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Jodhpur (Abbreviated) : Blues 'n' poos and fireworks too

Jodhpur Travel Blog

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Katrina and her henna :)

'Can I keep you company for the day?  I think it's always better to see a city in company, don't you?'.  Excuse me?  Morning?  Who?  What?  It's about 5.30am, Jodhpur train station.  I've only just extricated myself from the sand dunes of Rajasthani desert dust that had built up around me as I slept, train-bound, through the night.  I was awaiting the ticket office to open with a plan to head to a hotel and crash out for half the day but now this proposition from a pretty, red-headed Russian girl named Katrina.  Yep.  I guess it's better to have company as the pretty, red-headed Russian girl says.

'Public F(Art)' : One of the curious 'dung dolls' :)
.. so let's go see Jodhpur.

India.  It's a country that continually causes one to raise an eyebrow either out of amazement or amusement or both.  This morning, not five minutes into Katrina and I's excursion I sight a woman squatting on the ground in front of her house creatively fingering about with a fresh cow sh*t.  And I'm thinking 'Well India, that's another new one on me!'  Well, not totally new.  I'm not ignorant of the value - cultural, practical and historical - of forging cow poo into dried fuel cakes as a financial expedient of the poor.  But this looks a little different.  As I said, it's a little 'creative' looking.

Moving on and arriving at the door of a house that will soon invite (con) Kat inside for a henna session with a lovely married, middle-aged husband and wife, there upon the ground another Gingerbread Man form of a human being forged out of a fresh cow crap.

Jodhpur central market clock tower
  It lies bedecked in marigold petals, puffed rice a red-powder bindi and other accoutrements.  I cook up the theory that, this being Diwali, perhaps it is auspicious for these sacred animals to off-load outside your door at this time and one is compelled to sculpt these little 'dung dolls' for good luck.  I dunno?  Sadly I don't pluck up the courage to enquire of our host 'So, is your wife making public art out of cow sh*te a cultural norm of Hindu society and if so what does it signify?' but maybe I should've done.  They charged Kat enough for the henna after all!

Suffice to say that when in the middle of a fraught staring contest with a cow on platform number two of Jaisalmer train station at nearly midnight last night, said cow ejecting a liquid stream of excrement onto said platform (in a shameless attempt to distract me and win the contest of course!) and nearly getting my backpack in its splat radius despite our 2 metres distance, did not feel like an auspicious event to me!

So what does Jodhpur have to offer.

Cart & Blue
  In brief.  The Meherangarh fort, historical home of the maharaja of Jodhpur makes for a fascinating visit.  A wonderful example of mughal architecture and the delicacy of the haveli window carving.  Some glorious interiors can be taken in too.  The audio guide tour (included in your 200Rs / £2.50 entrance fee) is superbly informative, thorough and dramatic so don't shun it.  From on high within the fort a great view is available of the blue Cubist landscape of dwellings that sprawl to the north of the fort.  The 'Old City'.  The 'Blue City'.  The colour formerly denoting specifically Brahmin living quarters but somewhat more democratised in its use for exterior decoration these days.

Not far from the fort in the white marble serenity of the Jaswant Thada memorial building where Maharaja Jaswant Singh II has his final resting place.

Jodhpur fort (detail)
  A tiny bit reminiscent of the Taj in its feel and aesthetic and a little overrun by pigeons.  On the far side of the city, outside its old boundary walls there is the Umaid Bhawan Palace.  This, now part museum, residence and luxury hotel, was where the family of the Maharaja of Jodhpur moved in the early 20th Century and still live (although stripped of titles these days).  Seen anywhere from afar this looks like a most promising and impressive structure silhouetted against the heat and dust of the city but up close is an utterly bland entity with little or nothing accessible in its interior that’s worth a glance.  I would argue it’s not worth the auto-rickshaw fare out there and entrance fee.

If you have time, the 20 minute walk from the precincts of the fort to the old 'Blue City' is probably necessary to get a real feel for Jodhpur of old.

Interior splendor at Jodhpur fort
  The Cubist landscape earlier spied from on high.  The people living in the shadow of their rulers on the hill.  Once the streets close in though the regular crush and clamour of Indian market streets can be a little overwhelming for the uninitiated.  The congestion of humanity and their clutter, cattle and machines here is quite, quite overpowering in terms of noise, heat, dust and aroma.  The pollution is awful!  Not an entirely pleasant experience and I'm glad - following a quick omelette at the 'famous' street vending venue of Mr 'Yes, I know my name is a girls name in your country, but it is not short for Vikhram or Vikrant, my name is Vicky Chouhan!' - to be back resting at the hotel.

We eventually find a pleasant temple dedicated to the Lord Shiva where colourful rangoli (intricate coloured powder floor decorations) and butter oil lamp compositions are being prepared for the continued Diwali celebrations.

