When I asked people what they thought of Jodhpur, about nine times out of ten they said it was pretty lame, just another Indian city. A couple of people really liked it though and whilst the so-called Pink City of Jaipur is disappointingly un-pink, the Blue City of Jodhpur is most definitely a striking blue colour. The houses are washed with indigo which turns them blue, helps to cool them in the summer and acts as an insect repellent. Back in the day only Brahmans, the priest caste who interpret the holy Vedas and lead rituals, could have a blue house. These days anyone can get in on the action and the result is some fab views from the hilltop. So I allocated Jodhpur one whole day then proceeded to do everything I could fit into daylight hours. I went to the fort, I checked out that little memorial place, I got some henna done, played on some zip lines and I even got my palm read.
Yep. For a mere ₹850 a man inside the palace will tell you a bit about yourself then a bit about your future. He started by getting me to write my name and date of birth down then he looked at my right palm and told me all about my personality. He talked about how I worry near-constantly and spend a lot of time massively stressed, how I double and triple check everything from locking a door to the contents of my pockets, how I’m overly sensitive and will dwell on the slightest thing someone has done or said for days, how I can’t make a split second decision but need to think about things and once I’ve decided there’s no changing my mind. My crippling insecurity, the anxiety that plagues me and the dark, dark depressions. Y’know, all of the good stuff I thoroughly enjoy being reminded of, he gleaned all that from one grubby paw. He did mention I can make friends pretty much anywhere though, and I can work for hours and days and not get tired. So despite the fact I’m generally a complete emotional wreck pretty much most of the time, I’m a popular one and my employers tend to like me. Thanks, palm reader guy. Of course this could apply to many people but this is my reading. You get your own.
Then he does things like measures your palm lines with a ruler, and some manner of angles with a protractor, and he even throws a compass into the mix. He’s got the whole bastard geometry set going on. Then he draws little marks on your lines and uses a calculator to work out stuff to do with your work and love life. Some things he mentioned were spot on, such as a job change at 30. That was around when I worked as a receptionist because I couldn’t get a bar job in Cyprus. He then said another job change was imminent which unnerved me, I have no intention of giving up bar work and the only reason that’s gonna change is if I win lotto or utterly fail to find a job I want and end up working in a pie factory in Portslade. Both of these scenarios will probably make me fat. I’ve never had any manner of fortune type thing done before but whilst he started off jaw droppingly accurate (he told the chick who went in after me that working for a multi-national company was the best thing for her. She hadn’t told him she did actually work for one!), he ended by telling me I would spawn two kids. I raised an eyebrow and stifled a laugh.
Anyone who knows me personally may have comedy sprayed whatever they were drinking over their iPhone at that prediction. For anyone who doesn’t know me personally, I really really really don’t like kids. I have no idea how to deal with them. I don’t like having them in my vicinity, it makes me uncomfortable. I certainly have no desire to go carting one around for 9 months before pushing it out of a hole that’s blatantly too fucking small because whilst I’d happily go through life never needing any part of me sewn back up, some body parts on my list of “Places I Never Ever Want Stitches” are higher than others. I think “vagina” tops that list.
But yeah, let’s talk about things that don’t cause wincing such as Mehrangarh Fort though the entrance fee might cause a small amount of discomfort. ₹500 including your camera fee. Holy crap, guys, it’s not like you’re the bloody Taj now is it?! But you know how I was all like, fuck forts. I’m over forts. Forts can just kiss my arse. This fort, well, it’s actually pretty cool. I mean, Jaisalmer fort also scores quite highly on the Awesome Rating but that’s a living, breathing city with inhabitants and shops and cows/dogs/pigs/goats with their face in the nearest pile of rubbish and motorcyclists hell bent on perforating your eardrums with their horn.
Your entrance fee does include the audio guide and everyone knows I’m a sucker for an audio guide so off I went on my little stroll, piping education directly into my earholes.
The audio guide lead me through a gate pock marked with cannon ball holes which occurred in 1808 when Jaipur attacked Jodhpur. I think it was over a woman. Lots of fights usually are from the scrap down the kebab shop at 3am because someone looked at your bird, right up to the Trojan War. But this one was something to do with someone who was meant to marry one person but her dad promised her to someone else and the first dude was enraged at the insult and cannonballs ensued, probably with the woman in question hanging off Jaipur’s shoulder shouting, “Leave it out, babe! He’s not worth it!” in an Eastenders accent. Jaipur eventually fled and Mehrangarh Fort has never, ever been taken by force in its 500 year history.
Another fun fort fact, before the fort was built, the hill was occupied by a hermit. He was understandably rather pissed off at being forced off his hill so some rich bloke could build a palace. I’d be pretty annoyed too to be fair, one minute you’re happily braiding your armpit hair or whatever it is hermits do with their free time between staring at the sky and talking to rocks, next minute a posh fella on an elephant is asking you to move along, please. So the hermit cursed it, saying that it would forever be drought stricken and suffer water shortages. The curse was taken seriously as curses tended to be back then, especially as it never fucking rains there anyway, so a holy man was consulted who decreed that there would have to be some manner of sacrifice because holy men do love a bit of bloodshed. Fortunately a fella came to the rescue and volunteered to be sealed alive in the foundations of the fort which is slightly extreme. I mean, what’s wrong with a nice, clean throat cutting or a swift blade through the heart? Why so gruesome, holy man? I bet you spent your childhood pulling the wings off flies and one of your favourite past times is kicking puppies, you sadistic fuck.
