WITH THE MAJESTIC Mehrangarh fort towering Wover opulent palaces, colourful bazaars and the sands of the Thar Desert, jodhpur epitomizes all the romance and feudal splendour of Rajasthan. Now the second largest city in the state, jodhpur was founded in 1459 by Rao jodha, the Rathore ruler of the kingdom of Marwar. Strategically located on the overland trade route, it soon Clock, Umaid became a flourishing trade centre. Its Bhavan Palace merchant class, known as the Marwaris , have retained their entrepre neurial skills and continue to run many of India's leading business houses. The special riding breeches, known the world over as jodhpurs, were designed here.
Places to Visit in Jodhpur
Jodhpur's bazaar lies in the heart of the old city, which is surrounded by a 10-km (6 mile) wall, pierced by eight gates. Clustered around a clock tower (built in 1912), the bazaar is a fascinating area to explore, with its little shops selling silver jewellely, lacquer bangles, tie-dyed houses in the bazaar area, mostly made of red sand stone and heavily carved.
This elegant pillared marble memorial with fine lattice carving is the chhatri (cenotaph) of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II (r.1878-95), whose innovative irrigation schemes brought water and prosperity to this parched land. Local people, who believe the maharaja has retained his healing touch. come regularly to offer prayer and flowers at his shrine. Cenotaphs of subsequem rulers and members of the royal families are also located here, though earlier rulers have their memorials at Mandore.
Umaid Bhavan Palace
This immense palace, built of creamy-pink sandstone and marble, is a prime example of princely India's opulence. Its 347 rooms include eight dining halls, two theatres, a ballroom, several lavishly decorated reception halls and a vast underground swimming pooL A 60-m (197-ft) dome covers the cavernous central hall which, at its inauguration, seated 1,000 people for dinner.
The palace was commission ed by Maharaja Umaid Singh, apparently to create jobs for his famine-stricken subjects. Begun in 1929, it took 3,000 men 15 years to complete;19 km (12 miles) of railway tracks were also laid to bring the sandstone from the quany. HV Lanchester, the architect of the Central Hall of Westminster in London, created a pleasing fusion of Rajput, Jain and European Art Deco styles for his royal patron.Umaid Singh's grandson, Gaj Singh, still lives in a section of the palace, while the rest has been turned into a IUXllly hotel (see p 704) The palace museum is open to visitors and has an impressive collection of decorated weapons, watches and fantastically shaped clocks, paintings, French furniture and porcelain.The road in from of it, leading to the smaller Ajit Bhavan Palace, is lined with antique shops.
(6 miles) north of Jodhpur, was the capital of the Rathore kings of Malwar until the 15th century. when Rao Jodha built a new capital at Jodhpur. Set around a beautiful terraced garden on a hillside are the red sandstone cbhatris of Jodhpur's earlier rulers. The most imposing is that of Ajit Singh with its towering temple like spire. When he died in 1724, his six wives and 58 concubines committed sati on his funeral pyre. Nearby, in the Hall of Heroes, are 15 life size statues of religious deities, heroes, carved on a rock face. Further up the hill are the queens' cenotaphs (Raniyon ki Chhatri) and the tall and narrow 17th-century Ek Thamba Mahal Palace.
RISING SHEER out of a 125-m (410-ft) high rock, Mehrangarh is perhaps the most majestic of Rajasthan's forts. Described by an awe-struck Rudyard Kipling as "the creation of angels, fairies and giants", Mehrangarh's forbidding ramparts are in sharp Suti handprints on contrast to the flamboyantly decorated Loha Pol palaces within. Founded by Rao Jodha in 1459, the sandstone fort was added to by later rulers, mostly between the mid-17th and mid-19th centuries. The royal apartments within the fort now form part of an outstanding museum.
Built between 1730 and 1750, this is the fort's most opulent chamber, richly gilded and painted. It was used for royal celebrations.
Built between 1581 and 1595, this magnificent room was the Hall of Private Audience. Its ceiling is decorated with mirrors and gold leaf, and crushed seashells were mixed with plaster to give its walls a lustrous sheen.