Our guide for today, Mahaveer, was due to meet us at Ratan Vilas Hotel at 09h00 but at 08h34 we realised the time and our lack of breakfast. Whoops, we’ve done it again; it was a rush but we did it and made our rendezvous on time.
Mahaveer was taking us to Mehrangarh, the local name for the fort at Jodhpur. In contrast to Jaisalmer Fort Mehrangarh grows from the living rock and is massive. It’s that kind of fort that seems to look around for potential enemies and say “come on, if you think you’re hard enough”. Whereas Jaisalmer is a community within a fort, Mehrangarh was only ever a palace and garrison.
Setting off from the hotel in a Tuk-Tuk, the road outside is dual carriageway and our driver, rather than go left down the road with the traffic to turn round at the next roundabout simply drove the wrong way, against the traffic to a nearer roundabout. Mrs Sixwheeler is getting used to Indian driving but there were a few squeaks from the seat next to me about that.
The fort totally dominates the town and the drive up the winding road to the entrance made us glad that we hadn’t tried to walk there. From the car park you go through the Jai Pol, the northern gate. Once inside there is an area of kiosks where you buy your entrance tickets (concessions for OAPS – bring ID) and your photography permit; there’s also a very useful currency kiosk where you can change cash or use a card at a better rate than was on offer in town.
So then we did the tour and saw the sights: the gateway with the cannonball indentations in the walls, the gateway with the spikes in to counter charging war elephants and the gateway with the little clay hands on the wall to honour the women who had committed sati (self-immolation) on their Maharaja’s funeral pyres. All jolly stuff this!
The main palace buildings are now given over to museums but I’ll spare you all the details other than to say that they are excellent; good content, well presented and we’ll labelled in both hindi and English. We also witnessed a demonstration of turban tying (the turban fabric is 1 metre wide by 9 metres long) which was fascinating but which I couldn’t take seriously as I kept remembering a sketch by the great Spike Milligan in which he tried to tie a pugaree (22 metres long but narrower) and ended up looking like a mummy, and visited the various and sumptuous state rooms.
That’s all there is to see so we had a coffee before leaving through an area of good quality souvenir shops on the way out (aren’t there always).
The Maharaja no longer lives in Mehrangarh but still takes great interest in the running of the site. There is strict control of quality in the shops, café and restaurant and the whole place is kept spotlessly clean. We’re both agreed that it was a really good visit.
From the fort there are views down into the Blue City, where many of the houses are painted blue (original huh?) which was traditionally the mark of a Brahmin family but now non Brahmins paint their houses too. We had discussed walking down to the Blue City but as it was so hot we walked down a very steep track back to the Clock Tower area where we had a very nice lunch at Indique before heading back to Ratan Vilas. Where I had a swim.
Tomorrow: Blue City or monkeys?
27 February 2017