  It seems important to Kat (soon to head off to Delhi) to sit and lie down meditatively here for some while.  I'm perfectly happy watching people decorate and run their hands over stone lingams, the phallic symbols of Shiva's potency normally sat upon/ within an ovoid shaped yoni or bowl representing the generative lady bits of his wife Parvati (later to become the all devouring Kali).  I sit and write and oblige the cheeky group of children who keep requesting I take photos of them and one of whom points a gun at me!

Kat departed.  Night fallen.  I stand atop my hotels rooftop restaurant to take in the continued night theatre of Diwali.  Pyrotechnically speaking nothing I witness in my three days of Indian Diwali celebrations compares to the magnificent fireworks display I once saw besides the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple in Neasden, London some years ago.

Cubist landscape : the old 'Blue City' of Jodhpur viewed from the Fort.
  But, as so often in India, the real magic and peculiar forms of charm and beauty are to be found down at street level. 

There kids as young as four; gangs of mates; brothers and sisters screech and whiz, crackle and burst with joy and great effervescence.  Explosive little gunpowder kegs of happiness each and every one.  Laughter sparkles through the air.  Those uniquely wide, lustrous firefly eyes that Indian children all seem to possess glittering in the street night shadows as they observe the fire crackers and bangers, miniature rockets and spinning Catherine wheels set off upon the ground.  All of which rowdy magic and fun would have the Health and Safety legislators and officials in Britain wetting their beds with anxiety.  As they so frequently do.

Jodhpur from on high.

Me.  Back upon the rooftop.  Alone with the Diwali night.  I hear the artillery shell blasts, near and far, of the kids and their dynamite sticks below.  Diwali is as much about noise as light it seems.  But the infrequent sky-high fireworks are pretty and up here, able to survey the whole city, they make for a busy performance too.  Their many colours flashing gold, red, blue, green, yellow, silver, orange and pink like traces of firework embroidery picked out upon the nights black background cloth.  Rajasthan has been a most colourful state.  Colour and dust.  Colour and light.  The people are fireworks amidst their various plights.

[ Afterword 14/03/2010 :  In recent reading I happened upon a reference to these 'Cow Cr*p Gingerbread Men'.

A beautifully complex 'rangoli' patterning with butter oil lamps in preparation for evening Diwali celebrations.
  They are crafted to celebrate the one day worship festival Annakuta or 'The Mountain of Food'.  Normally the day after Diwali (although I witnessed the forms during the bigger celebration), Annakuta is a day sacred to the cowherd god Krishna.  More specifically it honours Govardhana the mountain that Krishna lifted above his head to protect his cow herd supplicants from the angry rain storms of Lord Indra.  So the Dung Dolls are an anthropomorphic representation of the mountain, Lord of Govardhana 'the increaser of cattle.' ]

Stevie_Wes says:
HaHaHa Bob, well I must say, I hadn't heard that one about copper-nobs. Well, having met the rather spectacularly vivacious Russian redhead Kat here in Jodhpur, it must be an powerful centre for 'red energy' so enjoy should you ever find yourself there! :D Strangely there are quite a large number of 'red' heads to be seen throughout India, as, predominantly the men often dye their hair quite a livid rusty red colour with Henna - I've heard a number of explanations for this practice, religious observance blah blah blah... but basically it's good ole covering up of grey hairs in an economical manner as far as I can tell :))
Posted on: Jun 18, 2011
groovybob says:
Your blogs have the makings of a good book. Can,t wait till it hits the shelves...
It is said that redheads have no soul,(from one red head to another) I,m thinking we are the only ones with a soul...no offence to all the non red heads of course.
Posted on: Jun 17, 2011
dothoin says:
Great blog again as usual Stevie boy
Posted on: Dec 01, 2009
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Katrina and her henna :)
Katrina and her henna :)
Public F(Art) : One of the curio…
'Public F(Art)' : One of the curi…
Jodhpur central market clock tower
Jodhpur central market clock tower
Cart & Blue
Cart & Blue
Jodhpur fort (detail)
Jodhpur fort (detail)
Interior splendor at Jodhpur fort
Interior splendor at Jodhpur fort
Cubist landscape : the old Blue C…
Cubist landscape : the old 'Blue …
Jodhpur from on high.
Jodhpur from on high.
A beautifully complex rangoli pa…
A beautifully complex 'rangoli' p…
Approaching Jodhpur fort, former h…
Approaching Jodhpur fort, former …
Some of the beautifully carved mug…
Some of the beautifully carved mu…
Bats man!  ;D
'Bats man!' ;D
Stained glass rainbow
Stained glass rainbow
The Bell
The Bell
The indigo infused blue building e…
The indigo infused blue building …
Kat has a meditative moment inside…
Kat has a meditative moment insid…
Bang bang, he shot me down! : ki…
'Bang bang, he shot me down!' : k…
The Jaswant Thada memorial.
The Jaswant Thada memorial.
Blue. Cow.
Blue. Cow.
Jodhpur
photo by: lrecht