Inspite of hailing from Rajasthan, I had never been to Jodhpur. I guess it was a combination of Jodhpur being too close to Jaipur; the usual hot weather and the fact that I could visit it whenever I wanted! These factors usually ensure we take our own state for granted and hardly explore the nearby destinations. In this manner, my first visit to Jodhpur could only materialise in November 2016.
I took a train that left from Jaipur at 11 pm and reached Jodhpur Junction at 5 am. The month of November meant nice weather, and there was a nice chill in the air. As I had guessed, auto guys at Jodhpur station asked for astronomical prices for going to the old city. We decide to walk out of the station to reach the road and come across a tea stall. The tea stall guy is up and running and seems quite popular judging by the small crowd already gathered for their morning fix of chai.
He gives us masala chai in 2 tall glasses and it turns out to be excellent. We debate about having seconds but decide that 1 big glass was good enough! For a change, I have booked a guest house in Jodhpur in advance and the distance for the same is shown as 3-4 kms from the railway station. When an auto guy decides to charge us 60 Rupees, we agree and in no time enter the old city that is just rising up at about 615 am. Thankfully, we have already asked the guest house guy for an early check-in and he has obliged.
The walls of the guest house are painted blue and the family is awake even though it is very early. We are asked to wait for some time. It is the blue hour and Mehrangarh Fort is visible – lit in a brilliant orange light. At the guest house, there is a soft blue light everywhere. There is a gorgeous sitting space that serves as a restaurant / breakfast space and it comes with a view of the Mehrangarh Fort. It feels like ‘love at first sight’ in Jodhpur and our choice of accommodation in the old city feels perfect.
It is a multi-storey building built as a home that has been converted into a guest house. The family also lives in a part of the structure. Every room is different with unique decor, sit-outs etc. We sleep in the cosy bed for 2-3 hours and then decide to freshen up and step out to explore Jodhpur. First, we ask for 2 cups of chai and savour the moment to gaze at the Mehrangarh Fort from the sitting area.
I am wonderstruck with the intensity of the heat of the sun in Jodhpur. We are feeling hungry but have to be careful of the sultry and hot desert-like weather even though it is early November. We come across the owner of the guest house and ask him if he has any recommendations on where we should eat a proper lunch since it is already close to 12 noon. His family and relatives also run other places in the old city of Jodhpur and he directs us to one of the rooftop places for lunch.
We start walking through the narrow, crowded and winding lanes in the old city of Jodhpur and reach one Haveli restaurant. It is an open terrace with bougainvillea blooming in red, pink and yellow and is very beautiful. There is a nice view of the old city from the terrace and we can see the blue houses of Jodhpur while Mehrangarh Fort stands tall and towers over this ancient city.
The thali is huge and we order 1 thali to split it among the 2 of us! It is sizeable and costs 300 INR. We ask for a few extra chapatis and finish the entire thali. Every dish is yummy and we can’t help but wonder how amazing travel in India is as we are the only guests in the restaurant and yet have been served 10 perfect and freshly made dishes!
On our way back from the terrace we notice that the interior dining hall of the Haveli restaurant is very nice and that there is an artistic glass temple too in the property itself. We thank the staff for an excellent lunch and head to the Sardar Market.
At around 1 pm, we are in front of the Clock Tower which is the centre of the Bazaar in Jodhpur. We buy a 10 Rupee ticket to enter the clock tower and climb the stairs to reach the top floor. It is fun to see the functioning of the the clock. It is an old clock with an automatic gong sounding system every 1 hour. We spot a few pretty cafés in the market; some of them are set in red sandstone buildings and appear especially cute and rustic.
It is quite hot in the sun with the dry heat but is nice and pleasant in the shaded part. We go walking through the bazaar; and notice old shops, antique windows, colourful patchwork bags, miniature furniture drawers, dresses, jackets etc. Most of the shops are home run and perhaps thats why the prices are reasonable. The doors in old Jodhpur are very pretty and we are pleasantly surprised to come across a stepwell Toorji Ka Jhalra. It is fascinating to come across a small café with a view of the stepwell.
There are more shops on the crossroads; one of them is selling traditional-looking colourful Rajasthani style bags. The area has an unmistakeable touristy feel but feels nice when it is the locals who benefit from the purchases! We stumble upon a walking path and it turns out to be a shortcut to go to Mehrangarh Fort. Wall hangings attract visitors to peruse the blue houses and there are block print products galore for sale.
