Grand land of Rajputs

Palaces galore

Grand land of Rajputs

For a travel buff like me, the thought of exploring the centuries-old Marwar Fort, strolling into the 20th century palace, and enjoying the autumn sun in the heart of the desert land of Jodhpur, on the eve of Marwar Festival, was just too hard to resist. So I packed my bag and headed to the legendary ‘Blue City’, the one-time capital of the Marwar kingdom.

The discovery of Jodhpur dates back to 1450 AD, and the credit goes to Rao Jodha, the chief of the great Rathore tribe of the Rajputs, who claimed to be the descendant of Lord Rama. Ranked as the second largest city in Rajasthan, Jodhpur takes you back to the times of the Marwar kingdom, giving a rare glimpse of the lifestyles of Rajput rulers. Be it the restaurants, the handloom centres or the Rajput folk art, the city vibrates in a multitude of colours.

Afternoon of splendour

I began my tour of the city from Umaid Bhawan Palace, which is highly-rated in the list of the largest palaces in the world and the last of India’s great palaces. While the spectacular sandstone structure is home to the rulers of Jodhpur, a portion of the palace has been transformed into a heritage hotel and a museum. The interiors of the palace, done in the art deco style, were the brainchild of Maharaja Umaid Singh of Jodhpur.

Built by a Polish artist, who was incidentally an amateur interior designer, the interiors of the palace scream opulence to the present day. As I ambled into a hall full of portraits of Maharaja Umaid Singh, who lived from 1903 to 1947, the palace seemed to come alive with stories and its rich history. Details like warplane models on parapets were reminiscent of the Rajput ruler’s passion for flying.

Formerly known as Chittar Palace, Umaid Bhawan boasts of a strong foundation that was laid by highly skilled workers of Agra and Fatehpur Sikri, way back in 1929. Like all Rajput palaces, the Umaid Bhawan is categorised into two broad sections, including Zenana Mahal and Mardana Mahal, which consist of durbar and banquet halls.

The corridors of the palace have some intricately carved towers and parapets. Built at a whopping cost of Rs 94,54,565, the palace today serves as a residence of Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Marwar.

The palace also houses an astounding collection of Venetian, Bohemian and English glassware that belong to the 20th century, and have been collected by Maharajas of Jodhpur on their numerous visits to Europe.

My next stop was Jaswant Thada, the royal cenotaph built in white marble, in memory of late Maharaja Jaswant Singh. At the entrance of the cenotaph is the life-size statue of the Maharaja. Built around a water body on a hillock, the cenotaph came up sometime in 1899 AD. Once inside the cenotaph, there is a grand display of portraits of all the Rajput rulers of Jodhpur.

Magical Mehrangarh

My palace tour then took me to the Mehrangarh Fort, which is the city’s most important landmark. Soaring high at 25 metres from the ground level, the Mehrangarh Fort touches the skyline and can be viewed from a distance. The colossal structure stands towering over its visitors, and also gives some breathtaking views of the city.

Outer walls of the fort are replete with beautiful Rajput wall paintings depicting scenes of Marwar rulers at war. The fort comprises several imposing palaces, namely, Moti Mahal, Phool Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Sileh Khana and Daulat Khana, that have splendidly carved panels and windows with lattices.

Apart from these beautiful structures, tourists will also be able to admire the fabulous collection of curios displaying Indian royalty. The most eye-catching pieces were palanquins, elephant howdah, musical instruments, furniture, costumes and miniature wall paintings that belong to various schools of art. Just a day-long visit to the numerous forts in the ‘Blue City’ is not enough, as Jodhpur has a lot more to offer.

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