It was our last full day in Jodhpur and so we decided to take a trip into the countryside.
Our very chatty driver had a planned itinerary which made the trip easy for us. The first stop was a visit to a Bishnoi family. Bishnoi is a Hindu religious sect found in the Western Thar Desert and northern states of India. I found out more about this sect when we got home and it’s fascinating. Their diet is totally vegetarian and amongst other principles they have a ban on killing animals and provide protection to all life forms. They make sure that the firewood they use hasn’t any small insects and they don’t wear blue clothes because the dye for colouring them is obtained by cutting large quantities of shrubs. Unlike other followers of Hinduism they bury their dead rather than cremate them as they have a very strict ban on cutting down trees.
Their lifestyle is very basic including living in round mud huts with a grassy roof. Not only a basic life but a healthy one too. The head of the household and his wife were both eighty-seven apparently and very fit. No problem for them sitting crossed-leg on the floor or grinding the corn using a very heavy grinding wheel! We also had a demo by the elder on how to make liquid opium! Didn’t taste too bad either. Wish I hadn’t worn my blue cotton top though!
The wildlife in the area is amazing too. Antelopes, gazelle, blue bulls and some very large birds which I think were cranes. Anyway they made an amazing sight when they took off.
Despite the fact that families on the tourist trail are happy to have their picture taken, the Bishnoi are very private people and dislike having cameras pointed at them. For the picture at the top of this Blog and the one below I had to work quickly. I never like taking pictures of people who aren’t happy about it but I couldn’t resist capturing a couple of shots of their wonderful saris.
We enjoyed the morning although we felt guilty that we bought so little at the pottery place and nothing at all at the block printing workshop even though both guys gave us an interesting demo. We felt a bit trapped but if there’s nothing you want and it’s the last day …what can you do? However …on the way back just as we’d got near to the city our driver asked if we wanted to stop at an embroidery place. We weren’t that bothered as by now we could do with a cold beer back at the Haveli but we said okay and that we wouldn’t be long. It turned out that this place was a large warehouse full of the most beautiful textiles, they were stunning. An hour later we left with a gorgeous Indian wall hanging and a silk bed throw to die for! It was a great way to finish our trip!
Walking round Jodhpur can get pretty exhausting what with the heat, the traffic and the crowded streets. Fortunately we found a great little place with a quiet courtyard that served a good lunch. We went back there one evening and had the best veggie curry ever, but this time on the roof terrace after climbing up several floors on stairs with no handrail!
Anyway after our lunch we decided to head out of town to escape the crowds with a first stop at Panchkunda Cenotaphs. Nikhil at our Haveli had told us that tourists don’t know about this place and he was right, we had it virtually to ourselves apart from a couple of local lads. As you can see, these monuments are really something and according to the notice Jodhpur queens were cremated here. It’s often used now for a film set and we could see why.
Our next stop was Mandore Gardens. Not a place to go if you don’t like monkeys, they are pretty much everywhere. One or two tourists thought it would be a good idea to feed them but soon realised these guys aren’t the friendliest on the planet. The black and white picture on the right has got to be the funniest I’ve taken all year …just the way he was sitting was hilarious.
As we walked towards the temple in the centre of the gardens a family latched onto us and gave us offerings to make to the Gods in the temple. We weren’t sure how to play this but their little lad showed us. Afterwards we walked outside and saw a woman virtually wringing her hands into a fire which was just outside the temple. Fire is a principal element and apparently she was doing this to wish good luck to the wedding couple who had suddenly appeared. They proceeded to walk round the fire, attached to them was a pink cotton band, again all symbolic. At a Hindu marriage the couple must walk round the fire seven times, clockwise, which of course they did. A great moment to witness.
Walking out of the gardens towards the gates we noticed a very serious game of cards going on plus a group of women sat on the pavement selling jewellery and one very bored child.
It was good to get out of the city for a while and even better to sit in the eerie at our Haveli drinking beer and chilling out. All peaceful until … wouldn’t you know it …within five minutes there were blinking monkeys jumping across the roof tops including ours, bold as brass. They are so skittish, destructive and cheeky and a law unto themselves. Bangers, as in fireworks are about the only thing that will send them scurrying away. Glad we haven’t got these in the Cotswolds!
Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan and is a great place to visit. Not only did we instantly fall in love with this vibrant, bustling place, we fell in love with our Haveli too! Bristow’s Haveli is a perfect place to stay for anyone visiting Jodhpur.
The Haveli is situated in the heart of the old city and is a peaceful retreat with a courtyard garden, lots of places to sit and relax and the most wonderful service anyone could ask for. I mean when a beer is there as soon as you step inside after a day’s sightseeing, what more could you ask for? This place is so good I’m going to write a separate blog about it. Meanwhile … let me tell you what we did the first couple of days in the old medieval city.
This is Sardar market. The top big picture was taken in the morning before everything had got going. The one on the bottom right gives a better idea of how manic it gets. We were surprised that no-one pestered us even when the market was really busy and glad to say, we also felt quite safe.
Mehrangarth Palace dominates the skyline of Jodhpur and is very impressive. We walked up by the steep steps a couple of times although you can take an auto rickshaw to the main entrance. On the first day I walked up onto one of the grassy mounds by the car park and was immediately shouted out by a guard. I pretended for a while not to hear him as I wanted to take some pictures of the old town to show the renowned blue houses and the hilltop palace you can see in the picture, top right. Once I climbed down I had to take this shot of the guy giving camel rides. It looks like he’s in the desert with the camel but it’s actually in the car park! We gave this one a miss and paid whatever it was to go into the fort and museum having left our passports so we wouldn’t run off with the headsets!
The fort is impressive as is the museum. You can easily spend a day there and although there were loads of groups with their guides we managed to avoid them most of the time. The intricate acrchitecture is amazing as are the views from the ramparts and the museum is interesting too with beautiful wall hangings, palanquins and Indian art. I loved the shop though, the best I’d come across since leaving home so I did buy quite few presents as things were really top quality. Too good an opportunity to miss!
You couldn’t fail to be impressed with the intricate details everywhere.
As you walk round the city with a camera it’s not long before children ask you for a picture. Interestingly they’re not that bothered about seeing it, they just love to chat especially if you have sweets to hand out. I love this picture of this little girl who a few seconds before had been smiling away and playing with a little plastic box – maybe her only ‘toy’? She quickly grabbed the sweet but she definitely wasn’t going to smile for a picture. There’s a lot of sadness I feel in her eyes.
It was an interesting drive to Jodhpur. The views going over the hills were stunning and the monkeys at the side of the road were an added bonus. You might spot in this monkey picture that we almost had one in the taxi with us as his paw grabbed the top of the window …we quickly closed it. They only looked cute from a distance!
Our first stop was by a watering hole where the oxen were raising the water to irrigate the nearby field using a centuries-old system. We were equally fascinated by the farmer in the other field who was tilling his land using a wooden plough pulled by two very lean looking bullocks. Tough work eaking out a living in this terrain and climate and using what we would consider very primitive methods to work the land.
We arrived at the Jain Temple just a few minutes before it opened to the public. Enough time to read the board listing all the regulations of which there are many. Inside there are guards making sure visitors stay inside the designated areas and although photography is allowed even pointing your camera at the inner sanctum gets me a sharp rebuke from a guard.
This temple constructed entirely of marble is stunning. Each pillar is a work of art and apparently there are 1444 of them! The ceilings are intricately carved too. If you’re travelling between Jodhpur and Udaipur don’t miss visiting this Jain temple at Ranakpur, it’s well worth it.
Our last stop before arriving in Jodhpur was down to me asking the driver to pull in to see what this guy was doing. You can see in the black and white picture that he has a wooden structure attached to a pole going into the ground and the oxen walking round which turned the central pole. He was blindfolded, the animal that is, so I was more concerned about him than what the guy was producing. I was told the blindfold meant that the animal wouldn’t get dizzy and was assured that it had regular breaks. (I’m gullible enough to believe this!). I can’t tell you what the ‘sticky gooh’ was but there were plenty of people stopping to buy a bag of it. John and I both had a taste and yes, it was delicious, if a bit too sugary.
At last we arrived in Jodhpur, the city known for its many iconic blue buildings. As soon as we were met by our auto rickshaw driver, Nehru, who had the most wonderful warm, welcoming smile we knew that our five days here was going to be great!