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Exploring the Blue City of Jodphur: a Journey into the Beautiful Rajasthan

by Paola Bertoni
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Jodhpur, the capital of Rajasthan’s oldest state, is an Indian city steeped in culture and charm. It has played a crucial role in trade over the centuries due to its strategic location along trade routes. Famous for the majestic Mehrangarh Fort, which also functions as the Royal Palace, Jodhpur is also known as the Blue City, thanks to the houses painted this colour in the old town. Its significant historical and cultural attractions make it a must-see destination on a trip to Rajasthan.

Jodhpur: the Blue City of Rajasthan

Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan, is often called the Blue City. The name derived from the colour prevalent in its buildings. The old town, forts, palaces, temples, haveli and houses are blue-coloured. The heart of the city, entirely painted blue, offers a breathtaking spectacle from the perspective of the fort. Unfortunately, the old town is neglected, so tourists often avoid it. However, by venturing beyond the busier areas by tuk-tuk or on foot, you can discover fascinating old houses and encounter a more authentic India.

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Detail of a blue-painted palace in the historic Blue City of Jodhpur
Detail of a blue-painted palace in the historic Blue City of Jodhpur

What to see around Jodhpur: monuments and sights

The city of Jodhpur replaced the old capital Mandore. Today is known as the Blue City because of the colours of the houses in the old town. However, the main attractions worth visiting are all located outside the city. These include the majestic Mehrangarh Fort and the Jaswant Thada memorial, as well as Mandore itself. They are architectural gems telling the compelling and fascinating story of Rajasthan.

The Mehrangarh Fort: the ancient royal palace of the Rajasthan Maharajahs

The majestic Mehrangarh Fort rises majestically on a 122-metre-high rocky hill. It dominates the entire city of Jodhpur with its massive walls and almost 40-metre-high ramparts. Inside, the atmosphere changes, revealing sumptuous palaces with magnificently decorated courtyards. Once royal residences, today they are museums.

The structure of the fort, set into the rock and built with local stone, reflects Muslim architectural influences and Mughal art, testifying to the eclecticism of the cultures that have shaped the region. The entrance to the Mehrangarh Fort welcomes visitors with a painted door and a statue of the god Ganesh. In Indian culture, the god with an elephant head can bless new beginnings and remove obstacles.

In addition to the imposing defensive structures, Mehrangarh Fort houses the Royal Palace, consisting of three palaces. Each has with its own decorative identity. Part of the palace is closed to the public, but what is accessible reveals fine details, such as carved wood and ivory decorations.

Interior of a palace of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur
Interior of a palace of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur

Among all the beautiful buildings, the White Ceremonial Courtyard is decorated with intricately carved walls. They allowed the women of the court to observe functions without being seen. You can admire such ornate walls in almost every palace of the Mughal era, such as the Amber Fort in Jaipur.

Another splendid building is the Flower Palace, so called because of the decorations of solid gold ceilings and stained glass windows. Before the advent of electricity, the latter created exciting plays of light. At dawn with the sun and in the evening by candlelight.

Finally, inside the Mehrangarh Fort, a museum displays traditional clothing. In these rooms, you can discover how the men of the royal family wore full-length suits, as did the children, while the women had an outfit consisting of a blouse, wide skirt and shawl.

Forte Mehrangarh
Fort Rd, Sodagaran Mohalla
Jodhpur, Rajasthan 342001, India

Detail of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur
Detail of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur

Jaswant Thada: the royal cenotaph of Jodhpur

Considered to be outside the material world, the Jaswant Thada was the crematorium of the royal family of Jodhpur, the place to cremate the royal dead. In India, there are no cemeteries. The tradition is to cremate the bodies of the deceased and scatter the ashes in the Ganges, so most crematoriums stand along the banks of rivers. 

Despite the general rule, the Jaswant Thada also had the function of remembering deceased kings as a cenotaph. For ordinary people, once the funeral is over and the ashes are scattered, nothing remains. That is because, in Hindu culture, nothing is permanent. However, for kings, the rule was different. In fact, part of the deceased’s ashes were kept in the cenotaph of the royal family in Jodhpur, while the rest were scattered in the Ganges like commoners.

Jaswant Thada
Lawaran, Jodhpur, Rajasthan 342001, India

Jaswant Thada, the royal cenotaph of Jodhpur
Jaswant Thada, the royal cenotaph of Jodhpur

Mandore Garden: a small Indian Angkor Wat

Located about nine kilometres north of Jodhpur, Mandore is the old capital of Marwar. It is an architectural jewel not mentioned in the most famous tourist guidebooks. We discovered it thanks to the local guide who led our group to discover Rajasthan.

Paola Bertoni inside a temple in Jodhpur's Mandore Garden
Inside a temple in Jodhpur’s Mandore Garden

The legend tells that the city was Princess Mandora’s dowry for her marriage with the demon King Ravana of Sri Lanka. Until the 18th century, the site served as a cenotaph for the noble families of Mandore. The decoration of the temples is a fusion of various Hindu architectural styles. It has a peculiar style because it is free of the Islamic influences of the Mughal dynasties you can see in neighbouring cities. Sculptures of elephants and other typically Hindu motifs stand out.

Probably one of the most beautiful destinations in this part of India, Mandore resembles a small Angkor Wat. In fact, it has countless finely carved red sandstone temples. In contrast to other places I visited on my Rajasthan trip, Mandore is still little known. Here, you can enjoy an authentic experience far from the crowds of hit-and-run tourists.

