There are many great fortresses all over Rajasthan, but very few can compare with the sheer majesty of the imposing Mehrangarh Fort. Seemingly growing out of the rocky cliff on which it is perched, it has a commanding view of the surrounding landscape. In fact, we could see the Kumbhalgarh Fort, some 80 miles (130 kms) away.
What we liked most about the impressive Mehrangarh Palace complex were the delicately latticed, overhanging jharokhas (balconies) - the stone latticework here is so fine, it actually resembles lace! And the throne room Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace) with its ceiling gorgeously embellished with mirror-work and gilt - it's said that nearly 80 pounds of gold was used!
The Fort Museum is one of the finest in Rajasthan... and certainly the best laid out. There is the Palanquin section followed by the Howdah section, with perhaps one of the finest collections of ornate elephant howdas in the world.
The Armoury section has one of India's finest collection of weapons, particularly swords (including that of the Mughal Emperor Akbar himself). But my vote goes to Rao Jodha's enormous khanda, weighing over 7 pounds. Phew! The guy must've had some wrists!!
There's also a very interesting collection of over a hundred different types of turbans from various parts of Rajasthan. Incidentally, the Jodhpuri turban is considered to be superior to all of 'em.
On the way down from the fort, we stopped at Jaswant Thada, the graceful marble cenotaph of Jodhpur's maharajas.
We had got carried away during our visit to the Mehrangarh Fort-Palace-Museum and skipped going to the Mandore gardens and cenotophs. Instead, in the evening, we went on a Jeep safari to one of the picturesque villages of the Bishnoi community.
The rustic Bishnois are, traditionally, very environment conscious and animal - lovers. We spotted a herd of deers grazing fearlessly in the village farms. A large number of migratory birds also come here in the season. We saw a live demonstration of women making carpets and men making clay pots.
We had dinner in the village itself and quite relished the local fare, as also our insight into the ways of rural India.
We drove some 40 miles (64 kms) to the pleasant ancient town of Osiyan. Once a great religious centre, its ruins today present one of the finest depictions anywhere of how Indian temple architecture evolved between the 8th and 12th centuries.
On our return to Jodhpur, we strolled the bazaars past the mandatory clock tower and sampled some local sweets - given their fondness for sweets, the people here, without exception, must be severley diabetic!
If Jaipur is the "Pink City", Jodhpur can be called the "Blue City". The traditional homes are all painted a pale indigo - this colour is supposed to ward off mosquitoes. Frankly, I didn't buy it!
Jodhpur's royal contibution to the world has been, if I might say so, a horsy one - what else but "Jodhpurs" or riding breeches, as we know them today. It was born out of necessity as the remarkable Sir Pratap Singh got tired of the way his traditional Rajput riding pyjamas would get frayed on the inside of his knees, as he rode. This inventive maharaja also came up with the ankle-length Jodhpur boots and the close-collared princely Jodhpuri coat.
In the evening, we visited the gigantic Umaid Bhawan Palace - a stately mansion based on the Western model. With nearly 350 rooms, it has the distinction of having been one of the largest private residences of the world. Today, it houses an excellent little museum of some of the royal family's possessions and a luxury hotel and the present Maharaja's residence.
But what is probably even more remarkable is the reason it was built in the first place. There was a major famine in Jodhpur in the early 1920's and the 15 years long construction of this enormous palace was one of the public works project devised to offer employment to the people of the kingdom. This seems to be a standard practise that has been followed since long in various other parts of Rajasthan too.
We walked wonder-struck around this magnificient palace which simply has to be seen to be believed. Had a royal dinner in the hotel itself before leaving for our humbler hotel.
Half day excursion by jeep to see village life of Bishnoi community and some wildlife
Half day excursion to see the finest depictions of how Indian temple architecture evolved
Full day excursion to Nagaur famous for its cattle fair