Friday, August 25, 2006

Mehrangarh Fort Trip

This was part an arduous 3-day company workshop where I - and 25 of my co-workers - skipped off on the last day to see Jodhpur.

But first - a little highlight of the trip. The Other Stuff will be on the
Other Blog; this is just about the travel travails.
Douglas Adams had a character in The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul, a Rain God. The catch was, this guy, a normal truck driver, didn't know he was a Rain God. He just knew wherever he went in England, it was raining. Hard, slow, drizzly, stormy... but always raining. This was a little like that, when the captain announced that the Jodhpur airport was flooded, the runway closed, and general chaos reigning and raining. We sat for a while at the Jaipur airport, after which he again announced - his Singapore accent getting more pronounced with irritation - these things aren't supposed to happen in a desert city, for chrissake - that he was going to try to land at Jodhpur, or else head back to Bombay, with all 137 of the conferencers aboard. Our ED looked like he was about to give birth to a large mammal.

Stayed at Umaid Bhavan; sexy place. See the rest of the snaps here, the pictures speak for themselves. Die of jealousy.

We did a quick trip to Mandore gardens; Earlier called Mandavyapura, this was the capital of Marwar till the establishment of Jodhpur as a town. There's a lot of temples, both Hindu and Jain, and cenotaphs, and a Hall of Heroes (with really amazing light effects)and large langurs, and lots of litter. But fairly okay place. Most of the trip consisted of V's PJs, and an argument with a hotel management trainee at the Jal Palace who steadfastly refused to allow us in to see the place (V especially was looking remarkably ruffianly, so can't really blame the HMT)

The 3rd day was the trip to Mehrangarh Fort. Founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha (which makes it older than the US of A). It's perched on top of a 150-m hill, accessible by buses, and is easily the most visible structure across Jodhpur and most of the countryside, the ony other one being Umaid Bhavan. Cost us 10 bucks to get in (firangs have to pay 200, hahah!) and another 50 if you want to take snaps. And they're serious about that; C got nicely yelled at for taking unauthorized snaps. And a reel was confiscated. Seriously!

A little history -
Battle scars of canon ball hit by attacking armies of Jaipur can still be seen on the second gate. To the left is chhatri of Kirat Singh Soda, a soldier who fell on the spot while defending the fort against the armies of Amber. There are seven gates, which include Jayapol meaning victory built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over Jaipur and Bikaner armies. Fattehpol also meaning victory gate was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh to mark the defeat of Mughals. The palm imprints still attract devotional attention and are covered by vermilion paste and paper-thin silver foil.

Cool place, huge, and very well-maintained. It's not a ruined fort; properly maintained, it has a museum, the original cannons, guides, whole buildings, and beautiful architecture and stonework. And it's massive. Most of the forts I've gotten used to exploring in the Sahyadris have been pretty much a couple of walls between the trees; this is proper multiple-storied halls, rooms, furniture, guards, fortune-tellers, signs, people playing folk music in little alcoves (to which D and R immediately started dancing, much to their entertainment) audio tours, the works.

There was a beautiful museum inside as well, where they had palkis; you can see an interesting collection of old royal palanquins including the elaborate domed gilt Mahadol palanquin, which was won in a battle from the Governor of Gujarat in 1730. The Palkis were hand-carried as well as elephant-mounted; There's an armoury with a display of swords, knives, kurkhis, muskets, and some really interesting combinations of the above. We have bayonets attached on guns; they had little single-shot guns at the base of swords.

The grandest of Mehrangarh's period rooms, the Phool Mahal was in all likely hood a private and exclusive chamber of pleasure dancing girls once swooned in exhaustion here under a ceiling rich in gold filigree. The Phool Mahal was created by Maharaja Abhaya Singh (1724-1749) and the gold came from Ahmedabad in Gujarat as war booty after his famous victory over the rebellious Mughal governor, Sarbuland Khan.

From the top, you can see the residential parts of Jodhpur; most of the houses use a whitewash mixed with neel, and when wet in the rain, the whole city looks blue.

On the turrets, they have a whole bunch of cannons, from different rulers, including one 1912 WW1 field gun.
That was D getting some ideas to increase collections revenue, or is just the release of A Matter Of Life And Death that's inspiring him?
One section that looks exactly like the Great Wall of China, done for some inexplicable reason in sandstone. Great opportunity to fool people when you have to fake a China trip.
R went berserk after catching the PT-teacher virus from D; at every photo-op they were either trying to fly, or educating all you lazy bums sitting at your comp right now about the benefits of healthy exercise.
Had a chai at the base before splitting up and heading off to the market to buy bags and silver.
All in all - beautiful weather, great views, lovely place, good company. Do this when you're there next time.



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