Jodhpur, India

elephant in Jodhpur, India

Perched on the edge of the Thar Desert, Jodhpur has a long history of trade. The origins of the city go back to 1459.  Second largest city of Rajasthan, it is colorful and home to many religious and ethnic groups. Though probably less visited than Jaipur, I found it delightful and would urge you to include it on your next trip to India.

Jodhpur has a tradition of military service, maybe because of the large concentration of Brahmins who live there.  Driving into the city through mountain areas between Jodhpur and Jaipur, we passed a large number of military bases, border patrol training centers and military academies. This is understandable when you realize they are only 200 miles from the Pakistan border, but I was comforted to see the motto displayed outside one base: “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.”

While there we visited some of the smaller villages in the countryside. People working hard to maintain peace as a cultural value was very apparent. A potter in one Hindu village was a Muslim, and he supplied pots for all his neighbors.  At the next stop a local weaver learned how to weave from his wife and they have started a cooperative recognized internationally for their artistry, This gives work to the villagers, the cooperative funds a school for the children, both men and women are trained and employed and they have won government grants and awards for their efforts. 

We visited a Jain cloth merchant who employs many diverse faiths in his warehouse.  Throughout India one sees so many different religions and cultures living together, but here, so close to the border and in a city with so many military offices it was particularly heartening to see this ability to live and work together peacefully.

The highlight of my stay here had to be the Umaid Bhawan Palace, part of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces.  One hears of the Palace Hotels in India, and sees lovely pictures, but nothing can prepare you for what this experience is really like.  The last of the great palaces of the Maharajas to be built in India, this hilltop extravaganza was finished in 1944, designed by renowned Edwardian architect Henry Lanchester, and decorated in breathtaking Art Deco style. 

The palace is an intriguing blend of Eastern and Western architecture, set on 26 acres of grounds and lakes with strolling peacocks… murals inside the hotel by self-exiled Polish artist Stefan Norblin include what you think are typical deco themes, but look more closely and the strong woman you see in murals dominating the Maharini Suite is a modern day representation of the Goddess Kali. To put this even more strongly in context, the original furniture purchased for the Palace was lost at sea, bombed by a Nazi U-Boat on its way from London.

The soaring 105 foot cupola is influenced by the Renaissance, built with 2 levels to insulate against the strong desert sun, the adjacent towers are local Rajput tradition.  The stonework is intricate and detailed, but because it’s natural golden sandstone it come across more demur than other highly carved and colored Indian palaces.

The current Maharaja and his family still reside here, less than half the rooms were given over to the hotel, and the Maharaja’s car collection and antiques from Jodhpur’s royal past are popular attractions available to hotel guests.

An indoor subterranean Zodiac themed swimming pool is bordered by the full Ayervedic Spa, a selection of restaurants, lounges and impressive banquet rooms will delight any guest who is lucky enough to stay in what is one of the largest private residences in the world.   The Royal suites which include the original Maharani and Maharaja Suites are some of the largest and most luxurious suites anywhere, architects and designers visit the Palace on a regular basis to see what is considered one of the world’s finest collection of original Art Deco furniture.

The outdoor pool offers amazing views of the historic Mehrangarh Fort, the largest fort in all Rajasthan and definitely worth visiting as it includes the previous Maharaja’s palace, several temples and extensive gardens, and offers marvelous views of the Blue City of Jodhpur.

The Umaid Bhawan Palace would be a memorable honeymoon, anniversary, or other important celebration, as part of our Signature Hotels and Resorts Collection, any booking thru TravelStore will include some complimentary meals and other privileges during your stay.  But the privilege of staying in a truly amazing palace, and exploring interesting Jodhpur, will make any visit very special!

Heidi Hoehn