort – The Majestic Mehrangarh Fort – to discover the illustrious past and architectural splendours of its palaces, and to have a bird’s eye view of the blue magnificence below. The sonorous temple bells of the Chamunda Devi Temple will resonate with pilgrims and locals visiting the temple. And, who knows, you might be able to shoot that perfect shot of the blue city below.
And when it comes to any sort of festive celebrations, regardless of the communities or ethnic groups that inhabit the city, Jodhpur comes alive with even more vivacity. Every now and then, one can witness processions that reflect the most important festivity: marriage! The city is especially alive with marriage during the winter months, from October to March.
Jodhpur has also evolved into a hot destination for education, fashion, sports and shooting Bollywood movies. The riding breeches – Jodhpurs – were invented here in the 19th century. And Jodhpur’s opulent traditional ensembles – be it the swaying tie-dye Bandhani prints, or the Bandhgala suit – have had a resounding effect on the fashion world.
The Ghanta Ghar (clock tower) is a bustling market place where all elements of life converge. Be it the labyrinthine alleyways punctuated with spices, bangle sellers, vegetable markets, scrap-dealers or the daily kitchen utilities, every inner alleyway leads to an incredible experience of colours, smells, people, and affection.
Travellers can also visit the Umaid Bhawan Palace, a royal residence that’s part converted into a museum and has an eclectic vintage cars collection. There’s also the Jaswant Thada, a royal crematorium that’s referred to as the ‘Taj of Marwar’. The Mandore Gardens are worth a visit too, as they’re a very popular picnic spot for local familes.
Inaugurated this July is the newly refurbished Sardar Museum, located in the public park area. One of the finest archaeological museums in Rajasthan, with multimedia screens for additional information, it houses rare textiles, weapons, belongings of the Royal Families, excavated statues, paintings and more.
The many colourful and busy temples, resonating with sonorous temple bells, remind you of the mega-pantheon of Gods, revered by the people of Jodhpur in everyday celebrations – be it a birth or a marriage, a harvest festival or a local religious fair like Ganagaur, Ram-Navmi or Sheetla Mata…
Eats and treats
For an overwhelming experience, try Shri Mishrilal’s, Asia’s best lassi shop. For some of the best omelettes and egg bhurji (a type of scrambled eggs with some veggies in it), go to this small omelette stall past the second gate of the clock tower – you will see locals and tourists alike munching and savouring the eggs with bread slices. The posters on this stall boasts of having it mentioned in guide books from Lonely Planet to Fodor’s.
Your stay will be incomplete unless you go to the Janta Sweets Shop. It’s in the Nai Sadak area, and serves Jodhpur’s renowned sweet, Ghewar. It’s a type of spongy, milk-cake with syrup. Also try Ras Malai, which are saffron-laden, sryupy dumplings. Yummmmmmyyyyyy.commm!!
The blue boy from the blue city
Capturing the sunset over the Mehrangarh Fort, from the rooftop of a local family’s house, on an Intrepid trip with world renowned photographer Steve Davey, it was only after a group member took photos of me that we all realized that I was wearing blue!
Coming from such a magical city, where even strangers are hugged as if they were old friends, is a matter of pride. It’s a place where selfless hospitality is offered without even asking. And after being an Intrepid local leader for over 13 years, walking in my childhood lanes makes me rediscover hidden jewels of my own city.
Every time I am with my group, I open my eyes a little wider, I live some more of my childhood a little more.
And, without a slightest warning, all my group members are ‘kidnapped’ for an affectionate rendezvous and meals with my family at our residence. No one complains about this kidnapping, and, actually, they want to be incarcerated in the family house itself.
They are in our hearts and vice versa!
Tempted to visit this stunning city? Check out Intrepid’s range of small group tours in India.
(Image credits from top to bottom: Intrepid Travel x4, Chetan Jha, Intrepid Travel, Chetan Jha)