Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
Where is it? Rajasthan
When do I go? November to March
For how long? Three days
STD code: 0291
Two great forces – one natural, one man-made – dominate Jodhpur. The Thar desert surrounds it: glorious, empty dead. And the Meherangarh Fort glowers down at the city from its commanding position on the sheer rocky ridge. From the walls of the fort, it is clear where the old city ends and the new city begins. This was once the capital of Marwar, the largest princely state in Rajputana (the old name for Rajasthan). Modern Jodhpur is still haunted by legends from the past and you shouldn’t be surprised if you meet ghosts. Don’t rush through Jodhpur, take your time and you will discover that it grows on you.
Jodhpur, called the Land of the Dead, was founded by Rao Jodha, the chief of a clan known as the Rathores in 1459. The Afghan invader Mohammed Ghori drove the Rathores from their former homeland of Kannauj and they fled to Pali, a short way from Jodhpur. It was the marriage between Rathore Siahji and the sister of a local prince that enabled the Rathores to prosper and establish a power base so strong that their capital at Mandore proved inadequate. The new place they moved to offered more security with its natural fortifications and a formidable fortress. Jodha named the place after him – Jodhpur – and from 1459, this barricaded fort saw the growth and further prosperity of the clan, especially the expansion of their territory in Rajasthan.
Jodhpur lies on the strategic Delhi – Gujarat trading route and the people benefited from the traffic of opium, copper, silk sandalwood, dates and coffee. The trade boosted an economy scarred by military conquests.
The Mughals wanted a share of the riches and control of Jodhpur. The least bloody way was the marriage between Emperor Akbar and Rao Udai Singh’s sister. The alliance ensured that the Rathores received military aid from the Mughals for their campaigns in Gujarat.
But the Mughal alliance ran into problems after Emperor Akbar’s death. In the mid-17th century, Jaswant Singh joined Emperor Shah Jahan’s forces against Aurangzeb’s. The victorious Aurangzeb pillaged Jodhpur and its citizens were forcibly converted to Islam. Jaswant Singh’s son Ajit Singh who was then the Maharaja, was murdered and the Mughals staked their claim to the throne. His infant son Ajit Singh II went underground and after 30 years in hiding in a tiny Himalayan village, returned to Jodhpur after Aurangzeb’s death (1707) and recaptured it. Ajit Singh also drove the Mughals out of Ajmer and added to Meherangarh fort (most of the parts that exist now).
The eighteenth century saw many bloody battles between Jodhpur and the other princely states in Rajasthan, Jaipur and Udaipur. Ajit Singh’s successor Maharaja Abhai Singh captured Ahmedabad and later in 1818, Jodhpur signed a treaty with the British. The Rathores lost some of their honour, but the treaty ensured the kingdom relative peace and prosperity.
The last Maharaja before Independence – Umaid Singh after whom the Umaid Bhavan is named – is the grandfather of the present Maharaja Gaj Singh.
Jodhpur is in west Rajasthan and isn’t as well laid out as Jaipur. Winding narrow streets without street signs make navigation and getting to your destination a feat. The walled city or old Jodhpur has eight gates, of which Jalori Gate and Sojati Gate on the south, are the most important – the busiest commercial centres surround them. The new city expands to the south and east of the old city.
Jodhpur railway station lies to the southwest of Sojati Gate along Station road. Outside the station three main roads fan out from a statue of a horseman. Olympic Cinema road to the far left, leads to the telegraph office. The road directly in front of the state leads to the Jalori Gate, which is the best way into the old city. Station road, leading off to the right towards Sojati Gate, is lined with cheap hotels and restaurants. High Court road is the main east-west avenue, running from Sojati Gate past the Umaid Gardens and the Tourist Reception Centre to the distant Raika Bagh railway station, just opposite the bus stand, where it bends north towards Paota Circle. Trains from the east stop at the Raika Bagh station, which is before the main station.
Nai Sarak, or New Road, leads through Sojati Gate to the biggest shopping thoroughfare and then to the market area, Sadar bazaar, at the base of the deck tower that marks the centre of Jodhpur. The magnificent Meherangarh Fort (above the city) and Jaswant Thada can be see from almost everywhere.
National holidays like Independence Day, Republic Day, Diwali, Id, Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti, Dassera, Christmas.
Cattle Fair : Attracts thousands of rural people and tourists as well for this dramatic cattle fair. Held for a week, atjhe fair includes camel races and cultural entertainment programmes.
Nag Panchami : Reverence to the Serpent god (Anant Nag). The city gets a festive look with effigies of the serpent seen all over the place.
Marwar Festival : The rich cultural legacy of Jodhpur the former capital of Marwar is celebrated with as much pomp and splendour as possible in the post-Raj era. Traditional dance, drama, festivity and fairs marks the event which is held over two days, one which correspondence with the full moon.
8.00 am: Start with the Old city, move on to Meherangarh Fort, lunch at site, Jaswant Thada. Back to the malls in the old city for some shopping.
Evening: Umaid Bhavan Palace and museum and the gardens and tea at the balcony cafe.
Day one: as above.
Day two: 9.00 am Mandore Gardens, Rohet with the Bishnoi villages and Salawas.
Afternoon: Osian temples and a camel ride at sunset and dinner and Ghoomar dance on the dunes.
Day 3: Breakfast at Balsamand lake, dhurrie weaving and shopping at Salawas, end with Nagaur.
Day one, two and three: as above.
Day four: Camel safari to Osian and horse safari to the Bishnoi villages. Keep this for the last day as it can really wear you out. Camp the night on the sand dunes at Osian.
At a height of 216 m, Jodhpur sees climatic extremes. Strictly a winter destination, November to March is the best season, when temperatures can drop to 5°C and climb to 35°C. It can get really chilly at night, carry warm clothing and a windcheater. April to October is best avoided as the heat is energy sapping. Few people venture out as temperatures rise to above 40C°. Don’t even think of a desert safari.
For more information on the following topics, please see our Jodhpur travel guide below:
- Getting there
- Getting around
- Sights & Sounds
- Eating Out
- Useful Information
- Survival Guide
Known as the “Gateway to Thar” being on edge of Thar desert or “Sun City” as the sun shines almost every day of the year, here’s a complete guide to one of the most visited places in India.
Take the magnificent journey through palaces, temples, museums and national park of the western, desert state of Rajasthan.