I arrived to Jodhpur with the rain, and the city smelled fresh and clean, scrubbed free of its desert sands. After settling into my hotel, I headed to Pal Haveli, a noble family’s home turned restaurant and hotel. The rain had ended and the sky was dark and dramatic as I walked up to the rooftop terrace. Spread out before me was a panoramic view of Jodhpur’s iconic fort, Mehran Garh, and the main city square. As fireworks lit up the night sky, I feasted on butter naan, chicken masala, and lentil stew. Heading back to the hotel, I couldn’t wait for the morning, and my official welcome to the blue city.
My tireless Compass guide Raghu met me bright and early and we began our day with a visit to the Royal Crematorium. Not yet ten a.m., the sun was already shining bright overhead and I blinked back against the glare. The crematorium is the sight where all the members of the royal family are cremated and memorialized. A small lake leads up to the gardens that surround the monuments, used only by the royal family for cleansing. Then begin the smaller monuments, used to mark the site of cremation for the wives, children, and close family of the King. Each marker is set in a lush, green garden, with views of the entire city behind it. Finally, the large building set at the top of the hill belongs to the kings of Jodhpur. Removing my shoes, I slowly walked up the cool marble steps and entered the chamber. With its open windows and doors the room was light and airy, rimmed with photos of every previous ruler in Jodhpur. At the center was a throne, set with an image of the current king’s father, and surrounded by flowers and silver ornaments. It was a quiet, peaceful space, where locals and visitors could come and pay their respects to the late kings of Jodhpur.
We then headed to Jodhpur’s crown jewel, the Mehran Garh fort. Towering above me, the fort offered two choices: walk up the staggering amount of stairs to the top, or take the newly added elevator. I decided to take the elevator up, and walk and explore my way down. The doors opened and I was let out onto a wide-open platform overlooking the entire city. Finally, a perfect view of the blue city itself. Originally painted blue to identify the homes of Brahmans, or priests, the rest of the city followed suit as a home remedy against mosquitoes, and in the hopes of cooling their houses down in the hot summer months.
The fort wove its way slowly down and I wandered through the different quarters. There was latticework so detailed it resembled a piece of lace carved right into the stone walls. There were rooms filled with Howdahs, the giant carved seat used atop an elephant, and then there was the hall of mirrors, a room so ornate, you would be hard pressed to find a bare patch of wall. I took my final steps down the stone walkway and through the elephant sized gate to the soft, tinkling sounds of the local musicians. I felt like I could stare out at the city view for hours, but when Raghu asked if I was ready to visit the local marketplace, I knew that no view could hold me back.
The central marketplace in Jodhpur is easily marked by its clock tower. Blankets and baskets overflowing with goods line the streets, and tuk tuks, scooters and bull-drawn wagons teem through the already busy area. If the sounds and sights were not overwhelming enough, the smells permeating the air from the spice stalls were enough to send my senses into overdrive. I wove my way from stall to stall, passing through the different sections of the markets. There were multicolored pashminas and bolts of fabrics, heaping bowls of saffron, rice, and dahl, and shimmering saris, embroidered with silver threads and jewels. I bought a golden pashmina for 80 rupees, less than $2, before I entered the Mecca of pashminas, Maharani Art Exporters, the holy grail of cashmere design. Utilized by some of the top fashion houses around the world, Maharani creates both custom pashminas and traditional Indian designs. With a showroom of eight levels, each wall crammed from floor to ceiling with carpets, scarves, embroidered shawls, and blankets; anything that you could ever imagine can likely be found here. I left with a soft as a cloud vicuña scarf in a pale white, and a bold red cashmere pashmina, perfect for the cold New York winters.
My arms bundled down with pashminas and spices I took one last look at the brilliantly blue city of Jodhpur. The scent of the marketplace still clinging to my skin, I stepped inside my car, ready to embark on the next stop of my journey through Northern India: the pink jeweled city of Jaipur.