Spend a few hours, days or weeks in the Blue City of Jodhpur, and you’ll see just why it’s one of our favourite cities in Rajasthan, India.
With its the famed indigo-painted houses of the old city enclave and the monolithic Meharangarh Fort looming over the city from atop its mighty clifftop, Jodhpur stands as testimony to one of the fiercest and formidable kingdoms of Rajasthan, India.
Rich in culture and tradition, this desert city has provided us endless inspiration for Tulasii’s collections. It was the inspiration behind our best-selling signature piece, the Jali indigo dabu lounge robe, and our pure indigo Malkha cotton lounge jackets. Shop the robes HERE
Jodhpur is also the main base from which we work with our ethical fashion partnership, Saheli Women, located a few hours drive from Jodhpur in the rural village of Bhikamkor.
It's a busy and bustling city, and wildly chaotic, but dig beneath the surface and you'll soon find out why Jodhpur is a treasure trove of Rajasthani charm.
The twisting lanes of Jodphur’s blue-washed enclave, which stretches for more than 10 kilometres along the walls of the historic walled old city, is where you'll uncover the most iconic of Jodhpur scenes, with indigo houses and bustling bazaars interspersed with hole-in-the-wall temples and monkeys scampering across the rooftops.
The winding roads are so narrow here that any vehicles larger than a tuk-tuk can’t access them, so it’s very much a walking affair – which suits us just fine. Set out to wander the alleys and get a little lost. Slow down, get amongst it, talk to the locals, and take it all in.
The pigment coating that gives this area the moniker of the Blue City was once used to indicate that a Brahmin — the priests of the Indian caste system — dwell there. Although these days, locals tell us, the blue has been adopted by non-Brahmin families too, as the colour is a natural mosquito repellant, as well as being cooling in the scorching heat of summer when the temperature in Jodhpur can reach up and over 45 degrees of a day!
I tend to stay in the guesthouses around the residential area of beautifully busy Chandpole. Some of my best memories of Jodhpur have been made here. Memories of sunrise cups of chai, sipped on the rooftop of Shahi Heritage on my last trip to the city, as the sun bathed the fort and its rock face with a golden glow. Crisp winter evenings sitting and chatting with my favourite brassware shop keeper, the both of us wrapped in our shawls to brace against the cold desert air. The cacophony of sounds as the Hanuman temple Aarti (offerings) chime off in the distance and the morning Call to Prayer echoes across the city.
Our old city walks always seem to end in the same place – the incredible stepwell of Toorji Ka Jhalara. Built in the 1740s by Maharaja Abhaya Singh’s Queen, the stepwell had laid submerged for nearly a century before its recent drainage, clean-up, and restoration, which uncovered over two hundred feet of hand-carved treasure in Jodhpur’s famous rose-hued Red Sandstone. You can sit on the steps at any time of the day, and it’s a popular place for fun-loving youths and locals to gather (and you will be asked for a selfie, guaranteed!). When the water level is low, climb down to view the intricate carvings and water-spouts, and the many niches housing ancient deities.
There’s no escaping the view of impregnable Mehrangarh Fort from anywhere in Jodhpur. Chiseled out of the 400-ft perpendicular rock face, it has been a constant sentry over the city for centuries, colossal in both size and legend. Rudyard Kipling wrote of Mehrangarh when he visited Jodhpur in 1899, that it was “The work of angels, fairies, and giants… built by Titans and coloured by the morning sun… he who walks through it loses sense of being among buildings. It is as though he walked through mountain gorges…”.
Negotiate a ride from an auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) driver from the city streets below, and head up the hill to explore the fort and take in the breathtaking view – first thing in the morning and late afternoon towards sunset are the best times to visit, offering the best light and the space to explore without the crowds.
Right next to and overlooking the magnificent Toorji Ka Jhalara is one of our favourite places to relax and unwind after the long days of work, the Stepwell Cafe. There are multiple levels to pull up a seat and dine but I usually just head straight up to the rooftop to sink into the floor cushions of the little open-air lounge, order a cool drink and some Sev Puri (a popular Indian snack originating from Mumbai – morsels of deliciousness!), and take it all in. You can easily lose hours here watching the many kids who come to enjoy their local swim hole, diving into the stepwell below when the rains have come and the water level is up.
By night, you can often find us at Indique, the rooftop restaurant at Pal Haveli. With views of the fort and the illuminated Clock Tower, the atmosphere is something special. Bonus: the food is delicious, too! Some of the best vegetarian curries I have had in Jodhpur have been devoured here. Head to the top terrace for the cosiest seating and an unimpeded fort vista.
The vibrant Sadar Market, close to the Clock Tower in the city’s centre, is a riotous show of classic India – a mad cacophony of sounds, smells and chaos, with vegetable carts, incense smoke, pungent spices, Indian sweets, and holy cows all jostling for space and assaulting the senses. Escape the craziness down one of the side streets and alleys that run off this centre, which is where shoppers will find the real treasures – exquisite textiles, traditional handmade and embroidered leather shoes (Juttis), lacquerware, brass and copper vessels, cups and bowls, antiques, carpets, puppets marble inlay work, vintage textiles, colourful bangles and the silver jewellery of the nomadic Banjara tribe. There are some sources that I have found over the years and return to every time I’m in town, but you’ll quickly uncover some of your own. Besides, handing my secrets over would defeat the thrill of discovering them for yourself!
If it’s a splurge-worthy spree that you’re after, or even if just in the mood to wander through boutiques filled with beautiful design, head to Stepwell Square, just near the now-iconic RAAS Hotel. This all-encompassing series of shops, studios and galleries are housed in the 18th Century Nath Haveli and the equally distinctive 1930s-era ‘Jodhpur Art Deco’ residential wing. Some of India's best fashion and design houses can be found here. My top picks: Good Earth for beautiful trinkets and collector-worthy homewares, Via Jodhpur for a mix of modern and exotic fashion, and my biggest addiction, Forest Essentials, for THE MOST divine Ayurvedic-based perfumes and body creams. Take in the beautiful old architecture of the area, then settle in to dine, sip and shop in style.
STREET SCENES OF JODHPUR
ALL IMAGES ©TULASII // Photography by Natalie Bannister