Nestling within the depths of the Thar desert, Jodhpur today is known as one of the three sculpted cities of Rajasthan, each known for its distinct flavour. Flanked on the western side by the Mehrangarh Fort and on the eastern side by the stately sandstone palace of Umaid Bhawan, its monuments, temples and gardens depict a multi-faceted grandeur. The second largest city of the state not only serves as the hub and gateway to the desert triangle but also attends as the commercial heart. It is one of the largest centres for production and export of handicrafts, which net over Rs. 2,000 cr in a year. While the city may have changed its character, from martial to economic, it has lost nothing in its charms. It is one of the cleaner cities of India with wide uncluttered roads, good communications infrastructure, numerous attractive sites like the richly sculpted palaces and havelis, lakes and gardens, wealth of culture and arts, and, above all, a very friendly citizenry.
Mehrangarh Fort: Standing guard over the city from an isolated hill, the fort is the most imposing feature of the city. Built in 1459 AD by Rao Jodha, the founder of the city, Mehrangarh houses beautiful, intricately carved red sandstone palaces and temples. The museum in the fort displays many of the erstwhile regal trappings, paintings and artefacts.
Facilities for visitors in the fort include a souvenir shop, a café, toilets/restroom, and a lounge. The café also serves a thali and a-la-carte meals including authentic Rajasthani cuisine. There is also a soft drinks counter at Point 28.
The Mehrangarh Trust has now started an audio tour of the fort, which covers 33 most important sites and information on some historical and social aspects of the region: subjects like caste system, Mughal alliances with the Rajputs, miniature school of painting and commentaries on the present members of the royal family. At present the 70 minutes audio commentary is available in Hindi, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. More languages will be added soon.
Jaswant Thada: Standing on a lower slope just half a kilometre away from the fort, the imposing white marble cenotaph was built in 1899 AD in memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. It houses portraits of successive rulers. Another interesting feature is a translucent marble panel used in construction.
Umaid Bhawan Palace: Also known as Chittar Palace, the palace built by Maharaja Umaid Singh is a splendid example of Indo-colonial architecture. A unique feature of the palace is that the hand chiselled sandstone blocks have been put together in a special system of interlocking without any binding mortar. A part of the palace is now a luxury hotel while the rest is open to visitors in the form of a museum retaining the original furnishings and ambience.
The Old City, with its intricate canvas of busy market streets, is a visual pleasure for any visitor to Jodhpur. Nai Sarak, Clock Tower and Gulab Sagar area is a good introduction.