India:
the blue back alleys of Jodhpur


What? 
The winding back alleys of the Old Town of Jodhpur

Why visit? 

The Blue City is simply ridiculously photogenic. A cityscape in various shades of blue, inhabited by women in pink saris and scarfs. No other city in India can match it in terms of architectural unity and beauty. Given how preposterously picturesque the Blue City is, it's hard to return without a camera (or smartphone, for the casual photographer) full of stunning pictures. 

Where? 

Situated below the mighty Menargarh Fort, Jodhpur Old Town stretches out across a large area. Most visitors, as well as Jodhpur's persistent touts, congregate around the Clock Tower and surrounding markets. A little further to the west lies Navchokiya, a part of the Old Town that will mesmerize you with its blue houses and their details, but without the touts or the tourists.  (Map) Although you've left the touts behind now, you still need to keep an eye out for roaming cows and racing rickshaws! 

JODHPUR'S HISTORY GOES back 500 years when it was founded by the princely clan that controlled this area (cheerfully known as Marwar, Land of Dead- not to be confused with Tolkien's Mordor), and who settled in what became the mighty Menargarh Fort. Of course, princes can live in forts but regular people need houses too, so at the base of the fort grew a town of flat-roofed desert houses. 

Mighty Menargarh Fort towers over the Old Town of Jodhpur...
...and the Blue City stretches out at its feet
A wall was built around this old city and stands till today. Nowhere else in India will you find such a large, preserved, (and beautiful) old town. Delhi has an old town but much of it is cramped and ugly. Udaipur has fantastic palaces but there is not much sense of an urban core. Jodhpur offers a walled old city with an architectural unity that is unique. Here for once you can imagine yourself in an India of several 100 years ago- if only you'd manage to block out the sounds of screeching rickshaws and honking motorbikes! 

The other thing that sets Jodhpur's old town apart is its colour. Much of it is blue. Various explanations are available- either the colour blue denoted Brahmins, or perhaps, more prosaically, the blue colour was caused by materials that repelled insects.  Whatever the reason, the result is a mystical maze, full of blue buildings and delicate details.


As if various shades of blue weren't enough to get your attention, many of the houses are built in traditional styles with details that scream 'India'. Traditional Rajasthani arches, niches with painted Hindu gods, and delicate carved screens to keep the sun (and the wandering gaze of curious passers-by) out.  

Plaster work and carvings galore- all in blue of course.
Some of these houses are humble abodes, others are havelis and palaces were Jodhpur's 1% used to live (these days, the 1% is likely to have moved out to the suburbs).
Some of the 99%.
Many of the buildings still function as shops and temples, and can be visited. Step inside, taking of your shoes when required, and look at their interiors, which are often as interesting (and blue) as the outside. 
Many houses are blue on the inside as well!
Early morning is laundry time- water is often only available for a few hours in the morning. 
In the scorching summer, people sleep on the roofs as it is too warm inside.
Getting there:
Getting around the Old Town and to Navchokiya can be a little tricky. It's best to get a rickshaw to drop you in the general area. Singhvi's Haveli is a good landmark to aim for (as well as an acceptable place to stay). 

Once here, just start wandering. If you're already at the fort, descend through the Western gate (from the main entrance, walk towards and then past the Chokelao Garden) and you quickly leave the tourist madness behind. 

Useful links:
Wikipedia Entry on Jodhpur (including a list of shopping malls and fast food chains- woohoo!)



2 comments:

Have you been here? Or are you planning to go? Either way, we would love to hear about it.

 

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