The blue houses of Jodhpur look especially calming and feel cool in the shade. I come across a shop selling a wide variety of exquisite looking leather bags. I think about buying something but feel that the prices quoted are a bit too much and I am not certain about the quality of the bags although they seem very nicely made. We are on our way to Mehrangarh Fort and are pleasantly surprised to come across a few hostels in old buildings along the way! They are perfect for backpackers who choose to explore and prefer slow travel to save costs on accommodation for more immersive travel.
The per bed charge in hostels in Jodhpur is approx. 200-300 INR and these are usually air conditioned. I come across another leather shop that has leather footwear, leather hats, small pocket leather bags as well. One home has a stunning collection of kurtas and block print clothes hanging outside on a moving cart.
The art shops of Jodhpur have eye catching souvenirs; there are table lamps, metal pots, candle holders, windows, and other knick-knacks. We enter one of these extremely inviting shops and it turns out to be quite expensive as expected. There is antique stuff for sale from across India. Pretty doors of heritage value are also available for sale as we continue on the climbing path to the fort.
There are many guest houses and homestays and it seems like every household is catering to tourists. The proceedings are very quiet though as it is siesta time for locals in the hot afternoons!
Mehrangarh Fort is a massive structure and towers above the skyline of Jodhpur. There is a stunning cenotaph at the entrance before the actual fort. The entrance to the fort is grand with paintings in lovely colours. Even the ticket counter has a heritage feel. One guy plays a lovely song on the traditional Ravanhatta instrument under a tree – ‘Padharo mhare des.’ I record a short video and make small conversation with him and thank him for creating such mellifluous music.
We enter the grand fort. To the left are fingerprints of women – signifying Johar (mass self-immolation to save enslavement by the enemy). It is surreal to notice birds flying in the background of the blue sky. There are many enclosures in Mehrangarh Fort and stunning latticed windows and frames with loads of foreign tourists. I dare say Jodhpur might be one of the most popular places to visit in Rajasthan; even more so than Jaipur!
The window frames in the fort are very nice. The museum showcases a gallery of palanquins. I click a memorable frame with a Rajasthani guy sporting a huge moustache in window. There are pigeons on windows and latticed windows and art work with immaculate carvings on marble. I marvel at the surrounding buildings from the courtyard. We walk in a different area and come across even more prettier windows.
Inside the fort, there is Belgian glass over the doors. I am a bit disappointed to learn that photography is not allowed. On display is a grand collection of of hookahs, bidri ware and metal pots. The stairs look majestic and make for a great frame. There is a temple inside the fort and Belgian glass illuminated from the inside with beautiful colours. There are a number of dazzling sections, and golden light in different halls.
There are epic views of Jodhpur city from different parts of the fort. The fort is so huge that we keep seeing hitherto unseen sections even at 430 pm after having entered around 2 pm. At about 5 pm, we head to the temple in the fort. Magnificent evening colours and blue houses of Jodhpur are visible. It is an incredibly beautiful scene but we can’t stay here for very long. It is closing time for the fort and the authorities ask us to leave at 515 pm.
We walk out of Mehrangarh Fort with the blue houses visible. I am able to click a majestic sunset photograph. On the way out, there is a venue being decked up for some function. I wonder how would it feel to attend a musical evening with the stunning background of the fort! We concur that the day has gone well so far and the evening after-sunset colours are like icing on the cake. We walk through the by-lanes of Jodhpur and amble around the market.
We indulge in some textile shopping, eat the recommended local delicacies and go to our guest house. Mehrangarh Fort is lit and visible from our room itself! Demonetisation troubles mean we have to stand in a queue outside an ATM and are able to somehow withdraw 4000 Rupees. It is a crazy time for sure and we head to Indique Restaurant at Pal Haveli for dinner. It is an impeccable setting on the rooftop with an expansive view of the Mehrangarh Fort.
Indique is a fine dine restaurant and is one of the best places to eat in Jodhpur. I thought the prices were a bit on the higher side but it is still ok for the impeccable rooftop setting and the great food.
We sleep till late next morning and head out for breakfast of pyaaz kachori at one Solanki Shop, and have chai at another local recommendation.
