29 Nov 2013

Touring Rajasthan From Jodhpur To Jaipur


On day five of our tour we headed to Jodhpur 'The Blue City' and our home for the evening was the Mandore Guest House, we had a spacious, modern style hut in their twinkly fairy-lit garden. After an early breakfast we headed to the huge Jodhpur Fort which towers over the city below - this place is massive, and once inside it offered an amazing view over old blue part of the city. The rumour is that the Brahmins (India's top caste below royalty ie. priests) painted their houses blue to signify their dominance and deter robbers - of course, once the rest of the town learnt what was happening they also painted their houses blue!

Jodhpur India's Blue City
Jodhpur - The Blue City
Jodhpur fort

Inside the original main gate there are a set of women's handprints which are a shrine to the wives of Jodhpur's Maharajas. The recently widowed Queen(s) were required to perform the Hindu act of Sati (Suttee), they would join their husbands funeral procession in their wedding dress and then immolate themselves onto his funeral pyre i.e. walk into the flames, take a seat and be burned alive next to their dead husband. Unbelievably the last recorded case in Jodhpur was in 1953 and the act was only officially condemned by the Indian Government in 1987. 

Womens handprints at Jodhpur fort

Life inside a palace was segregated, many latticed windows allowed ladies to see out but nobody could see in and the courtyards for the Queen, Princesses and concubines were guarded by the most trusted male servants, usually eunuchs so that no desire or lust would fall upon them. In one of the main 'business' rooms where the Maharaja would meet with his key people there are small balconies where his wife could hide and be a secret pair of ears for him. Another interesting feature we noticed was the addition of a new gate to celebrate a victory or in our more pragmatic opinion, enhance defences against the next attack.

jodhpur fort

Honestly, we didn't spend any time in the city of Jodhpur itself so no idea what it's actually like but, we can confirm that this is the place where horse riding Jodhpurs get their name although we have no idea why. After marvelling at the fort we headed south for Udaipur and enjoyed a welcome sightseeing pitstop at the incredibly beautiful Ranakpur Jain Temple - it's made entirely from light coloured marble and has 1,444 uniquely carved pillars inside.

Ranakpur Jain Temple

Poor Steve didn't get to go inside though as he didn't fancy leaving our Mac with security, oh well, at least he got to wear some rented trousers at a rate of 20 rupees for 20 minutes.

Inside Ranakpur Temple
For Steve xx
We spent a couple of nights in Udaipur - also known as 'The White City' and had high expectations as our *cough* ten year old guide book described it as a romantic, fairy-tale kind of place. Sadly for us it wasn't, it's dirty, noisy and the shops, havelis and restaurants were rundown -a typical Indian city yes, but for some reason we just didn't gel with it. The palace is pretty but having seen the beautifully preserved Bikaner it was pretty disappointing for us. The lake is full of rubbish and it feel strange to see locals bathing and doing laundry on the ghats less than 50m from the famous 5 star lake palace hotel. Definitely missable for us.

The holy city of Pushkar was next on our itinerary and we spent a couple of hours lakeside in the busy town. There are plenty of choice for cafes, shopping and street food - delicious samosas! Unfortunately for us it was election rally day so traffic was nuts and swarms of flag waving bikers had taken over the narrow streets. We retreated back to The Orchard Hotel for some glamping and croquet on the lawn - very British! We had a huge luxury tent for the night which had a double bed with electric blanket, seating area, dressing area and permanent bathroom - it was brilliant, for the turndown service they even burned eucalyptus and lemon oil. We had such a good nights sleep! In the evening we ate from the barbecue by a toasty campfire - no meat on this grill though Pushkar is a vegetarian city. 

Jantur Mantur Jaipur
So many sundials at Jantar Mantar.


Jaipur 'The Pink City' is the capital of Rajasthan so it's an intense kind of place but not actually very pink, we had a couple of nights here and on the Sunday it was election day so all the sights and monuments were closed - this meant we had to cram all of our sightseeing into one afternoon. Our travel agent organised a guide to show us the key sights as efficiently as possible. First up we visited the fascinating Jantar Mantar astronomy park, it's crazy to think it was built in 1734 and is home to the world's biggest sundial a whopping 27m tall and tells the time within two seconds accuracy. The park's instruments are still used by astronomers today to identify auspicious dates and teach students. A very cool place but far too complex for us to recite much more here.

Worlds biggest sundial Jantar Mantar
Can you tell what time it was when we visited?


We also visited the palace and Amber Fort - the fifth fort on our tour so we were a bit jaded - this one was definitely the busiest as its on the popular golden triangle route, the standout features are the stunning mirrored summer bedroom and you can ride an elephant up to the gate if you want. We learnt that the Maharaja at Amber Fort had 14 wives, they all had their own apartment in the palace with a shared courtyard and they were all very happy with no jealousy. We also learnt to love the Rajasthani's knack for storytelling whether it be a local or an audio guide. Rajasthan's history and culture are fascinating, the architecture stunning and we really enjoyed our tour - after 11 days on the road we were pretty exhausted and couldn't wait to get to our final destination - the mighty Taj Mahal!

PS. Facts may not be 100% accurate.

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