Kunzum Travel List #22: Jodhpur – Food, bazaars, history, it all happens here

The Clock Tower with Mehrangarh Fort in the background
The Clock Tower with Mehrangarh Fort in the background

You go to Jodhpur to savour the famed mirchi vada. It does not get better than this. And, in between mouthfuls, treat yourself to all else that is wonderful in this city.

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Food

The yummiest stuff is prepared in kiosks in the main bazaars around the Clock Tower. The star outlet is ‘Shahi Samosa’ which offers samosas, bread pakoras, badi pyaza ki kachori, mogar ki kachori and mirchi vadas freshly deep-fried in oversized woks. The proprietor Anand Prakash Arora claims credit for the recipe behind the famous mirchi vadas – the secret behind their unique flavour lies in the giant green chillies sourced from nearby farms.

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If the spices get too hot for you, head to Shri Mishrilal Hotel nearby for some sweet jalebis or . Or to gulp down a glass of their makhania lassi (buttermilk). They also serve many other sweets and savories. All these shops have queues waiting even before they pull up their shutters at opening time.

For variety, seek out Ram Kishen in the Sardar Market on the other side of the big clock. He sells a thousand eggs a day (must be some kind of a record) in the form of omelettes and boiled eggs with sliced bread. And he has been at it since 1974, from 10:00 a.m. to midnight. Every day of the week.

There is no dearth of food in Jodhpur – keep walking, and surprises await at every corner. Ignore the unfortunate filth and stray dogs. And the likelihood of falling ill is highly unlikely as the food is always fresh since it gets consumed – or more appropriately, devoured – daily!

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Fresh 'Kachoris'
Fresh ‘Kachoris’

Bazaars

Jodhpur’s markets are endless – you can lose yourself for hours in their labyrinthine streets. Choose from glass bangles, Jodhpuri Jutis (shoes), handicrafts, local dresses and antiques including locks and more. As if these wares were not enough, there are also scores of shops selling flavoured teas, spices, herbs, incense and perfume oils – most not made locally but trade seems to be thriving. Window shop or real shop, it is fun.

Bangles for sale
Bangles for sale

Jaswant Thada

Built in the memory of Jodhpur’s King Jaswant Singh II in 1899, Jaswant Thada has since served as the cremation ground for the royal family. While the king was cremated in a cenotaph, a beautiful marble building stands in the centre to serve as his tomb. Four other cenotaphs are dedicated to successive rulers after him. There is nothing morbid about the place; rather, it draws tourists to its architecture and well manicured gardens. Adding a cheerful note is a pre-teen boy belting out Bollywood numbers while the music is provided by his tabla (double-headed hand-drum).

Jaswant Thada
Jaswant Thada

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Mehrangarh Fort

This fort is a fine example of how historical monuments in the country should be preserved and made tourist friendly. Kudos to the trustees. Here is a brief walk through:

• You will see red circles on the walls along the entry ramp – these mark the spots where cannons struck in a battle between Jaipur and Jodhpur states in 1808.
• Look down at the city and you will know why Jodhpur is called the Blue City – the houses are blue from the outside. Why? To differentiate themselves from others, the upper caste Brahmins or priests marked their houses as blue initially. At some point everyone else followed suit making the settlements around the fort mostly blue.
• The 200-year old Chokhelao Gardens have recently been restored and are beautifully landscaped with sweet smelling plants.
• The foundation of the fort was laid on May 12, 1459 and marked as Rao Jodhaji’s Falsa. Within it also rest the remains of a boy Rajaram – he was buried alive. Superstitions of the time dictated this would make the fort impregnable. Eerie!
• The walls also bear impressions of hands of royal ladies who committed Sati, the act of immolating oneself on your husband’s funeral pyre. You didn’t want to be born a woman back then.
• Take a break at Café Mehran serving western and traditional fare along with beverages.
• The Elephant Seat (Hathi Howdah) Gallery showcases a unique collection of exquisite seats placed atop elephants to carry royalty and soldiers – both during peace time processions as well as on the battlefield.
• Similarly, the Palanquin Gallery or Palki Khana displays palanquins used by royal ladies as a means of transport. These would be carried by at least four men called Mehers and they usually came from the eastern part of the country spanning present day Orissa, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
• A Hookah and a dry opium stand can be seen for demonstration purposes but these are only for photo opportunities.
• The Daulat Khana has a wooden handcrafted palanquin covered with gold paint. It is an early 18th century piece and a part of the war booty when Maharaja Abhay Singh defeated Gujarat’s governor Sarbuland Khan. Other displays include swords, armours, daggers and shields – these are all ceremonial for use during marriages and social occasions but not for combat.
• There is a collection of items used by royal ladies: a wooden cosmetic box inlaid with ivory containing an ivory comb, lacquer painted wooden dumbbells inlaid with ivory and a silver idol of Goddess Gangaur dressed in traditional Rajasthani costume. Women pray to her for their husband’s longevity or to find the right husband. In the age of Sati, were there any protective deities for women?
• The Armoury shows the weapons actually used in the battles of yore – swords, daggers, shields, guns, cannons and more.
• In 1732, Arya Singh singlehandedly made the Phool Mahal over 10-11 years using over 80 kilos of gold. He died leaving some of the work incomplete and no one was asked to take over.
• There is a rich collection of Marwar paintings, an art form that flourished in the 18th-19th centuries. Jodhpur’s court artists painted lavish scenes from life in the Maharaja’s court as also illustrations to religious texts. Artists flourished in towns like Pali and Nagaur as well as smaller domains (Thikanas), each with their own local ruler; not bound by the court, they managed to pursue many other themes thus boosting their creativity.
• The museum shop offers some high quality gifts and memorabilia to take back home including T-shirts, books, playing cards, silver jewelry, bracelets, stoles and scarves, bracelets and paintings by artists trying to keep their traditions alive.
• Stalls outside the museum will sell you paper mache gifts, bangles, traditional clothes and decorations.
• If you are looking to research further on the history of the fort and the state, there is a well stocked centre with books and records for reference as well as for sale.

Inside the Mehrangarh Fort at night
Inside the Mehrangarh Fort at night
Houses painted blue in Jodhpur
Houses painted blue in Jodhpur
Inside the Mehrangarh Fort
Inside the Mehrangarh Fort
Cannon balls from times gone by - handle with care!
Cannon balls from times gone by – handle with care!
An elephant seat in Mehrangarh Fort
An elephant seat in Mehrangarh Fort
A palanquin in Mehrangarh Fort
A palanquin in Mehrangarh Fort
A vanity case of ivory used by royal women
A vanity case of ivory used by royal women
Dumbbells used by queens
Dumbbells used by queens
All that glitters… in Mehrangarh Fort
All that glitters… in Mehrangarh Fort
Merchandise and books for sale in the store in Mehrangarh Fort
Merchandise and books for sale in the store in Mehrangarh Fort
Paper mache gifts for sale
Paper mache gifts for sale

Travel Tips

• Weather: Mild winters and very hot summers.
• Best time to go: October to February.
• How to reach: Jodhpur is well connected by rail, air and road.
• Recommended Stay: At least 2 days.
• Combine trip with: Osian, Bera, Bikaner or Jaisalmer

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