Mandore Garden
Mandore, Jodhpur, Rajasthan 342007

Mandore Garden in Jodhpur
The Mandore Garden in Jodhpur

Bishnoi village and demonstrations of local handicrafts

Unlike Mandore, the Bishnoi Village seems to have become a tourist destination. It presents itself as one of the main attractions in Jodhpur. The Bishnoi community gained notoriety through the sacrifice of a local woman who gave her life to defend trees threatened by the local government.

The Bishnoi, devout followers of Vishnu, are distinguished above all by their strong concern for the environment. The protests resulting from the woman’s death led to a further 360 local victims, but also to the institution of a hunting ban in Bishnoi territory and marked environmental protection.

However, the village now seems to have become exclusively a tourist destination, with jeep excursions on asphalt roads leading visitors to discover the ‘daily life’ of the community in a decidedly more stagey than authentic atmosphere.

Nevertheless, we had the opportunity to witness the production of the renowned Bishnoi carpets, an art handed down from generation to generation. These carpets, known for their double-face knot weaving and use of natural colours, are produced today by families grouped in cooperatives who keep this precious local tradition alive.

Bishnoi Village Safari Jodhpur
odhpur Gosala Road , Kumharon Ki Dhani
Nandwan Village, Jodhpur, Rajasthan 342804, India

Explanation on how to wear a turban in Jodhpur's Bishnoi Village
Explanation on how to wear a turban in Jodhpur’s Bishnoi Village

How to explore Jodhpur and its surroundings: on foot, tuk tuk or car

Although the historic centre of the Blue City is relatively small, it enjoys a minor tourist presence. Our guide, for example, despite his long experience, had ventured into the old town for the first time with our group. Tourists usually prefer to admire it from above, avoiding contact with the authentic, often dirty, India.

However, moving by tuk-tuk from the market in Jodhpur and exploring the old town on foot was a memorable and safe adventure, albeit off the beaten track. If you are looking for a more authentic India, don’t hesitate to have your guide accompany you through the intricate alleys of the Blue City.

Most tourist attractions in Jodhpur, such as the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort and the impressive Jaswant Thada, are outside the city. Guided tours, taxis or car rentals with drivers are all excellent options for reaching destinations outside the city. The best way to appreciate the various sites is to choose a guided tour with an experienced guide who can show you the unique features of Jodhpur’s attractions.

Paola Bertoni aboard a tuk-tuk with my fellow bloggers of Travel Blogger Italiane community to explore the Blue City of Jodhpur
Aboard a tuk-tuk with my fellow bloggers of Travel Blogger Italiane community to explore the Blue City of Jodhpur

Shopping in Jodhpur: where to buy Indian handicrafts and surplus European designer labels

Like all Indian cities, Jodhpur has a lively market. However, the best place for shopping is the Maharani Art Exporters shop, a pawn shop for art objects and a textile production outlet. In this shop, you will find art objects and high-fashion clothing at incredibly affordable prices, with fabrics from renowned European labels such as Etro, Loro Piana, and Brunello Cucinelli, all at a fraction of European prices.

The Indian handicrafts area of the Maharani Art Exporters shop in Jodhpur
The Indian handicrafts area of the Maharani Art Exporters shop in Jodhpur

Among the customers of Maharani Art Exporters is the American architect Frank Gehry, who, according to our guide, bought Indian furniture and handicrafts here to furnish a palace in Florence. In addition to furniture and designer fabrics, you can find traditional Indian fabrics and block-printed jackets in vegetable colours or woven by the metre, cashmere and alpaca bedspreads and blankets, made in India but curiously branded Made in Italy for Italian design.

Maharani Art Exporters have fixed prices. Unlike the markets in Jodhpur, you cannot haggle, but they are incredibly affordable. For example, during my visit, designer cashmere scarves cost around €20, and Indian cotton tunics just €10. This shop is also the right place to try and possibly buy finely decorated and embroidered traditional Indian wedding dresses.

Maharani Art Exporters
Dabgaron Ki Gali, Tambaku Bazar
Rawaton Ka Bass, Jodhpur, Rajasthan 342001, India

Paola Bertoni choosing cashmere scarves at the Maharani Art Exporters shop in Jodhpur
Choosing cashmere scarves at the Maharani Art Exporters shop in Jodhpur

Where to stay in Jodhpur: recommended hotels

Jodhpur, the Blue City of Rajasthan, offers a wide choice of accommodation, including beautiful historical palaces. You can sleep in finely restored haveli, oases of comfort and luxury with atmospheres that tell the city’s history. Among these, I recommend the Devi Bhawan – A Heritage Hotel housed in an 11th-century mansion. It has rooms with period furniture, an outdoor pool and views of the lush garden vegetation.

Another architectural gem is the Krishna Prakash Heritage Haveli, where guests can immerse themselves in the traditions of Rajasthan. Here, you can sleep in air-conditioned rooms with period furniture and royal family portraits and enjoy an indoor swimming pool and a top-floor restaurant. Finally, The Rohet House, also with an outdoor pool, features a rooftop terrace with views of Jodhpur and a restaurant specialising in local and international dishes.

An elephant strolling through the historic centre of Jodhpur
An elephant strolling through the historic centre of Jodhpur

Jodhpur, the Blue City of Rajasthan, enchants with its historic palaces, vibrant colours and compelling traditions. From the imposing Mehrangarh Fort to the tranquillity of the Jaswant Thada, every corner tells the rich history of this destination. Write to me in the comments about your experience in Jodhpur or if this article has inspired you to visit on your next trip.

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