Jodhpur is the second largest city in the Western Indian state of Rajasthan. The city is one of the most prominent destinations for tourists in India and is known as the “Blue City”. The reason for the city’s moniker is that houses in the old city center are painted blue. Originally the blue houses signified the residents of the house being upper-caste Brahmins, however over the years residents of all castes started painting their houses blue as a status symbol that trend has endured to this day. Some old residents of the city also claim that the blue hue reflects light better and drives away insects and vermin from houses.
Jodhpur is also called the “Sun City” of Rajasthan as it is famous for its near yearlong bright and sunny weather. The city of Jodhpur was built in the year 1459 by Rao Jodha, the king of the migrant Rajput clan called Rathores and therefore bears his name. The King managed to build a successful and prosperous kingdom ironically called “Marwar” meaning “Land of Death” with Jodhpur as its center. The kingdom straddled all major trade routes of India and that turned Jodhpur into a vibrant commercial city with bustling markets, something that the city is known for to this day.
The city of Jodhpur is built on the foothills of its most iconic attraction which is the massive Mehrangarh Fort. The Mehrangarh Fort is an awe-inspiring behemoth that stands 120 meters above the city. This enormous fort is a reflection of the brilliance of Rajput military engineering and is chiseled out almost perpendicularly from the rock of the hill above Jodhpur itself.
Any trip to Jodhpur would be incomplete without seeing the many wonders inside the Mehrangarh Fort which can be conveniently accessed from the city during a day trip. The fort can be entered through a number of its massive gates known as “Pols”. Most tours of the Mehrangarh Fort kick off from the Jaipol which means Victory Gate. The Jaipol was created to celebrate Marwar’s successful repelling of an invasion by the neighboring kingdom of Jaipur. Other major gates of the fort include the cannon-ball pockmarked Dodh Kangrapol, Imritiapol and the Loha Pol that is replete with spikes to provide defense against charging enemy elephants.
Nearby the gates of the fort there are handprints etched in the walls of the queens of Rajasthan who would traditionally self-immolate themselves on the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands. The last set of widows and concubines to undertake this practice was in 1843.
Inside the Mehrangarh Fort there are a number of small palaces that are great examples of traditional Rajput architecture and have been built with great aesthetics and finesse. These include the Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), the Sukh Mahal (Pleasure Palace) and the Phool Mahal (Flower Palace). The fort’s many ramparts also serve as a good walk down into history and are still maintained in great shape with their old artillery pieces and defense fortifications intact.
Also inside the Mehrangarh Fort is an amazing museum with galleries showcasing elephant howdahs, palanquins, turbans, Mughal miniature paintings, folk music and instruments as well as an armory with impressive Rajput military weapons and artifacts.
Other major attractions in Jodhpur include the Jaswant Thada monument which is a milky white marble construct housing a symbolic cenotaph in memory of Maharaja Jai Singh II. Also a must see for any visitor on a tour of Jodhpur is the Ghanta Ghar or Clock Tower and its surrounding markets that still function as the commercial heart of the modern city of Jodhpur. The markets are a great window into traditional Rajasthani commerce and are a good place to pick up a souvenir or two to remember Jodhpur by.
Another world famous icon of the city of Jodhpur is the massive Umaid Bhavan Palace. The Palace is a 365 room behemoth, part of which still serves as the official residence of the Royal Family of Marwar. A section of the palace however has been built into what has been dubbed the finest palace hotel in the world by many leading opinion makers in the global tourism industry. The Umaid Bhavan Palace is open to both residents and non-resident visitors albeit in different sections and is a fantastic sight to behold. The Palace was commissioned in 1929 by Maharaja Umaid Singh as a royal job creation project during a period of prolonged drought that managed to employ over 3,000 people for 15 years. The Palace is heavily embellished with tasteful fixtures and materials such as Makrana marble and Burmese teak and never ceases to amaze visitors to Jodhpur because of its massive scale yet luxuriant beauty.
Many visitors who come to Jodhpur on an extended visit also use the city as a springboard to visit nearby rural communities. This provides visitors a great opportunity to experience the richness and diversity of Rajasthan’s culture, social mores and traditional hospitality.
Best Time to Visit Jodhpur:
Being in the Rajasthani heartland, the period between October and March is the best time to visit Jodhpur. Visitors during this period can freely indulge in a tour of Jodhpur and its many wonders without worrying about the scorching summers of Rajasthan as well as the annual monsoon rains.
Just before the start of the peak tourist season, Jodhpur hosts the annual Marwar Festival which is a great time to visit the city and get a glimpse of the rich cultural heritage of Rajasthan. The Marwar Festival has many interesting activities such as polo, camel tattooing, traditional Rajasthani folk performances as well as a vibrant bazar scene.
How to get to Jodhpur:
Jodhpur is situated in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. The city is the second largest in the state and is a major tourist destination. Jodhpur is connected to the major metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Delhi by a domestic airport which offers connectivity to a very limited number of domestic destinations in India.
Most people visiting the city of Jodhpur do so in conjunction with other major cities of the region such as Jaipur and Jaisalmer. A popular choice of foreign tourists coming to Jodhpur is to fly from Delhi to Jaipur and then drive down to the city of Jodhpur in a luxury SUV. The drive time between Jaipur and Jodhpur is five and a half hours and makes for an interesting drive through the desert landscape of Rajasthan.
Many foreign visitors also visit Jodhpur as part of a luxury train tour through North India and Rajasthan. Jodhpur is on the itinerary of the super luxury " Royal Rajasthan on Wheels" train that runs through the entire state.
Jodhpur with its many different facets would be of interest to a variety of tourists. Visitors interested in history, culture, religion, military tactics as well as martial chivalry will find the city fascinating.
Food lovers will find much in Jodhpur to hold their interest as well, the city is one of the great centers of Rajasthani cuisine that is known for its generous helpings, eclectic tastes, vibrant textures and liberal use of spices, condiments and sweets to energize the palate.
For fans of shopping, the bazaars and markets of Jodhpur are an excellent source of replica antiques, textiles, traditional Rajasthani handicrafts such as puppets and ethnic jewelry as well as furniture.
For visitors wanting to experience Maharaja like luxury, Jodhpur is home a number of heritage properties that have been converted into uber-luxury hotels. These include the massive Umaid Bhavan Palace that is considered by many as the finest palace hotel in all of India.
Jodhpur is also home to a number of smaller heritage properties, minor palaces and Havelis all of which have been converted into boutique hotels and provide travelers a taste of pristine regal living.
Rajasthan is mostly desert with hot weather for the greater part of the year, visitors are strongly advised to wear loose cotton clothing that is breathable. Also a point to consider is that Rajasthan is for the greater part a patriarchal and conservative society that is zealously religious.
It is therefore advisable that both men and women visiting Rajasthan should wear modest clothing which covers arms, legs and shoulders as well as take adequate protection against bright sunlight. Tours to some of Jodhpur’s attractions such as the iconic Mehrangarh Fort require considerable walking in the outdoors so the choice of comfortable footwear as well as protective covering from sunlight would greatly aid traveler comfort.