A palace that might have been built by Titans and colored by the morning sun.”
– Rudyard Kipling
I came by night through the teeming bazaar, so I didn’t see the azure city until the following morning. The fort I glimpsed only from a distance — as the train I rode chugged into town under the deepening cover of dusk. So it wasn’t until morning, as I ducked out of the dodgy hotel I’d booked and searched for more comfortable lodging, that I experienced the enchanting blue city of Jodhpur.
As locations go, I’d picked a poor one initially: right in the middle of the market area, which is busy and swarming with people nearly 24 hours a day. After a sleepless night, I made my way through the narrow streets off the main road and found a place I’d heard of: Singhvi’s Haveli. A well-intentioned period of loitering out front assured me of the tranquility of the place, and I stepped inside to book a room.
The only one available that night was well outside my price range, but a room available the following night was well within my budget — the average of the two prices let me splurge a bit. The staff member walked me up several steep flights of stairs leading up through the bones of the 400 year old mansion. We emerged onto a rooftop terrace and he showed me to my room. I looked it over — it was by far the nicest place I had stayed in India — and stepped out, only to stare in awe at the view.
Blue-tinted houses spread in all directions, rising and falling with the curvature of the city and intermixed with the drab colors of non-conformist dwellings. Behind it all, rising like a craggy giant with blue barnacles encrusting its flanks, rose Mehrangarh Fort.
Ramparts loomed from the slopes of the hill, a seemingly organic extension of the land itself. Overhangs decorated by intricate carvings and windows opened up over the drop of the inner wall, and a white temple glittered on a corner of the fort. It was, in every sense of the word, magnificent.
PRO TIP: If you stay at Singhvi’s Haveli, try the Singhvi’s Special. You’re welcome!
Still, through sheer force of will, I escaped the hypnotic draw of my quarters and ventured back out into the twisting, timeless streets. Were it not for the motorcycles parked along the walls or the occasional person talking on a cell phone (or the power lines, for that matter), I would’ve thought I’d fallen into the past.
Blue-washed homes were packed together, fused with the structures on either side to form a continuous, crumbling flow of architecture. Small archways led into courtyards lush with plants, the glittering of decorated shrines catching the eye as I walked past. Children laughed and scampered through the streets, calling out to me even as they ran away. Laundry hung limply from lines, splashes of red and yellow speckling the tidal wave of blue as dogs panted or just plain passed out in the shade.
The fort was ever-present, though at times it was hidden behind the crowding press of the homes around me. When I found the back entrance to the fort, I didn’t hesitate before walking inside. The cobblestoned path snaked up the side of the hill, surrounded on either side by towering walls over 30 meters high. Several massive wooden doors were propped open, the vicious spikes on their outer faces a chilling reminder of the true purpose of that place. Mehrangarh was a place designed to make waves of enemies break and perish upon its walls and the spears of its defenders.
Near the top, I found a small opening and peeked out, finding myself near the top of the lower wall and gazing over a beautiful patch of the blue city of Jodhpur. It contrasted with the reddish tint of the walls, the coolness of the sea next to the fiery heat of the desert.
The Fort itself is free to visit; you can climb up and get some great vantage points over the city, as well as visit the temple I mentioned previously. But if you want to see the heart of it — which includes three palaces: Pearl Palace, Flower Palace, and Mirror Palace — you need to pony up and pay the Piper. The museum houses a variety of artifacts from Jodhpur’s past, and it’s well worth a visit. A few highlights include the throne room, a variety of elephant howdahs, and some of the viewpoints from sheltered alcoves on the palace walls.
The short walk back to my haveli passed quickly, and I soon found myself perched on the rooftop watching the fiery orb of the sun sink behind the hills as I waited for my dinner to come.
The blues of the city faded to charmless hues of gray as day turned to night, but the darkness held its own reward. Behind me, overlooking the formerly blue city of Jodhpur, rose Mehrangarh Fort. It was lit up by floodlights from below, the effect an eerie one as it loomed over the slumbering city. Waiting. Vigilant. Timeless.
What’s one of the most atmospheric places you’ve visited? What made it so special? Share your experiences in the comments below!
Want to stay in the same spot as me when you visit Jodhpur? You can book accommodation at Singvhi’s Haveli using THIS LINK, and I’ll receive a commission. Thanks!