Jodhpur is the penultimate city on my Grand Tour of the Port and Princely Cities of the Subcontinent. It is the capital of the Kingdom of Marwar, an ancient territory ruled by Maharajas with an ancient lineage dating back at least till the 13th century, if not further.
Jodhpur itself was founded in the mid 1400s by Rajput chief, Rao Jodha (hence the name Jodh-pur) of the Rathore Clan. The old city of Jodhpur is known as the blue city, on account of many of the city’s facades being painted blue. It is probably the best known fact of the city, and certainly one of its oft-photographed views.
One has a magnificent view of the blue city from the stupendous Mehrangarh Fort, built in 1459 by Rao Jodha. The fortified palace perches impossibly and imposingly at the top of a hill, and is visible from everywhere in Jodhpur. It is the archetypical Indian Fort Palace, and is the most iconic landmark of the city.
It was once the residence of the Kings of Jodhpur, though today the royal family resides in yet another monumental, fairytale-like palace – the Umaid Bhawan Palace, built between 1928 and 1943 in a style that combined ancient Hindu principles with Art Deco.
Some say it resembles the Taj Mahal in form and scale. Though with its emphasis on Hindu cosmology in its design, it probably best takes after the ancient Temple of Angkor (Angkor Wat). Certainly, upon approaching it from a distance, that is the impression it gives the visitor.
Though still a private royal residence, part of the Palace is today opened up as a heritage hotel, and a stay in this hotel is perhaps one of the most magical experiences a Grand Tourist could have. I would have to say that in my entire Grand Tour of the East (all 40-odd cities I’ve been to and hotels I’ve stayed at), the Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace was hands-down, the Grandest of all the Grand Hotels I had the chance to stay at.
And then there is the Jaswant Thada, the royal cenotaph and crematorium built in 1899 by the Maharaja Sardar Singh in memory of his father Jaswant Singh II. Built entirely out of white marble, it gleams atop its hilltop location and can be taken in en route to the Mehrangarh Fort.
The architecture is purely Indian-Rajput, with the main memorial built in the shape of a Hindu Temple, and the grounds surrounded by exquisitely carved marble pavilions with peacock arches. These grounds provide yet another epic vantage point from which to admire the Mehrangarh Fort and the Old City.