Posted on February 24 2021
THE BLUE CITY: MEHRANGARH FORT
JODHPUR, RAJASTHAN, INDIA
My 2017 spring trip to India was a complete new experience. I had never been there entirely by myself or with family. This time I had my mom and my cousin with me. Jodhpur was the third city to visit after spending some days in Delhi and weeks in Jaipur. The Blue City was a necessary stop to meet with Saheli Women, one of our partner NGO’s, for the design of a dress collection. Additionally, I couldn’t wait for us to visit one of my favorite forts in north India thus far: Mehrangarh fort.
Our trip started out of the Jaipur Railway train station. It was very comical and chaotic all at once. We were so close to missing our 5 hour train ride to Jodhpur, but let me tell you the backstory first...
It was our first time traveling on a train in India. We packed our bags a bit too late (we were having a very spontaneous travel schedule and weren’t sure if we were coming back to Jaipur). We had 8 bags in total: 5 checked bags + 3 carry ons (this does not include our personal bags). I mistakenly ordered a sedan Uber and the hassle to try to fit the bags, the driver and us complicated everything. The worried driver was convinced we wouldn’t fit - I was convinced otherwise. Our perseverance had the positive results we wanted and we were on our way to the train station.
We were feeling hopeful about catching the train on time, until we saw the flood of cars, with their continuous honking, surrounding the main entrance of the station. We would’ve walked, but we had 8+ bags, remember? We were begging the driver to do his best to take us to the closest spot to the ticket counter. We finally made it, people could see we were in a hurry, and suddenly 3 porters appeared. I let them help us at first, but then I remembered I had to ask for price before being over charged for being a foreigner. One said he would charge Rs.600 (about $10 then) for each of our loads. I thought it was OK for my mom to not carry bags, but there was absolutely no way I was going to let my cousin and I pay $20 for a 3 minute dash to the train. I fought in my new and very broken Hindi saying “nahi, nahi, nahi” as I unloaded the bags from his trolly. I was furious, but also hysterically laughing. My mom and my cousin didn’t help with their laughter either. With all honesty, we looked like 3 crazy ladies. We were dressed in colorful skirts, effortless-looking flowy pants while hauling our bags to the best of our ability, keeping them from stomping our tiny body structures.
We miraculously got to our A/C class section, but again, we had to put our bags in. The people who were comfortably already in their seats, looked at us which made us feel like crazy foreigners. The best way I can explain our struggle to reach the train was like the end of the Darjeeling Limited movie - it was hilarious. Side note: I wish I could've done what they did.
The calm finally came after the crazy hassle. We were comfortable in our train beds and it was now time to rest during our smooth ride.
The view from the window started with busy Jaipur and later faded into small, remote villages with less and less homes until we got to the deserted part of the ride. We crossed Sambhar Lake, India’s largest saline lake. The area before the lake seemed like a photograph coated with a grey filter that slowly invited light pink hues.
Colorful Jodhpur finally made it to the scene. We were more rested and thankfully we had a car to take us to our hotel. Recommended by an English friend, we opted to stay at Ratan Vilas, a quaint haveli (mansion) and former home of Maharaj Ratan Singh, a Rajput noblemen. The staff greeted us gracefully and the gardens surrounding the hotel felt like a little oasis after the morning struggle.
Rested and refreshed, we headed to the grandiose Mehrangarh Fort. The fort was more beautiful than I expected. The towering walls made us look minuscule, but the light-toned, sun-kissed, yellow walls made us feel welcomed. We made our way through the fort, admiring the ancient fortress, while being pleasantly surprised and fascinated by the colorful sarees of women who were visiting the fort too.
One of my favorite things to photograph in my travels are doors. The entrance to the fort was a huge portal and next to it, a stunning wooden door was exhibited. I love old pieces of wood and this one was simply magnificent. We proceeded to a smaller hall that later opened to an even grander area. You could appreciate the strength and might of the fort even more. Right in front of it were a boy and his father, singing Rajasthani folk music. This moment is one of my fondest memories of my travels to India.
After strolling by the harmonious scene, we discovered other nooks in the fort that were full of creative touches. A cool, wall-surrounded hall took us to meet two Bajane Wala, or as we would call them "music maker". They were dressed elegantly in a suit and pompous turbans. This scene led us to other interesting characters, two poised individuals who greeted us into a cafe full of portraits that transported us to centuries passed.
Two Bajane Wala
Accompanied by two, poised gentlemen at the entrance of the cafe.
Two of my favorite and most inspiring portraits of Maharajas.
The magnificent walls kept surrounding us until they opened up to expose a gorgeous, intricate building.
The grandiose walls kept surrounding us until they opened up to expose a gorgeous, intricate building.
As I looked carefully, to take in all the detailed architecture of this stunning dusty-red building, I spotted a man and his colorful turban, looking from a window. We smiled at each other as I snapped a photo of him.
Mehrangarh seemed, to me, like the most hospitable fort or antique building because one beautiful place invited us to another spectacular place and one spot introduced us to new people (whether painted or in person).
The exterior of this magnificent place was wowing us continually and then... we visited the inside. It was mind blowing to walk into this royal chamber called Phool Mahal or "flower palace". This room is actually lined with real gold and it is full of intricate details - more than your eyes can perceive. The portraits on the ceiling are portraits of the Rajput king, Raja Thakat Singh, and his sons.
The exploring of Mehrangarh Fort was coming to an end, and even as we prepared to say good-bye, our send off was in a pretty spectacular courtyard full of more intricate, inspiring details. The hectic way in which the day started made it all worth it. We got to witness amazing hand work reflected in its various forms. That was our trip to the grand Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.
Jodhpur Travel tips:
- Getting there: Taking the train to Jodhpur from Jaipur is a great way to get there, the trip is approximately 5 hours long. You can also hire a driver. Travel time is about the same in train and car.
- Stay: Umaid Bhawan Palace for an incredible 5-star experience. Ratan Vilas for an intimate stay with incredible service.
- Food: We recommend enjoying the hotels' delicious meals. Tandoori Chicken is always a great option. Ask your hotel concierge for the best Raj Kachori in town - you won't regret trying it!
- Explore: Of course, Mehrangarh Fort. This magnificent place will take your breath away. Also, get lost in the blue city and explore its nooks and shops.