Jodhpur is an ancient Mawar city dominated by an impressive fort. Despite its incredible history (never conquered by force), the fort stands second in fame after the Brahmpuri district, which gives to Jodhpur the surname of “Blue City”.
The Mehrangarh fort lies high above a hill of 150 meters and is really, really big, with a large wall surrounding it. The ticket entrance includes a free audioguide to the museum that is very well done (we try the Spanish version with an Argentinian accented narrator) and explains in a detailed, yet very interesting way the history of the fort and its Maharahas. Next to the patio, the museum guards dress in a very Rajasthani outfit, turbans and all, and on the way to the main gate, some musicians give some more atmosphere.
We love the many different strategic features defensive buildings have; the most outstanding in this fort is the L-shaped, narrow gateways, made on purpose so that attackers riding on elephants would be forced to make a curve and would loose momentum while charging against the gates.
Passing the main entrance, many red handprints can be seen on the walls. According to the sati tradition, when a man died his wife had to accompany him to the other world, so when Maharaja Man Singh died in 1843, his wives and 58 concubines immolated themselves in a pyre after leaving their prints on the wall. This was common practice for the members of the Rajput clan, hence this is not the only site where it can be seen (our friend Belinda explained it wonderfully in this article).
The palace/fort museum, that took us about half day of visit, is a must for anyone going to Jodhpur. The great building and items display became possible thanks to Gaj Singh, last Maharaha of Jodhpur, who has acted as the leader of conservation efforts of the fort and the history of his family when he lost his title by an amendment to the Constitution about 40 years ago.
One of our favorite parts of the fort regarding its arquitecture are the windows behind which women could observe life go by without being seen; the small holes in the windows are carved in up-down angles and have intrincate patterns giving the building a beautiful style.
Some of the items shown in the museum are palanquins, exquisite weapons, clothes, paintings and even turbans!
When our visit is over, the gate leads us directly into the blue city. Why are the houses painted in blue, you say? Well, if you remember the different Hindu castes, Brahmans were at the top of the reputation scale of society. To highlight their belonging to the VIP club, they would have the walls of their houses painted in blue. They were numerous, so the urban landscape started to change. After a long, long time, other neighbouring houses were allowed to use this color on their walls regardless of the caste they belonged to, as blue is thought to help keep termits at bay and cool down the temperature in the desertic environment. True or not, what we know is that it embellished the aesthetics of Jodhpur.
We walk among the streets (and feed some stray dogs in the process) until we arrive at the rooftop of a hostel with great views of the city and fort and wait for the sun to set and give us a break from the heat.
On the way back to our guesthouse, the rickshaw traverses the very lively streets of Jodhpur. We make a stop at the clock tower, surrounded by a market, and enjoy a super fresh and sweet mango juice before putting our very tired bodies in bed for a few hours before catching a night train once again.