Where I've Been

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Part 5: Jodhpur

I researched quite a bit about Rajasthan before leaving. The mass of aspiring travel writers whose blogs I sifted through abused words like: enchanting, mystical, magical, fairytale-like. If there are any places that merit those words, they are Jodhpur and Jaisalmer.

The history of India is replete with leaders attempting to unite the varied peoples and geographical areas: Akbar, Aurengzeb, the British Raj, Gandhi, etc. The Rajput clans of Rajasthan constantly battled against this assimilation, preferring instead to continuously attempt to wrest power and land from each other. Their palaces and fortresses are relics of this continual struggle: protecting them while ostentatiously declaring their preeminence and wealth. As a result, walking through these structures feels like a tour through an unfake version of Disneyland.

Wealthy merchants in those days kept ornate residences, called havelis. They vary in their opulence according to region and the status of the merchant, but most have carvings and paintings adorning their walls and courtyards. Families pass them down through generations and the homes have become a popular place for travelers to stay. Here is Steve at Singhvi’s Haveli in Jodhpur, a lovely little family run joint in the heart of Jodhpur.

Please join us in the fantastic view of the Jodhpur fortress from our dining balcony at Singhvi’s Haveli.

Jodhpur is known as the blue city. Blue is traditionally the color of the Brahmins, the priestly class in Hindu society. That’s not to say that everyone in Jodhpur is a Brahmin, but it is to say that Jodhpurians tend to spread the blues despite their class. Having most buildings light blue gives the feeling that you are in perpetual twilight, either dawn or dusk. This is accentuated when you actually take a walk at dawn or dusk, as we did.

Cows are holy in India. When I asked Jaideep why this is, he told me because they provide milk and it would be stupid to kill something that sustains you, so they became holy. Jaideep is an engineer and I thought his answer exceptionally pragmatic, but it turns out that he’s essentially correct. Cows are revered as motherly and nurturing as they provide milk. Their sanctity is well represented throughout Hindu holy books. Another idea is that Shiva, one of the Hindu trinity, has a vahana (his ride) that is Nandi, the bull. Whatever the reason, holy cows are everywhere in India. Readers of my Elephanta post will recall my lack of faith in holy animals. The sacred struggle is accentuated when these blessed bovines amass and loiter on the crowded streets and walkways of a town like Jodhpur like a gang of toughs.

Take this demon cow for instance.

On more than one occasion we beat a hasty retreat as a cow transformed a walkway into a bullfighting arena. Cow dung is used to thatch roofs and seal walls, to burn as fuel and mosquito repellent, and to remind foreigners that watching the walkway in front of them is likely more important than whatever oddity they’re gawking at. Additionally, cows are great entertainment. Here I am cheering on what I childishly refer to as a cow fight.

Anyway, back to Jodhpur, the fortress at Jodhpur is reserved as a museum.

While there I met with some of my relatives

(think about it….got it? If you’re still puzzling, it means you don’t personally know me, in which case I must commend you for having the excellent taste to read my blog. For your benefit, it would be helpful to know that I am asked on daily basis how I am related to Britney).

While in Jodhpur we also embarked upon an eye-opening village tour which is soon to be recounted. Check back again now.


jordo said...

haha, bro, I wanted to see a cow fight!

Theresa said...

Amazing havelis and fortresses! Amazing blue city! Why is the cow fight video no longer available?