Where: Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
When: 14 - 15 April 2007
The second place I visisted in Rajasthan after Jaisalsmer was Jodhpur. A city of about a million inhabitants which kept his rural feel. Still far west, with very few cities nearby, the city is still relatively isolated (although not as much as Jaisalmer at the very end of the railway line), and that might have helped to keep it's particular character.
The blue city
Of course two days is not enough to have a good picture of the city, but let me give you my impressions and share my experiences in the blue city. The sandstone coloured town of Jaiselmer is dubbed the 'golden city', Jodhpur with its blue painted houses is nicknamed the 'blue city'. Originally the blue colour was preserved for Hindu-people of a certain caste. I think the caste of the Brahmins (priests), but I am not hundred percent sure. Now everyone is allowed to paint his house in blue and it makes the old city a special place to be.
The blue city of Jodhpur
The fort city
I already wrote about the impressive fort of Meharanghar, that rises up steep above the old city of Jodphur in a previous blog, so will not spend any more time on this. But of course it is another characteristic feature of this special city.
The religious city
I somehow found the city of Jodhpur the most religious city I have visited so far. In Jodhpur religion seemed everywhere. I woke up at the chanting of the neigbours accross the narrow alley that my guest house (Yogi's Guest House) was on and the manager of the Guest House was busy with bells a number of times a day to do his 'puja', Hindu prayer. The owner my lovely guest house, so I was told was a Buddhist from Nepali origin, hence the photograps of Buddhist monks on the wall, alongside, let that be said, Hindu wall paintings.
So during my last dinner just before catching the night-train to Jaipur, while chatting with my fellow Swiss travellers I was listening to Nepali or Tibetan religious music "Om mani padme hum.....", while the huge and beautifully lit fort of Meharanghar towered above us. A very special experience.
Everywhere in the narrow streets, but that I have seen in most Indian cities, there were small 'street, neighbourhood or private' temples such as the one in the picture below.
Small temple in one of the streets in Old Jodhpur
One of the things I noticed was that women in their 20's and 30's wore a thin head scarf on or over their hair. You see that all over India and it looks beautiful, more like a nice fashion item than a religious attribute. However in Jodhpur there was something different: whenever I looked at one of these women, and yes, they are often very beautiful so that is a pleasant thing to do, they would pull the scarf over their face so that I couldn't see their face and our eyes would not cross. A more subtle way than the permanent head and face-covering veils of the muslim women here, but the principle is the same. Do then all mayor religions have this obsession with or fear for sexuality? (apart from Taoism and Tantric Buddhism...) It seems like it.
Another experience. I had dinner in a nice garden restaurant beside a pub/disco. After dinner I decided to have a look. After sipping my bier and reading my book and listening to the music (I was a pretty tired after a long day of walking in the heat and not into socialising), I decided to have a go at the dance floor. The whole place looked modern with western dressed youngsters and loud local and international pop music with heavy beats. But when I stepped on the dance floor, where at that moment only about 4 western women and one man, all part of the same group, where dancing, I was ticked on the back by the 2 by 1 meter security guard: "sorry no access for single men". "What is this?" I thought, but it all made perfect sense if looking at a woman's face is already considered inappropriate, then the risk that unmarried people of the opposite sex dance together should of course be ruled out. But nothing in the place had prepared me for this. Anyway, I was tired enough and had no problems heading home for a good night of sleep.
But, yes, the dogmas of religion can be a bit of a curse.
Whatever to think about the above: I found the people of Jodhpur the nicest people I had met sofar in India. Very, very friendly. Many times did men (not women indeed) greet me and ask me where I came from in a very friendly way. Kids wanted their photographs taken and my guest house owners where the nicest ones I met, who ended up giving me a discount on departure, bring me to the railway station and were always ready to help or assist with whatever I needed.
Later back in the office in Delhi I told about the friendly Jodhpurians and my colleagues told me that in Jodhpur they always address people with an additional polite form in Hindi. So that makes sense. So they are orthodox religious, but that also came with a friendliness and politeness that I found very pleasant.
No, Jodhpur was a very pleasant place to be. If you are not looking for a place to flirt with Indian girls it is definitely a place worth visiting. I really liked it.
All the best to you,