The dazzling sun that accompanied us along the whole way was leaning in the western sky when our bus reached Jodhpur, Rajasthan's second-largest city. The four and a half-hours journey from Jaisalmer was a nice opportunity to explore the local culture.
Jodhpur was historically the capital of the Kingdom of Marwar, which is currently part of Rajasthan. It is popularly known as the 'Blue City' due to prominent use of blue colour on the residential buildings in the old part of the town.
Set in the beautiful landscape of Thar Desert, Jodhpur attracts a large number of tourists every year for its palaces, forts, and temples.
Our hotel, Blue Stay Jodhpur, was 2.5 km away from the bus stand. The taxi took only 10 minutes to reach our destination located in the old town.
The window curtains, bed linens, wall paintings, even the furniture - everything had different shades of blue in them. Within minutes of our check-in, we could feel the warmth of a peaceful and homely ambience.
After having a refreshing shower, we went to the roof of the hotel where we were welcomed by the blue skyline of Jodhpur city. The roof also offered us a magnificent view of the Mehrangarh Fort.
We said our evening prayer in a local mosque, which was also painted in blue. The giant Ghanta Ghar (clock tower) was only a five-minute walk from our hotel. Built during the reign of Maharaja Sardar Singh (between late 19th Century and early 20th Century), the tower has been serving as a prime landmark in the city centre over the years.
The clock was sourced from London and is said to be purchased from the company who made the Clock Tower in London. The top of the tower offers a panoramic view of the city.
The surrounding area bustling with locals and showcasing varieties of products and services makes it the busiest and largest marketplace of Jodhpur. The spot is a must visit for travellers who want to experience the city's colourful culture.
After strolling for an hour in the markets, we had our dinner with some delicious street food.
Next morning, we prepared ourselves for a day-long tour in and around the city. We had our breakfast in the famous Priya Hotel and Restaurant and hired a taxi for visiting tourist attractions up to 5:30 pm.
Our first destination was Umaid Bhawan Palace, the world's sixth largest private residence. Built during 1929 to 1943 and named after Maharaja Umaid Singh, grandfather of the present owner, Gaj Singh, the palace is divided into three functional parts – residence of the Jodhpur's former royal family, the luxurious Taj Palace Hotel, and a museum.
The palace complex, set in an area of 26 acres, consists of 347 rooms and features a throne chamber, private meeting hall, public hall, banquet hall, private dining halls, ballroom, library, indoor swimming pool, billiards room, tennis courts, squash courts, long passages etc.
The hotel wing of the palace, known as 'Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur', is operated by the Taj Group of Hotels. The marriage ceremony of popular Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra and American singer Nick Jonas also took place here.
The museum has a large collection of antique clocks. Our sons were amused at the display of classic cars used by the Maharajas in the front garden.
Our driver Ali Ahmad then drove us to the Jaswant Thada, a cenotaph (empty tomb) built by Maharaja Sardar Singh in 1899 in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II.
Since its establishment, the place has served as the cremation ground for the royal Rajput family of Marwar. It is built out of intricately carved and finely polished sheets of Makrana marble, emitting a warm glow under sunlight.
The complex features carved gazebos, a tiered garden, and a small lake. There are portraits of the rulers and Maharajas of Jodhpur as well.
Then we went to Mehrangarh Fort, the star of Jodhpur. Covering an area of 1,200 acres, the fort complex is located on a hilltop around 122 metres above the surrounding plain and can be seen from afar.
Constructed in 1459 by Rajput ruler Rao Jodha, the fort appears even more of a wonder due to its colossal structure and the way some of the sections are carved into the rocks.
A unique feature of this fort is that for some extra rupees, there is an elevator to take the visitors to the top, offering a panoramic view of the Blue City.
Inside the complex, there are several palaces known for their intricate carvings and expansive courtyards. The major palaces are Moti Mahal, Phool Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Jhanki Mahal, Zenana Deodi, Takhat Vilas etc.
The complex also houses a museum, which exhibits a rich collection of palanquins, musical instruments, royal costumes, arms, furniture, paintings etc.
There are two temples inside the fort: Chamunda Devi Mandir and Nagnechiaji Mandir. The complex has seven gates built by different rulers in honour of victory over Bikaner and Jaipur armies.
It is such a formidable fort that invaders never succeeded in breaking it. In fact, one can see signs of cannons that were fired by the enemies at its huge walls, barely causing a dent.
Having spent about two hours in the fort, we came down to the city below through a winding road and had our lunch at a vegetarian restaurant.
Then we went to Mandore, the capital of the erstwhile princely state of Marwar, before Rao Jodha moved it to Jodhpur, where he built Mehrangarh.
The 'Mandore gardens', with its charming collection of temples and memorials, and its high rock terraces attracts many tourists each year.
The beautiful complex houses cenotaphs of many rulers of Jodhpur state such as Maharaja Ajit Singh, built in 1793.
The Mandore Gardens house a museum, a 'Hall of Heroes' showcasing various artefacts and statues found in the area.
The museum also honours folk heroes of the soil. Hindu mythology enthusiasts will love the Temple of 33 crore gods, which has images of numerous Hindu deities carved on its walls and pillars.
Ravana Temple is another major attraction in Mandore, since it is believed to be the native place of Ravana's wife, Mandodari.
The gardens were full of hanumans, which absolutely delighted our sons.When we got out, it was already 5 pm.
After coming back to the hotel, we checked out. It took us less than 10 minutes to reach the Jodhpur Railway Station where our Delhi-bound train was waiting at the platform.
This article was originally published on 9 November, 2023.