It was October 2010 that my mom started planning a trip to Rajasthan. She does that. She likes to travel. I have inherited that from her, I guess.
Rajasthan is situated in the North-Western part of India. It is made up of a number of regions each having a king. The kings ruled their respective regions back when India was still under the British rule. Now, in the 21st century, the kings run museums, do charity and live the high-society life. It is the land of the palaces, camels and desert sand. The land with no rain. The land of the rugged people. Rajasthan will jolt you out of your daily reverie and take you to a fairy-tale like place. It’s like living Alice in Wonderland.
Our trip was Jodhpur-Jaisalmer-Jodhpur with smaller stops in between . We arrived in Jodhpur from Mumbai, which is a 15-16 hour overnight journey in the morning around at 8 AM. Jodhpur is called the “Blue city” as most homes are painted blue. During the times of the kings, the Brahmins or the higher castes were only allowed to have blue houses, but in today’s times, almost all homes are blue in colour.
It dropped us outside the hotel where we had made bookings- RTDC(Rajasthan tourism development corporation). RTDC is a government owned organization which provides good accommodation at reasonable prices. Camels are everywhere in Rajasthan! It doesn’t come out so much in pictures, but camels are huge animals! They tower over everything around them; and my 5’ frame made me look like a miniscule mouse in front of those beasties!
After a short nap in our rooms, we started out. We hired one of those phat-phattis again and made our way to the Jodhpur fort, called the Mehrengarg Fort. The drive to the fort was memorable. Everything is so dry in Rajasthan! The sand is always in the air, mostly coupled with hot air. But as it was December, the warmth was welcome.
The fort was built in the 15th century and is now managed by the Royal family of Jodhpur. Inside, it has a museum, a shop selling various kinds of local jewellery and artefacts and the fort itself- the rooms, the bed-chambers, the Diwan-e-aam and the Diwan-e Khaas.
If you are not Indian, you get recorded explanatory tapes in the language of your choice, or you can hire a guide who will show you around the fort and explain the significances of the various points inside the fort.
Along the first bending in the fort, you notice that there are palm imprints embossed on the wall. These are the imprinted palms of women that went through Sati- The ancient Hindu custom where the woman jumps into the funeral pyre of her dead husband. Looking at those palms on that wall, one can but wonder at how transient life was for women(and queens) in olden times and the painful deaths so many of them went through to meet demands placed by traditions and customs. The palm imprints are all over the fort, at various places. Most of them are associated with a story, which is tragic on one level and poetic at yet another.
Then there are cannon-ball imprints on many walls along the fort which are reminiscent of all the wars and deaths that they have seen. A huge drum was used to signal the arrival of the enemy on the outer gates of the fort.
The carvings on the walls of the fort are exquisite. They are so intricately done that every time you see them, you will find something you missed before. The detailing on the walls, the pillars, and the windows are beautiful. The pigeons have made their homes in the window sills and when they take off together, it’s a sight to behold.
The museum in the fort is the most extensive museum of its kind anywhere in the World. Paintings, clothing, battle equipment, palanquins, clocks, furniture and crockery; every single thing used by a king in olden times is on display in the museum. The museum itself takes around two hours of your visit.
Every room in the fort is different from the next one. There are-Moti Mahal (The Pearl palace), The Sheesha Mahal (The glass palace) and the Phool Mahal(The flower palace). The most exquisite of them all is the Phool Mahal which was used by the kings to entertain courtiers and guests with wine and dancing girls.
Once you exit the museum, you will find local singers singing traditional Rajasthani folk along the side wall of the Fort. The renditions they belt out are so melodious; they will transport you into a different world, albeit, just for a short time. The males usually have a deep, resonating baritone which is greately soothing and the women have a folksy, rustic voice which makes the whole experience almost divine.
A trip to the Jodhpur fort is something which will transport you back into history, remind you of the rich cultural heritage we are born into, and expand your imagination into something you’ve never experienced before. At the end of it, you’ll be thankful for the life you lead now – a one without restrictions but still have a lingering feeling of “What if.. “