Om Banna Temple
We make a quick decision to head to Om Banna Temple that is around 40 kms away from Jodhpur and lies on the road to Pali. We catch a bus and it drops us right in front of the Om Banna Temple after an hour or so.
The Om Banna Temple is also popularly known as the Bullet Baba Temple. There is a festive atmosphere at the temple and it is thronged by pilgrims. The temple has a fascinating story, where the locals worship the Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle in reverence of Om Singh Rathore, the rider of the bike. Local folklore turned legend has it – Om Banna met with an accident and died on the spot, but the motorcycle mysteriously kept appearing at a particular site that has now been turned into a temple. It is hugely surprising to see the locals offering alcohol – rum, whisky at the temple. It is a revered and very respected site with huge crowds singing Om Banna Aarti. We feel a bit hungry and spot 2-3 big dhabas and restaurants on the opposite side of Om Banna Temple on the highway. These eateries have a very commercial look so we decide to not eat here.
We want to head to Salawas (that is on the way back to Jodhpur) and are lucky to get a ride in a bus! While walking on the road, we come across hordes of trucks outside one dhaba. This dhaba is close to the diversion to Luni village. It is a proper rustic dhaba and we ask for whatever local and fresh stuff they can serve! It turns out to be an incredible meal. Bajra roti with ghee, bhindi in green gravy, dall with palak served with freshly cut onions and chillies. We have our fill and savour more bajra roti and they give us helpings of the bhindi and palak dal. We are charged a measly 80 Rupees per person and the food is served in steel plates. It turns out to be an epic local food experience that we have been seeking so desperately.
With the happiness that only comes on a full stomach, we start strolling around and come across home-run pottery shops. It is the Bishnoi area, known for Chinkara sightings etc. It reminded me of the Chinkara – Salman Khan episode. We talk to some passersby randomly and they invite us to a local’s home for an opium ceremony.
An old man is seated with a conical filter in front of him, he filters the opium with water in a small katori vessel and sings a ritualistic song as it is a tradition in these parts. We thank him for the wonderful song and for letting us be a part of the traditional ritual ceremony and pay 50 Rupees as a thank you note. I am especially pleased to see this ceremony by a Bishnoi local in the original manner without any outside influence. That is a common thing about offbeat experiences; once you get used to doing out-of-the-box things – these experiences automatically find you as you travel more!
Nearby there are a few shops that show us woollen blankets from Barmer. They look authentic and are woven from sheep wool; and are very nice and warm for only 500 Rupees for 2 blankets. We also come across a home based block print shop where they make bedsheets. I check double bedsheets and single bedsheets and notice that their designs are very unique. Pillow covers are included with some bedsheets. There is another place nearby giving demonstrations of block printing where the ladies of the house make the bedsheets.
We end up buying a single bedsheet in green colour with a pleasing design, block printed in pure cotton. As soon as we step out of that home, we come across a pottery place. We are pleasantly surprised to see the grand collection and the gentleman also brings some bedsheets. I buy a classic Rajasthani design double bed sheet with pillow covers. We are randomly walking after that and spot a chinkara or blackbuck far away in the open space across the road. We get excited and start walking in the direction not realising that it is not towards Jodhpur.
We come across some fields and realise it is on the way to one Gudha village. We are unable to spot any chinkara or other wildlife and decide to head back to Jodhpur since it will be evening soon. The road is very quiet and deserted. We see a grand sunset from the road and catch a bus to return to Jodhpur. On the outskirts, there are a number of dhabas serving dal baati churma and we debate whether we should have an early dinner! Instead we continue in the bus and reach the main market stop in Jodhpur.
Janta Sweets, Jodhpur
First stop after getting back to Jodhpur is to walk to Janta Sweets – Eat sweets, kachori etc. That is to be our dinner today. It is a hugely popular place and for good reason! Go back to the guest house after clicking some frames in the market. Pretty windows with old men sitting and observing the goings on. Relax with an amazing view of Mehrangarh Fort from the room.
Next morning, we head out for street food tasting in Jodhpur. It is widely believed among the locals that in entire Rajasthan, Jodhpur has the best food. Our breakfast is mawa kachori, tea, aloo bonda, mirchi vada, makhaniya lassi etc. Today I have a train to Jaisalmer in the night and my partner is returning to Delhi. So we go back to the hotel, have a bath and check out of the hotel and keep our bags there and tell the owner that we will pick them up in the evening.
