Lying on the eastern border of the Thar Desert, Jodhpur is indeed incredibly blue. Spread at the base of the mighty Mehrangarh Fort like a graceful pleated skirt, the old city is a jumble of blue cubed houses which stretch as far the 16th-century city wall. The blue had originally denoted a high-caste Brahmin residence and the indigo to lime-based whitewash had helped keep bugs at bay. This along with their cooling property in summer had resulted in its popularity and with the time, the old city had turned brilliantly blue. Once the most important town of Marwar, the largest princely state in Rajputana, Jodhpur of today has spread beyond its blue periphery and the city has become an important tourism hub. The old city, however continues to be the center of attraction and it is teeming with touts, hawkers and just about everybody trying to sell something. The effect can be annoying and stressful, but getting lost in the blue maze of the old city is equally enchanting. The whole area complete with Muslim tie-dyers, puppet-makers and traditional spice markets are breathtakingly exotic and then there are the famed views of Jodhpur’s blue roofscape from the Mehrangarh Fort, which make it a photographer’s dream. I had visited Jodhpur on day trips from a nearby Salawas village and thus had escaped its touristy hustle. That had been a trip done alone, many years back and prices have risen phenomenally since then. So, in this Money Matters, I am not attaching redundant numbers, but a brief note of Jodhpur travel guide.
Getting In – Jodhpur is well connected by road, rail and air to all major cities and towns of India. The city airport has direct flights from Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur and they are operated by Air India, Jet Airways etc. Jaipur has the nearest international airport. Jodhpur is well connected by direct trains from all metros and major cities in India, including Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner, Ajmer, Alwar, Agra, Kanpur, Allahabad, Gaya, Kolkata, Indore, Lucknow, Varanasi, Patiala, Chandigarh, Kalka, Jammu, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The popular Mandor Express leaves Delhi at 8:45 PM and arrives in Jodhpur at 8 AM the next morning, while a daily train Suryanagari Express connects it with Mumbai. (Information Credit – Wikitravel I have traveled to Jodhpur from Salawas village by road and Rajasthan roadways has excellent buses connecting the blue city with Delhi, Jaipur and other cities in and around Rajasthan. The buses come at various prices and can vary from ac volvo to non ac sleeper. In Delhi, these buses are available from Bikaner House near Chanakyapuri. You can nowadays make online bus ticket reservation at https://rsrtconline.rajasthan.gov.in/busenquiry/en It is also possible to hire a chauffeured car from Delhi or Jaipur for Jodhpur. These trips are charged on per kilometer, per day basis and return fare is charged for one way transfer.
Getting Around – Auto rickshaws, private taxis, chauffeured cars and local buses are the public mode of transportation in Jodhpur and the old city can be beautifully explored on foot. Unlike most metros, autorickshaws in Jodhpur do not operate on meter and bargaining is mandatory.
Accommodation – Jodhpur has a wide range of stay options and these vary from luxurious heritage hotels, cool hostels to fleapit guesthouses. Accommodations in the blue old city called Brahmapuri can be an interesting way to indulge in the local flavour of Jodhpur. Nowadays, the city offers some excellent homestays in and around Jodhpur. An interesting alternative is to stay at a rural retreat in one of the Bishnoi villages around Jodhpur. I had personally stayed at Chotaram Prajapat’s Homestay and had a great time.
Eat – Jodhpuri cuisine is a celebration of richness and OTT goodness. The city has some quirky culinary delights which should not be missed by any foodie. The spiced infused Makhaniya lassi with the creamy buttery crust, Mawa Kachori (deep fried battered pouches with sweet aromatic condensed whole milk filling), Mirchi Bada (battered and deep fried whole pepper stuffed with spicy potato and raisin filling) and a spicy vegetarian paella kind of rice dish called Kabuli are some of the city’s must haves. The highlight of Jodhpuri cuisine, however is the Gulab Jamun and Rasgullah ki Sabji, a curry made from raw unsweetened gulab jamuns and rasgullahs. Both are conventionally, the crown jewels of Indian sweets and are made from condensed cottage cheese, which are dipped into syrup before serving. Gulab jamun is dark brown and often filled with almonds and saffrons while rasgullahs always remain spongy white. Super rich and delicious they simply melt in your mouth and trust Jodhpur to give an unusual, but equally delicious twist to these traditional deserts. Apart from these culinary highlights, the blue city specializes in jalebis, the hot golden syrupy sweet swirls, samosas and in winter, you cannot leave Jodhpur without sampling its famous Badam milk. Hot, thick and frothy, Jodhuri Badam milk is flavoured with almonds, spices and served in earthen mugs topped with a thick crust of cream. According to locals, the Makhni Lassi from Mishri Lal and Kachori from Khatri are also not to be missed.
