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Sunday, April 05, 2015

Rajasthan 2015 - Feb 9th - Day 6: Jodhpur sight-seeing and onward to Jaisalmer

Jodhpur is a small city, but it is, nevertheless, remarkable for several reasons. For one, it is a city with a rich historical background. Founded by Rao Jodha in mid-15th century, today, it is the second largest city in Rajasthan. Located nearly centrally within the state, it serves as a major pivot point for tourists traversing the culturally rich state. In the past, it was a prominent city linking Delhi and northern India to Gujarat and Western India. 

We began our sight-seeing by first visiting the Umaid Bhavan Palace. This is the current residence of the Prince of Jodhpur, and also serves as a five-star hotel run by the Taj group. Tourists who visit the UB Palace are shown around the well-maintained manicured lawns, a museum consisting of five major viewing rooms and then directed to a row of glass-cabin protected vintage cars owned by the royal family. If a visitor wishes to visit the hotel, they either have to be a guest of the hotel, or pay a hefty entrance fee. We, of course, chose to just view the museum and the other open places. The museum's main highlight was the elaborate clock collection of one of the previous kings. Other highlights were crockery, well-decorated "living" and "dining" rooms of the kings, some ornate furniture and some rather priceless paintings and sculptures. On the whole, though, it is the majesty of the entire structure that enthralls the visitor more than the stuff that is displayed within. The UB Palace, when viewed from the ramparts of the Mehrangarh fort looks much like a different-coloured Taj Mahal-like edifice, something the guides are proud to inform you about. Here are a few pictures of the UB Palace.

The current king of Jodhpur - Gaj Singh II

The Umaid Bhavan Palace

This and the next few are photos of some of the stuff displayed





After this, we moved on to Mehrangarh Fort. It is a huge fort that towers over all Jodhpur! As we neared it, it seemed to grow bigger and bigger in size, till it filled our field of vision almost completely! The fort entrance is an expensive affair, as they charge heavily even for still cameras. Inside, though, you realise that the price is well-worth it, as the fort and its various buildings are full of wonders that need to be captured in your camera for posterity.

The fort has 7 gates. Two of these are motorable; one is the Jay Pol and the other, on the back side, is the Fateh Pol. We enter via the Jay Pol, then go past a large ascending ramp with houses on both sides; soon, we are in a large open courtyard, from where we hire a guide, and he takes us on an unforgettable tour. We first saw the Howdah gallery, a collection of seats that are placed atop an elephant to carry the king and his aide; next, the Palkhi gallery where the main attraction was the Mahadol, the large King's palkhi that the erstwhile king acquired in a battle victory; next, the Daulat Khana with a veritable collection of garments, jewellery, miniature paintings, idols of gods and goddesses, ornate stuff that is used in normal living, silverware, a turban gallery, a shastra khana (armoury), and so on. Then, we were brought into a second courtyard, which was the one that lay under richly carved rooms above us, and this was the ladies' area or the zenana mahal. The entire palace here is carved from orange jodhpur stone, and looks simply marvellous. The tiny jharokhas that overlook the courtyard each look different from the other and the net result is a sensational area for tourists.

After this, we were taken to see the Sheesh Mahal, the Takhat Mahal, the Jhanki Mahal (this one had a very interesting collection of baby cribs and jhoolas for children), and many others that I cannot remember. When we finally stumbled out of the fort, it was past afternoon, and we were tired beyond comprehension. Some pictures of the fort:





A beautifully cast iron spiral staircase, not in use now


Displays in Shastra Mahal (the next one as well)



Detail of the Zenana building

A metal-cast model of the Fort
This is a howdah (as are the next two)




One of the ornate palkhis

The Mahadol


Takht (seat) Palace
From here, we continued our sight-seeing to visit a royal cemetery set up by Maharaja Jaswant Singh in the early 18th century: The Jaswant Thada. This is a lovely marble edifice with multiple external cenotaphs or "chhatris" where previous members of the royal families have been put to the pyre after death. Known by some locals as the equivalent of the Taj Mahal, the structure, they say, must be seen in the moon-light. Situated just a few kilometers from the fort, Jaswant Thada offers spectacular views of the edifice itself as also the artificial lake around it. Some pictures follow:









From here, we went to the city's Sardar Market where we visited the Ghanta Ghar or the Clock Tower. Apart from the structure itself, there was nothing much to see. We spent just a few minutes here before it was time to move on to our next destination: Jaisalmer. 

From Jodhpur to Jaisalmer is a long drive, and we stopped at a few places for tea and snacks. Other than that, nothing exciting happened. We arrived at our hotel, the Golden Palace Hotel at about 7 p.m.. More on this in my next post.

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