Walk to Shahi Samosa diversion and come across horse drawn carriages ferrying the locals. He drops us somewhere from where we get a bus for Mandore. Mandore was the old capital of Jodhpur and we are happy to roam around the ancient temples.
Mandore is very pretty. There are blooming bougainvillea flowers amidst temples, frames, carvings, and incredibly beautiful doors. It is spread over a huge area and there are very few people in the complex. I spot some foreigners and local tourists too. The entry ticket to Mandore is quite cheap. It starts feeling a little hot around noon. We spend about 2 hours to explore the historic parts of Mandore and then head back to Jodhpur.
We directly head to Indique (at Pal Haveli) for a late lunch at about 4-5 pm. It turns out to be our only proper meal of the day so we sit on a table in the shade and eat in peace. We gaze at the Mehrangarh Fort, then go to Jaswant Thada and then walk in the by-lanes as a sort of goodbye walk in Jodhpur.
Constructed in white marble, Jaswant Thada is a majestic structure located at a distance of about 2-3 kms from the Mehrangarh fort and kept spotlessly clean for added charm of the marble. It is a cenotaph that was built in memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur. The entrance has marvellous green doors on the side of the stairs while lots of tourists flock around the Jaswant Thada Complex. At the entrance there is also a signboard for Rao Jodha Desert National Park. There are many big and small chattris (cenotaphs) at Jaswant Thada with pretty small doors and windows and they look especially pleasing in the mellow evening light.
The surreal sounds of a Rajasthani folk song and harmonium come ringing in my ears. We sit and marvel at the architecture and listen to the music. Inside Jaswant Thada it feels nice and cool with the marble structure. Spend some time and start walking back at about 515 pm.
Among the many recommendations I received for food in Jodhpur :
– Shahi chakki, gulab jamun vegetable, kabuli and haldi matter, besan gatta, lehsun ki chutney and mirchi ka kut.
– Pokhar Sweet Home – Small shop at Sanichar ji ka Than, Chopasani Road Sardarpura.
– Choudhary Namkeen
– Chaturbhuj Rameshchand
– Mohanji Mithaiwala
– Janta Sweet Home
It was 2019 and time to return to Jodhpur for a road-trip.
Fort Chanwa Luni
Road trip from Jaipur, took the Dechu road and passed the sand dunes. We chose Fort Chanwa for a relaxing stay located around 40 kms away from Jodhpur. It is a beautiful heritage property set in a small village and spread across a huge area with multiple open gardens. It is a refurbished heritage fort with four poster beds in the rooms. There are massive sit outs in the garden with a nice view of the evening colours in the sky. Evening lights, miniature painting guy at the fort itself. We climb the roof and enjoy the sunset views from the top of the fort. Decide to go to Indique for dinner since the family hasn’t been there earlier. The clock tower is lit up in a pink colour. Indique is quite crowded! Thankfully we had booked a table earlier.
Pretty morning at Fort Chanwa. Gorgeous flowers spread across the fort and the frames are surreal with the sunlight filtering through. Helpful and cheerful staff helps us to click photographs! Breakfast served in open lawn – surreal setting with a view of the fort. Excellent – everything is freshly made and customised according to requirement. Some of the sit-outs in the fort are simply unbelievable. In one section, the guest rooms are with sofa, old haveli style with marble flooring and Belgian glass windows with light filtering through. It feels incredibly pretty!
Head to Salawas and come across block printed dupattas. End up buying 2 bedsheets and the quality turns out to be excellent.
On our way back from Jaisalmer, even though it is evening time and we are not particularly hungry we still decide to head to Indique for a beer. It is an amazing sight to see the evening colours with the frame of Mehrangarh Fort! Love it.
Jodhpur Sardar Bazaar – Tea Shop Kullad chai. Sitting on a bench and watching the world go buy. Close to Pal Haveli. Excellent Kulhad chai and the perfect place to enjoy the old market of Jodhpur.
We come across one Stepwell Café on an evening walk and notice boutique stores in a building as a part of the JDH project – Jodhpur Heritage Development – Heritage, shops etc