It is 9PM; the temperature has finally dropped down to 35 degrees. We are the only tourists on the platform of Old Delhi station waiting for the night train to Jodhpur. It is June, the hottest season in India and the worst time to visit Rajasthan. But the heath doesn’t keep us from visiting the ”Land of Kings”. Also known as the most colorful state of India due to its blue, pink and golden cities, its forts and Maharajas palaces. This is part one of our Rajasthan Diaries: Jodhpur, the Blue City.
The Blue City
Jodhpur, the second largest city of Rajasthan is known as the “Blue City”. There are different explanations why the houses are blue. Either it has to do with termites and the color blue mixed with chemical components keeps the houses bug-free. Or the color is associated with the Brahmins -India’s priestly caste- and the blue houses of the old city belong to families of that caste. That’s why it’s locally referred to as the ‘Brahmin Houses’.
The rickshaw driver drops us at he entrance of the old city. I see shops full of pulverized small spice towers in every shade of brown from mustard to cinnamon. The next-door vendors sell mangoes, cucumbers, tomatoes and blood-red chilies for spicy curries. On every corner there is a small temple where a different god is honored with orange, white and yellow flower cords. Monkeys jump from roof to roof and groups of women sit on a blanket while their little kids play around the free water point. Horses transport goods, while a scooter with a whole family on it tries to pass a cow looking for a bite in the garbage on the ground. My head dazzles from all the noise; claxons, holistic flute music and children screaming. A man soaked from the heath walks by with a huge refrigerator strapped on his back while the bony man driving the rickshaw next to him is using all his power to reach the water point for a sip of water. I look at the women carrying vases full of water on their head. They are dressed in colorful silk saris, with red bindis on their third eye and decorated with large jingling gold anklets, bracelets and a nose pierced with a delicate chain all the way to their pierced ear. One of my favorites are the old men with impressive mustaches and immense turbans. It’s one colorful chaotic scene and I am still wondering: Is this reality? Yes it is, welcome to India!
We walk through a tangle of winding, medieval streets filled with shops and street vendors selling everything from trumpets and temple decorations to glittering saris. Men with orange colored hair -the latest fashion in India- sit in front of the shops sipping chai tea and chatting with their neighbors. The smell of incense, flowers and spices mingle with the smell of urine, sweat and garbage. My stomach is still getting used to all these new aromas. We are on a mission to find the most picturesque blue streets. Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown and the alleys never seem to lead where we expect them. The aggressive street dogs make us turn around several times to find another way. We get lost in a dreamy labyrinth of endless shades of blue. In Hinduism blue represents nature, the sky, the oceans, the rivers and the lakes. It stand equal for bravery, determination, the ability to deal with difficult situations a stable mind and depth of character. Determined I am walking through my indigo daydream.
When we see a pastel blue painted courtyard we peek into the open doorway and are invited in by an elderly woman. At first we hesitate, we got so many warnings once we announced we were traveling to India and since we arrived we are being as cautious as can be. But this warm welcome feels sincere and we go in for a super sweet cup of chai with the friendly and interested Rajasthani family.
For the best view of the blue city we go up to Mehrangarh Fort. A winding lane leads up the 125-meter high hill, on which the ancient fortress is built. We enter the imposing thick (36 meters high) walls through one of the seven gates. Inside are huge courtyards, marbled floors, courthouses and palaces decorated with beautiful carvings, royal balconies and ornamented residences with impressive painted doors. From one of the towers we look out on the thousands of flat blue painted roofs. Despite the terrible heath I fall in love with this dazzling city, its warm people and I am eager for more of Rajasthan’s magic.