I visited Jodhpur in Rajasthan for a work trip twice. Both times we were driven out of the city by our colleagues, into the Thar desert to meet desert village communities that were struggling to survive in agricultural lands with barely a drop of water to share between them. Drought in these lands has a different meaning altogether. They rely on water tankers, reservoir tanks and wells. We’d worked with communities to identify shared spaces where we had built water reservoirs and rainwater harvesting structures so that they could collect water for their daily needs. While my work trip was engrossing and very engaging, especially meeting the communities and getting to learn about the vulnerabilities they face, my colleagues and I managed to carve out a free day over the weekend to take in the blue city.
My sight-seeing priority was to visit Mehangarh fort, built around 1460. The steep incline leading to its entrance is worth the climb if only to see the best views of Jodhpur’s blue-walled city from across the impressive walls of the structure. There are lots of entrance gates to the fort, each with its own unique historic moment and the story behind it, but Loha Pol was probably the most disturbing one I encountered. It supposedly has the handprints of all the royal widows who have committed ‘sati’ that is the Hindu ritual of wives burning themselves on the funeral pyre with their dead husbands. On closer examination, the hand imprints, though of varying sizes, look a little too uniform to be original. Perhaps the imprint once made was further worked on and embellished to appear more clearly as evidence that the widow had indeed committed ‘sati.’ The thought that these were palm prints of real people made me shiver. But a love for the ironic struck me: I wondered whether they all had lifelines that reflected their unnatural deaths. Unfortunately the palm prints on the wall weren’t defined enough to reveal this.
My favourite room of all the interiors was the extravagant and elaborately decorated zenana where royal wives and court women played cards, discussed their love lives and delved into political intrigue.
The museum inside the fort has got an interesting collection of fine and applied arts. The rulers of the area had close links with the Mughals, so you’ll also find objects that once belonged to them here. There’s an interesting collection of palanquins, folios from medieval manuscripts and various other objects d’art of significant beauty and value. After visiting the fort, I wanted to buy myself some silver jewellery. Rajasthan is known for particular silver craftsmanship and designs. I bought a chain, two stone pendants and a bracelet all in silver, all of which I treasure to this day.
Next time, if I’m lucky enough to return, I plan to visit the second most popular attraction in Jodhpur: Umaid Bhavan Palace.
If you’re interested in reading more about Rajasthan, read about my visit to Jaipur.
Visited in 2007, 2009