Thursday, 4 September 2008

3 - 4 September 2008: Jodhpur

The scenery between Udaipur and Jodhpur was stunning. As we got closer to the desert, the landscape changed from green corn fields to increasingly arid plains with occasional smooth rocky outcrops. From time to time the bus swerved to avoid herds of sheep and goats. On the bus we met Neve and Chris who had also been sold seats 17 and 18. They were great fun, and we ended up going for dinner with them in the evening.

Jodhpur is a typical chaotic Indian city. We came here to visit the invincible Mehrangarh Fort that towers over the Blue City. We entered the fort through the Lohapol (Iron) Gate and were immediately surrounded by a large group of locals. It was refreshing to see more women around. They too were shaking our hands.

The courtyards and palaces inside the fort were detailed and stylish with none of the colour clashes seen in other forts. We were won over by the appeal of this towering red sandstone structure. On the ramparts, we met two really lovely girls who were very excited about making our acquaintance. As we took the camera out, a very pushy man with his wife tried to elbow their way into the picture – uninvited!

The audio guide to the fort pointed out lots of interesting facts. For example, the main gate was built at right angles to the approach road. This prevented elephants from building up enough speed to ram the gates. The gates were also studded with sharp spearheads, set at the height of an elephant head. Further along, the wall of the gate was adorned with red hand prints. When the Maharaja died, his wife would leave her hand print here and exit the fort for the last time. She would then join her husband on the funeral pyre, burning alive in the flames.

The ten-minute promotional video for the current Maharaja was also excellent. It gave a great insight into what a family does once it no longer has its traditional political role. After becoming 'common people' in 1971, they have enjoyed polo games, driving vintage sports cars and eating silver service dinners in their new palace (which bizarrely reminded us of a communist party headquarters). Favourite one-liners from the video came from the Maharaja's Oxford educated son: 'My father is my idol' and 'Although I have never lived there, Mehrangarh is in my blood'.

We also made a quick stop at Jaswant Thada, a white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh. We had a welcome rest from the crowds and the heat in this peaceful and shady oasis. Andy said he felt like a fried egg in the +40ÂșC heat.

On a final point, Jodhpur is indeed home to those famous riding trousers.


Anonymous said...

When are we going to see some pictures of elephants?

Jack, David, Michelle, Max and Helen

David said...

All those nice sunny pictures. It is very grey and damp here in the UK.