Upon entering the fort, we were summoned to take a picture with a man wearing a saffron turban (associated with valor and worn by the warrior caste members) and sporting a very impressive, Santa Claus-esque white beard. His eyes were barely open and he was feeling pretty good… if you catch my drift. We snapped a pretty creepy-looking pic with him (you be the judge — see pic) and went on our merry way.
Jodhpur’s rich history of war, romance, and valor came alive before our eyes as we sauntered through the fort’s thick walls. The maharajas certainly lived an extravagant lifestyle (gross understatement). We marveled at royal palanquins, ostentatious with their golden lions and velvet tassels. We gawked at extravagantly ornate period rooms, with their colorful stained glass windows and painstakingly detailed patterns. We even winced at a few of the ancient Indian weapons, especially the katara, the most famous and characteristic of Indian daggers. The katara has an H-shaped horizontal hand grip, and the blade opens like a pair of scissors after stabbing, releasing poison from within. Seriously twisted.
One of my personal favorite aspects of the Mehrangarh Fort is its view of the city below. It quickly became clear why Jodhpur is known as “The Blue City.” The blue-painted houses clustered below the fort have become one of the city’s signature features. When the fort was built for the royal family, the brahmans (Hindu priests) opted not to live inside because they were passivists. However, they still wanted to live in a place that would appropriately reflect their stature. Therefore, the maharaja set them up in the blue houses directly below the fort and, to this day, the brahmans of Jodhpur continue to paint their houses blue, year after year.
After our visit to the fort, we made a splash at Jodhpur’s bustling evening market. The city is known for its textiles, so we made sure to purchase a few souvenirs. We shopped at Maharani Imports (maharani is actually the term used for the maharaja’s wife), and the salesman quickly assured us that he was friends with lots of Americans. Richard Gere, Bill Murray (who invited him to his house in NYC for a week), Jennifer Aniston, Sting… all your average Americans. Glitz and glamour aside, the prices at Maharani Imports were unbelievable. I’ll just put it this way: expect something Indian for Christmas this year.