Shopping – Jodhpur is a fantastic shopping destination and the old world charming city has a plethora of amazing goods to offer. Most of them scream quintessential India and few are traditionally Rajasthani. Colourful, exquisite and intricate, presenting a list of Jodhpur Must Have’s –
- Mojris or Jootis are camel skin slippers in bright colours. Usually embroidered with gold and silver thread, mojris are beautifully embellished with shells, mirrors and bells. They come in various styles and are flat with pillowy cushioned soles. A good pair of mojri costs around 800 INR and they are also available without embellishments. Bargain hard and go for the cushioned soles or you will end up trashing them after one wear as the cheap ones wear out fast. Camel skin bags, belts and jackets are also great items on sale in Jodhpur and prizes depend on the product purchased.
- Spices are quintessentially India and Jodhpur also sells them in heaps. Generously used in local cuisine, Jodhpur or rather Rajasthan is famous for its chilies, turmeric, asafoetida, fennel seeds, dried ginger, dried mango powder and nigella seeds. Sold in colourful heaps in aromatic Jodhpur markets and there are also packets of cleverly premixed meat spice, vegetable curry spice, tea spice and rice spice for those who want to add a dash of Indian flavour to any dish or beverage without much hassle. Being a huge tourist hub, there are also scores of Jodhpuri shops selling high quality tea including Darjeeling and Assam tea, spiced teas and aromatic saffron infused Kahwas from Kashmir. Special tea mixes are also available and it is fun to hunt around for these unique house blends. Bargaining a lot here is not a good idea as high quality tea does not come cheap.
- Handicrafts are sold dime to a dozen all across Rajasthan and though not all would be genuine antiques, they unfailingly look beautiful. Much popular as excellent gift items and souvenirs, Rajasthani handicrafts come in various styles, sizes, textures and products. Hand quilted bed spreads, embroidered home linen, brass figurines, candelabras, metal opium holders, intricate mirrors, carved wooden doors, windows, shelves and countless other things make handicraft shopping in Jodhpur a whole lot of fun. There are also quite a few exotic boutiques selling beautiful tribal jewelries, trinkets, quirky purses, bags, coin holders, organic fragrances, hand made paper envelopes and brass or hand painted earthen urns, plates, vases and lamps. Mirrored parasols, marble and wooden furniture, hand made dolls and wooden puppets are the hottest Rajasthani souvenirs along with local musical instruments.
- Rajasthan is famous for many lovely textiles and the colourful Bandhej is probably most popular. The signature tie and dye printing style of Rajasthan and Gujrat includes lengths of fabric which are crumpled, tied with threads at various points and then dyed in shockingly bright colours. Definitely a not to be missed item, Bandhej comes in lovely bolts of peacock blue, emerald green, saffron yellow, hot pink, fiery red and orange. These are the traditional shades of Bandhej and nowadays, dyers colour them in unconventional hues of lilac, dove grey, almond pink, mint green, violet etc. The beauty of Bandhej lies in its dots and they can be of different sizes, patterns, lines or in form of tiny squares. In olden times, these dots were created by tying different varieties and sized of pulses in the fabric and many patterns thus have interesting names. Although, a dual or multiple shaded Bandhej is most popular, mono toned fabrics are also available and the prettier ones come at steep prices. Embellished with signature silver leaf gota patti work, studded with stones called kundan and laced with pretty tassels, designer Bandhej sarees and fabric are beautiful and lightweight. The non embellished ones are easy to maintain and they make incredibly beautiful skirts, shawls, scarves, dresses, shirts, home linen, bags and slippers. The price of a Bandhej sari depends on the quality of the fabric used and while the cheaper ones can be bought for 400 INR, the expensive ones in plain designs are priced around 3000 INR. Sky is the limit for an embellished Bandhej sari and the price of embellished Bandhej Sari can often run into lakhs of rupees. Apart from cotton, georgette and chiffon Bandhej are also available. For more authentic Rajasthani feel, opt for the ultra fine kota doriya (thin cotton net fabric) and munga doriya (thin raw silk net fabric).
Activities – The Rajasthan International Folk Festival is a must for any music lover visiting Jodhpur. It is an international music festival held annually during October at Mehrangarh Fort. The Bishnoi Village Tour is an interesting day trip option from Jodhpur and these include visiting the countryside, potter’s and weaver’s homes, spotting black bucks etc.
Places to Visit – Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada, Balsamand Lake, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Mandore etc.
TRAVEL TIP – Though known as a safe city, Jodhpur being on the international tourist map has its own share of hassles. Apart from the cultural difference, aggressive touts and crazy traffic, stories of tourists getting lured into drug rings are quite rampant. But it holds true for all tourist destinations in India and extreme caution, discretion and alertness should be exercised if getting accosted with such deals. Anti drug rules are followed strictly in India and being caught under influence or in possession of narcotics can result in strict penalties leading imprisonment. It is recommended for solo female travelers to stay safe, alert and exercise caution while interacting with strangers. Violent crimes including rape, assault and eve teasing are on the rise all across India, so dressing conservatively can help not get unwanted attention. Loose baggy pants, T-shirts, loose flowing long clothes are perceived as conservative garments and its always a good idea to follow the local dressing sense. Although wearing local attire can be cumbersome and uncomfortable, mixing them with sensible clothing makes traveling in India much easier and gets less unwanted attention.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE