Gems of the Desert

A 12-Day Spiritual Adventure

with Dandapani in North India

September 2018


Jodhpur, the Blue City

Rajasthan’s Ancient Desert Metropolis

From the charming village of Chandelao, we head west to Jodhpur, the Blue City. Towering over this city—most of which is quite literally painted blue—is the mighty Mehrangarh Fort. (You can’t miss it.) At the foot of this monolithic fortress, the old city is a jumbled maze of winding and glittering streets lined with boutiques and bazaars selling everything from slide trombones to temple statues. New Jodhpur has expanded greatly beyond the shadow of the fort and has emerged as less chaotic, more contemporary. This blend of old and new, bumbled and blue, makes it one of Dandapani’s favorite cities in Rajasthan.

Mehrangarh Fort

A visit to Jodhpur is not complete without a visit to Mehrangarh Fort. A bastion of invincibility for centuries against an unending onslaught of invaders, it is also an architectural masterpiece. Built around 1460 by Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur, the majestic fort sprawls for 5 kilometers across a 125-meters-high hill, surrounded by walls up to 36 meters high and 21 meters thick. There are seven gates, including the famous Jai Pol, Fateh Pol, Dedh Kamgra Pol, and Loha Pol. Within the fort are several brilliantly crafted and decorated palaces, such as the Pearl Palace, Flower Palace, and Mirror Palace. A museum within the fort houses an exquisite collection of palanquins, howdahs, cradles, instruments, costumes and furniture.
There will be time to explore the fort with its astounding architecture, victory gates, palace chambers and spectacular views of the Blue City below. The best way to get up to this colossal citadel is to hike from the back gate of our splendid hotel in Jodhpur.

The Blue City

Old world charm in blue

The old Blue City is a honeycomb of paths and alleys that ballooned over centuries to the chaos it is today. Built for foot traffic and livestock, Jodphur is now congested with ever-growing population and diesel-bellowing vehicles. Yet, the blue laneways of the old city are filled with surprises—glass bangles here, woven carpets there, and metal trinkets everywhere to uplift the weary traveler.

You could spend days meandering the alleyways guided by sights, smells and sounds, but still not feel like you have completely seen this charming city. Simply wandering is probably one of the most wonderful experiences to be had in Jodhpur. And when your legs get tired, there are countless cafes to sit and watch myriad random scenes play out in front of you while sipping on a delicious, piping-hot chai.

children blue city jodhpur 350x233 - 2018 Meditation & Yoga Retreat - Jodhpur, India with Dandapani
blue city jodhpur india meditation retreat 500x753 - 2018 Meditation & Yoga Retreat - Jodhpur, India with Dandapani

Toorji's Step Well

The queen’s gift of life

“It is the unfailing fall of rain that sustains the world. Therefore, look upon rain as the nectar of life.” ~ Thiruvalluvar, Tamil weaver and saint

Maharaja Abhay Singh’s consort, the queen, built Toorji Ka Jhalra in the 1740s. Commonly known now as Toorji’s Step Well, it is a Jodhpur highlight and has been featured in publications like The New York Times. To sit on a step and gaze over all the other steps leading down to the water below is relaxing, regardless of the old city’s clamor around you.

The queen was originally from Patan city in Gujarat state, where India’s most spectacular step well can be found. Perhaps this inspired her to build Toorji Ka Jhalra. That said, it is traditional for royal women to create public water works for the other women of their territory, to assist them with their typical homemaking chore of fetching and storing water. Even today, the basic household tasks of getting and keeping water remain essential in a desert area like Rajasthan. This makes the well the queen’s gift of life.

Toorji Ka Jhalra was submerged for decades. Recent drainage and restoration efforts revealed over 200 feet of red sandstone, hand-carved with decorative medieval lions and dancing elephants, as well as cow water spouts and niches for now-missing deities. In such an arid area, Mehrangarh Fort required a complex water system, and Toorji Ka Jhalra was part of it. Sadly, like this water system, many an architectural marvel in India is in disuse and disrepair.

lady at the well rajasthan india - 2018 Meditation & Yoga Retreat - Jodhpur, India with Dandapani

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