Over chai and muesli, we met a haggard-looking pair of Italian ladies at our hotel restaurant, who also had a driver and were just shy of terrified of him. Their tour (also not the best planned), consisted of driving all day and staying at whatever hotel their driver told them to. Since they usually arrived near sundown, they were generally too wiped out to argue, and the times they did, their driver bullied them into compliance—if he spoke to them at all! So here they were on some forced death-march of a car tour, and our biggest problem is that we only won most of our arguments with Ramesh. I didn’t hear the Love Boat theme or anything, but I did feel a little better that we seemed to be doing better than other tourists in our situation.
That said, we did notice that all the drivers seemed to be taking their charges to this hotel. So we did get sucked into that.
If you’ve read previous entries, you know that I’m quickly running out of superlatives. So let me just tell you what I’ve learned.
- Rajastan literally means “the land of kings.” That’s because each city was its own kingdom.
- Each of these kingdoms had to project itself, so each one built a fort
- each fort contained one (or several) palaces, one (or several) temples, and quarters, open squares, defense emplacements and a hell of a lot more.
- we’re talking big forts
Not having seen Delhi’s Red Fort and not realizing the Ghost City was one of these as well, Jodphur was really my first conscious exploration of one of these. And I was frankly blown away. HUGE, this place.
The fact that it’s high on a hill does a few things for it: makes it even more majestic, and of course defensible. So, you know, good call there.
Supposedly makes the buildings cooler and—get this—repels mosquitoes. Yet another reason to join Blue Man Group.
Great stories abound in this place, such as the one about the dead concubines. Now hear me out. When an invading army deposed a king, he was killed, as were his concubines. Just inside the main doors to the palace, there are a row of tiny handprints in the concrete…these are of a particular defeated king’s concubines, just before they were put to the sword. Gruesome!
Also impressive are the high battlements around the palace perimeter, on which cannons bought and gifted from around the world were kept. Many came from Portugal and China, but I spotted a number from Britain and possibly the USA as well; all the result of trading with the kingdom of Jodhpur.
That was what really hit home in the Jodhpur fort: KINGS. These were actual Kingdoms, with royal courts, where representatives from other kingdoms would be presented, and there would be trading with other countries, but you had to respect the laws of the kingdom.
Camel races! Elephant tug-of-wars! Armories of hand-crafted guns, and knives, and knives that shot bullets, and armor made to fight and kill and take over other kingdoms! This is the kind of place where Rudyard Kipling books and David Lean movies were born. Amazing.
Anyway, I was so entranced by the cannons that I lost Natacha up there. I looked for her at the celebration at the fort’s Jain temple. Not there. I looked along the outdoor market that sold flowers and food to leave at the temple altars. Nope. I went back up to the cannon ramparts, back into the palace, even to the gift shop where I’d bought some postcards and an elephant painting. No dice. Almost drove myself to dehydration running around looking for her in that hot desert sun. After we found each other again, We resolved to always have a planned meeting place when we’re touring around like this. We’ve been breaking that resolution ever since.
After a side trip to another, smaller palace on the way, Ramesh dropped us back into town. We spotted a spice store, which was in our guide book but I think Ramesh warned us away from. but we went in anyway. We’re pretty sure of why he didn’t want us to go in there: it was run by a woman. We spent a lovely hour there talking about, trying, and eventually buying spices from a very charming young lady. The spice store had been started by her father, but he’d retired (passed?) not long ago and his seven daughters were running the two stores. Natacha took every chance she could to try to give women her business while in India. We bought some wonderful aromatic spice teas and a number of cooking spices from her while there. Jodhpur has been a center for trading for years and is perhaps most famous for its spice trade. We were happy to have captured our own little part of that history.
We walked around a part of town we hadn’t seen yet, where I bought a sumbwa suit for myself. Well, three gorgeous blue-patterned pieces of cloth that would make a sumbwa suit, which we used as sarongs for the rest of the trip. Later, a group of small kids in a broken pedal-cart followed us around for a few hundred meters and try to get our attention, grabbing at our hands and clothes. It was like being in a Little Rascals episode, if the Little Rascals were starving.
By the time we shook Vijay and Our Gang, them, it was dark and we did a bit more shopping, not finding much of anything but a watermelon we planned to eat the next morning. Then, we walked back through the outdoor market, missing it already.
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