SEEN FROM THE RAMPARTS of Meherangarh Fort, Jodhpur is a densely populated city of small square buildings painted white and blue. The clank and thump of industry and the indistinct roar of many voices rise softly on the spiralling currents of air upon which eagles glide. The image of the eagle is a recurring motif in the city. Eagles and kites, considered guardians of the city, hover protectively over its inhabitants both literally and figuratively. These birds feature on the crest of the royal family of Marwar, Jodhpur, and are to be found in paintings and carvings all across the city.
Palaces built of gold-hued stone, mud walls fashioned from desert soil, eagles and aeroplanes, vibrant colours, the harsh, bleached light of the desert – each element comes into its own, blending one with the other to create a city with a fascinating past and an intriguing present.
The plain on which the city is built is dominated by two hills; one a rugged outcrop of weathered rock out of which the fort seems to emerge organically, so difficult is it to distinguish where the rock ends and the man-made structure begins. The other hill is rounder, gentler, covered with small trees and shrubs and crowned by the Umaid Bhawan Palace. At night, from the air, the two buildings seem to float in twin pools of light upon a glittering carpet of stars.
Prince and peasant come together at festive times to mark the passage of each year with rituals which are still held dear and festivities that go back to the distant past. Among these are a series of fairs that celebrate the festival of Holi and the coming of Spring.
There is no better place to see the people and products of Jodhpur than in its crowded and bustling bazaar. Near the Ghanta Ghar or the Clock Tower, at the Sardar Market in Old Jodhpur one can encounter, while strolling, the busy activities of the traders in this commercial heart of this city. Among the goods which are finding a widening market are the hand-woven textiles of weavers who live in simple mud huts on the edge of the desert.
A changing social environment and a shift in local buying patterns posed a threat to the weaves of woollen shawls in the Jodhpur area. Dynamic cooperation and a willingness to seek other avenues for the sale of their textiles have created a whole new range of products and activities for some group of weavers. Their products are hugely popular in Delhi and other states too.
The weavers now directly showcase their products in Delhi through Nature Bazar or similar outlets.
Meherangarh Fort is still very much a part of Jodhpur and it belongs to every visitor who walks through. Meherangarh was built in the 15th Century, when times were more turbulent than usual in this land once called Marwar. Even after five centuries, the Meherangarh Fort stands proud, unconquered and regal, yet in spirit it belongs to the people of Jodhpur.
Against the background of parched brown earth, the blue city stands out magnificently. Jodhpur is full of history and full of legends – a paradise in the heart of the heat and sandstorm of Rajasthan.