I woke up early to see the sunrise and spend some time alone on the rooftop terrace. There I was, minding my own business, taking in the daybreak and writing a bit when a little bird landed right near me and then sang me a little song. We talked for a bit. I would say “hello” and my new friend would chirp back something I could almost understand. After everyone else made it up to the terrace, we had breakfast, which for me was my usual sunrise porridge. I started eating porridge on my first morning in Jaisalmer and Jon began calling me Oliver Twist. Being a Dickens fan, I embraced my new identity and decided that porridge would be my Rajasthani breakfast choice. This particular morning, I decided to go a bit crazy and spice it up with bananas.
Just after breakfast we headed up to the Meherangarh decided to take a personal guide. What a difference from the fort in Jaisalmer. In Jaisalmer, we visited the temple and walked around a bit, but it just seemed to crammed with stores and hotels that it made any idea of further exploration completely uninteresting to me. Jon went for a further tour of the Jaisalmer Fort, but Ulco, Manuel and I did not. I wasn’t interested in shopping through a fort. I wanted to see history, not wood carvings used for block paintings and patchwork bedcovers. While I was charmingly seduced by the town itself, I was quit disappointed by the fort. In a way it reminded me of old Jerusalem, only with different items to buy.
Meherangarh, however, was a completely different story. We entered via the Jayapol and made our way to the Imritiapol gate, which is located further up the slope after a sharp turn. This was to stop any charging elephants. After that is the Fatehpol, built by the Maharaja to celebrate and commemorate his victory over the Mughals. After that, there is the Lohapol, or Iron Gate, built atop another slope just around a bend. This gate has iron spikes which would slow or stop any elephant that made it that far and anyone that happened to be atop an elephant would find him or her self uncomfortably impaled on the door spikes. I had seen the higher spikes on other gate and could not figure out what they would be doing 2 – 3 meters off the ground. Charging elephants was not an option I had considered. Next to that gate, are a series of reconstructed handprints of Maharaja Man Singh’s widows who, in 1843 threw themselves on his funeral pyre.
The carved windows and arched doorways are absolutely magnificent. One of those places here pictures just do not do justice at all. This is a place you have to see for yourself to truly grasp the beauty and grandeur. Each turn of a corner introduced more intricate carvings and architecture, and below the blue hues of the city spread out like a blanket across an otherwise brownish landscape.
A few weeks ago, several people were crushed to death in a stampede at the Chamunda Devi temple in Jodhpur. This temple is at the far end of Meherangarh. It is a tiny little temple with views across a lot of the city. Our guide told us how the bodies were lined up in part of the fort and he knew a few personally. Like most places in India, Jodhpur is both large and incredibly tiny. Everyone seems to know everyone or know someone who knows someone.
After the fort, we went to see Jaswant Thada, the elaborately carved memorial which looks bigger and more impressive from a distance. It could also be the fact that it is competing with a fort that makes it seem a bit less than it otherwise would. Perhaps there are only so many tombs, temples and forts a person can see in such close succession before they start blending in with each other and going from being spectacular to just another stop on the tourist trail. Its like being at the Louvre or in Florence. Both great places, but just the amount of art everywhere makes it almost impossible to really enjoy everything. I was looking forward to going to Mount Abu the next day, just to have some time in nature and cleanse the palette so to speak.
The afternoon was spent shopping for cashmere at a store that had a lot of overruns on the Hermes cashmere blankets. They were all amazing and we were reminded many times that Richard Gere had recently been by and bout 80 or so of them. With cashmere safely in bags, it was back to the hotel and then a stroll through the local market. I loved it. Jodhpur has all of the things I love about old Delhi without all the things I don’t like about old Delhi. We bought some glass, shopped for spices and teas and just took in the local sights and sounds. The next day, we were planning to head to Mount Abu, but once again, our plans did not go as planned.