Anyway. You’re taken around a right angled corner which was meant to stop elephants gaining momentum to smash down the massive spiky gates which were designed to impale any elephant that had a bash anyway. Fuck being an elephant! There are some hand prints on the wall which represent the hand prints of the widows of a maharaja. So, when the king snuffs it, his widows (yep, plural) walk out of the gates for the last time and leave a vermillion hand print on the wall during the funeral ceremony. Hindus burn their dead and once the king checks out his wives are expected to do the same. They have to throw themselves on the funeral pyre and not make a sound as they’re incinerated in a ceremony known as sati. Fuck being the wife of a maharaja!
The palace within the fort is the reason you need to part with your cash monies and it’s actually really well laid out. I was bored of looking at Mughal forts that were basically reduced to bare, sandstone rooms with no real feel of how they used to be furnished. You only need to see one and you’ve seen them all. Mehrangarh is a Rajput fort and the palace, instead of being left empty, has been turned into a museum.
It’s so fucking fascinating and there are so many stories to be told. They have a whole room full of elephant howdahs (seats that go on the backs of elephants) and another one full of palanquins (seats for royals that were carried by men) including the one used by the current maharaja’s grandmother when she visited England in the 60’s. According to the purdah thing which happened on account of the Mughal Muslim rule in India, women can’t be seen by men so whilst in Blighty she moved from her covered palanquin to her specially curtained Rolls Royce as the tabloids vied to catch a glimpse. All they got one day was a photo of her ankle as she stepped out of the palanquin but that was enough for the vultures and they printed it. The visiting Jodhpur party were so upset by this that they purchased every single paper in circulation before it made it to India. True story, bro.
Other things include a gallery of the really quite impressive miniature paintings you see a lot of in Rajasthan, a room with a baby’s cot collection, an armoury full of pointy killing devices, and guns that the Rajputs shunned on account of distance killing being dishonourable until the Mugals shot the shit out of them so they relented and invested in some firearms, and a couple of lovely rooms. There’s also turban tying demonstrations in one of the courtyards, a guy who will play you a spot of traditional music with the option to buy his CD and a fella pretending to smoke a hookah. He’s not actually allowed to really smoke it, but he’ll tell you a bit about that and the opium dishes next to it in broken English.
Contrary to Western belief, opium wasn’t smoked in hookahs, they were (and still are) used for scented tobacco. Opium was crushed in a bowl, water was added, it was strained through fabric and drunk as tea. It’s illegal these days and saffron water is used symbolically in its place but back then (and still today albeit covertly) it was used for all manner of ceremonies. Births, funerals, weddings, hospitality.
Oh, and the palm reader is right at the end if you fancied knowing what age you were going to die at.
Jaswant Thada is worth a look. It’s probably around a 10 minute walk from the fort and makes for some pretty photos. I headed back to the fort after that because I’d heard you could walk around the battlements and look at the cannon collection, some of which are the spoils of war overseas, but they’ve cordoned that off so you can only see a small section. Aaaaand then it was time for some flying fox action!
This. Is. So. Worth it! Book online and you’ll get it cheaper, but basically it’s a series of six zip lines which take you over battlements and water for some stunning views. It’s a ridiculous amount of fun. You’re kitted out in all of the usual harnesses associated with being suspended from your hips at a great height, you’re handed a pair of rather fetching gloves that make operating a camera slightly difficult and you’re given a quick tutorial on how to descend a cable at speed without crashing into the dude at the other end who’s there to help you unhook yourself from the line and all without falling backwards off a cliff, please. Notably, you’re not given a helmet though to be fair, if the cable snapped halfway over one of the gorges then no amount of head protection is gonna stop your remains from being spread a fair distance over the fort grounds. Then you’re off for half an hour of awesomeness. Guys, if you’re in Jodhpur, set aside the ₹1349 (online price) and add this to your list of Shit To Do In A Fort.
When I was wandering up the massive hill to the fort in the morning, I stopped off at Hill View Restaurant for a feed and got chatting to a the lovely woman who I think owns it. She also does henna which I haven’t had much of an interest in getting done because, well, it’s all a bit pretty init and I don’t like having stuff drawn on my hands that isn’t a shopping list or a make-shift map to the nearest pub. But fuck it, it’s one of those things you do whilst you’re in India init along with photographing cows and getting the shits so I swung by on the way back down after spending, and I’m not even shitting you, about seven hours up there. I can’t speak highly enough about this fort.
I told her I wanted something on my neck because clearly I needed to be more conspicuous then I just sat there sipping chai and let her get on with whatever design she fancied and I’m actually really chuffed with it ay, I really like it. Though I think once all the stuff comes off it’ll probably just look like a skin rash for a couple of weeks. Maybe more than a couple of weeks given the infrequency of hot showers I have access to on account of my complete refusal to pay more than ₹400 for a room. Yeah, so Jodhpur. Actually not a bad place at all, as long as you throw enough money at it anyway.
Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
Stayed at: Hare Krishna Guesthouse
Activity: Flying Fox Jodhpur