Jodhpurs and Jains

A cloudless, vividly blue sky welcomed me to the city of Jodhpur, in central Rajasthan. Best known as the birthplace of polo and the eponymous riding trousers now worn the world over, Jodhpur is neither as large as Jaipur, nor as dazzling as Udaipur (my next stop) which means it gets a little less tourism. The result is that more real life, more of the anodyne seeps through and one’s own experience is a little more immersive.

A vantage point of the “Blue city”

Jodhpur has several epithets, among which are “Sun city” and “Blue city”. The latter comes from the fact that great numbers of the buildings are painted blue, however, the reasons for this vary. A number can be found here at cityofjodhpur.com, however, my favourite, which doesn’t feature on the link, is that blue houses used to denote residences of the most important members of the court and the brahmin caste and so, when rules relaxed, a great number of the hoi polloi painted their own houses as a means of self-aggrandisement. 

The Jodhpur skyline is dominated by the Mehrangarh Fort, a colossal, 15th century  construction some 100+ feet above the city.

View of Mehrangarh Fort from a mausoleum on the outskirts of the city
From up close, the fort looks impregnable

Inside the fortifications lies a sprawling complex of palaces and gardens; as luxurious within as it is forbidding from without.

A royal reception room with beautiful stained glass windows
Oi! Dude in yellow! You’re ruining my photo!
The winner of the series “Pimp my sedan chair”

It seemed that each maharaja had tried to outdo his predecessor both in opulence and in number of concubines, which resulted in the successive palaces becoming more and more grandiose.

Have descending to the town once more, mere townsfolk walking in the shadow of this vast symbol of regal omnipotence, I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Judhpurian life: children darted between parked scooters, street vendors called out to passers-by, wafts of sugary tea percolated from the urns of the chai-walas.

Life in the shadow of lords
The entrance to the old market
The permanent and the temporary

As is the wont of nearly all guides, mine showed me to a large store in the corner of the main market in the hope that I would spend my life-savings (store owners give guides up to 35% of sales for driving tourists in their direction so be aware that they have considerable skin in the game). I affably rejected the owners overtures but, despite this, was impressed by the quality and prices of his wares compared to many others so will tout his store in case others wish to visit.

It is called the Baba Art Emporium and some prices quoted to me are below:

Filigree bedspread, 2000INR

Appliqué, cutout bedspread, 1800INR

Bedspread (purportedly) handstitched by nomads, 2300INR 

I’m fairly sure these prices are still on the high side but it gives you a starting point of reference. I wasn’t bargaining, after all; merely enquiring.

After the hubbub of the market, some relaxation was required. Luckily, the guesthouse I had chosen was a beautiful period property and I was able to relax in style.

Make way! Sleeping beauty has arrived!

Whilst my final destination in Rajasthan was Udaipur, my itinerary took me via the Ranakpur Jain temple on the way. I know very little about Jainism except that they are a vastly wealthy community one of whose central tenets is that we must respect all living creatures. Taken to its logical conclusion, jainist monks can be seen with brooms sweeping the ground in front of them as they walk to avoid stepping on insects.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before arriving at the temple, my stomach informed me of the approach of lunchtime. Uncle Krishana, my driver and friend, (having stopped at my behest so that I could take a photo of an ambiguous sign) stopped at more or less the only restaurant on the route and we entered, passing an ingenious irrigation system as we did.

An interesting message to prospective customers

Animal videos became something of a theme as we arrived at the gates of the Jain temple and found these boisterous little puppies locked in mock battle.

Dragging myself away from the canine capsules of cuteness I entered the main temple grounds and looked up. And stopped. And stared. And marveled. A litany of marble domes and columns filled my field of vision. A building so intricate and so striking that it was almost a little difficult to take in its beauty at first.

Beautiful Ranakpur temple

Although this temple was clearly the main attraction, turrets, like spring buds, seemed to push up through the fecund earth wherever one turned.

A smaller sun temple hides amongst the flora
The main temple in a natural frame

The stonework of the exterior was magnificent and showcased a plethora of deities and mortals, the two existing side-by-side:

The craftsmanship is truly awesome
Clearly a little restoration is needed from time to time

But the interior was simply astonishing. Innumerable marble columns, etched with the most delicate carvings, arched upwards to ornate, vaulted ceilings.

More columns than an Excel spreadsheet
Absolutely marble-ous architecture
The Sistine Chapel has got competition!
A corridor in contrast

Having slaked my thirst for beauty, I rejoined Uncle Krishna and we headed onwards towards what was going to prove an extremely eventful stay in Udaipur involving an elephant, a sword, traditional dancing and whisky.

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