After a leisurely breakfast Friday morning on the terrace of the Fifu Guest House, we began our journey out of the Thar and back towards central India. We had planned a stop on our way to Udaipur in the city of Jodhpur.
Founded in 1459, Jodhpur is the second largest in the state of Rajasthan, and sports temples, palaces and forts that are similar in style to the other cities we’ve visited. We had planned to make Jodhpur a rest day of sorts, figuring we could roll into town sometime after lunch, see a few of the sites, then relax in the gardens of the hotel.
I expected the air to cool as we left the desert, but I was sorely mistake. As we stopped along the way we noticed that it was getting uncomfortably hot outside. In previous cities staying out in the sun was bearable, I began to think that the heat might cut our sightseeing short.
We arrived in Jodhpur around 1:00 and made a beeline for our lodgings. We were both unusually tired and Mashtan recommended we take a break for a few hours, then head to some of the sites in the afternoon. We agreed. When afternoon did come the heat had not subsided. We decided to venture out anyway and stopped first at Jaswant Thada.
Jaswant Thada is a shrine to the Maharaja’s of Jodhpur, originally built for Jaswant Singh in the late 1800’s. Jaswant, who brought technological innovations to Jodhpur such as irrigation is looked up to by the locals as a hero, and the cenotaph erected here is a place where the locals can pay homage to his legacy. It’s also a place where western tourists take photos. Inside the marble pillared cenotaph are portraits of the Jodhpur Maharajas all the way back to Rao Jodha, the founder of the city. As with most temples it is quiet inside save for the cooing of hundreds of pigeons.
Jaswant Thada and Mehrangarh Fort live right next to each other, so it only made sense to check out the fort next. This is when the heat began to give us trouble.To get inside the fort you have to muscle through a graded, shade deprived street. The climb alone was brutal, and by the time we reached the top we were both forced to sit down and take a break. After resting for a moment we continued onwards into the courtyard of the fort, at which point Cary succumbed to the heat. Forced to sit this one out, she reluctantly handed the camera over to me while I perused the museums and palaces.
Its walls carved directly from the rocks it stands on, Mehrangarh fort is a hodge-podge of architectural styles and influences. Construction began in in 1459 when Rao Jodha first moved his capital from Mandore to Jodhpur. The fort was modified and added to over generations of Raos and Maharaja, there is no one style or look that defines it; this quality is also what makes it one of the more interesting of the forts we’ve visited. In addition to the uniqueness of it’s construction, it’s also one of the more organized site we’ve visited. Museums displaying the arms, costumes, vehicles and textiles of Rajputs over the years are smartly displayed throughout the well planned out tour. I breezed through the fort, following the arrows to the major points of interest such as the Moti Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, and Phool Mahal. I’m not sure if I’m as head over heels in love with it as Rudyard Kipling, but it was certainly different than many of the forts we’ve seen along the way.
With a camera full of pictures for Cary’s perusal in hand, I picked her up in the courtyard and we headed for air conditioning. Cary needed a nap something awful, so I volunteered to walk about a kilometer from our hotel to the nearest ATM to get some cash while she slept off the heat.
I hadn’t had a chance to walk around an Indian neighborhood since I first arrived almost two weeks ago, but I was instantly reminded of what real Indian culture looks like. We had spent the last week moving from tourist destination to tourist destination, and it was beginning to give me the impression that all of India lives to hound any visitor who crosses their path out of a few rupees. I was reminded of my first forays into the neighborhoods of Noida, where passersby were pleasantly oblivious to the appearance of a giant white guy roaming their neighborhood. I received a few cordial "Namaste’s", on my walk and I actually had a normal conversation with a rickshaw driver:
Rickshaw Guy: Hey, you need a lift?
Me: Nah, just gonna walk.
Rickshaw Guy: I’ll be here if you change your mind.
That was it. No persistence. No hounding. Pleasant.
Cash in hand I headed back to the hotel, and read for a while in the garden, sipping on a local scotch (Blender’s Pride). Cary woke sometime later and we walked around the neighborhood for a while, then grabbed dinner and caught a cricket match at On the Rocks. We also had some kulfi on a stick from the “mall” (which is a story in and of itself). There was also a wedding going on at our hotel, which provided some additional entertainment and insight into India culture.
We planned on using Jodhpur as a rest day on our long journey, and though we caught a few sights, I think we used it appropriately. Tomorrow would begin the leisurely drive to Udaipur on one of the final legs of our journey.