Photo story: streetlife in the blue city of Jodhpur

The bright blue walls of Jodhpur are a striking, improbable contrast to the umber sands of the Thar Desert. Capital of the ancient kingdom of Marwar and the second-largest city in Rajasthan, the ‘Blue City’ has a fascinating heritage.Friday, 30 August 2019

By Francesco Lastrucci
Photographs By Francesco Lastrucci

The blue city

Jodhpur’s most iconic landmark is Mehrangarh Fort. Built in 1459 on a 425ft-high spur of rock, its imposing silhouette looms over the city. The fort is accessible from the historic city centre via a steep staircase and offers the perfect vantage point from which to survey the magnificent panorama of blue houses. 

The blue cascades to the horizon in many shades — from light blue to intense indigo — and serves to identify the homes of the Brahmins, members of the highest caste in India, from which priests are drawn. Wanting to differentiate themselves from other castes, they painted their houses blue, a tradition that still continues today. Some locals say the blue paint, a mixture of copper sulphate and limestone, keeps termites away from the houses, while others contend it’s to keep the houses cool during the ferociously hot summer months.

Street life

Wandering through the labyrinthine alleys of the walled town is a multisensory experience. The cubic houses are squeezed next to each other inside the city walls, alternating between shops and small temples all the way to the bazaar. The Sardar Market unfolds around the clock tower, beckoning explorers, while the blindingly white mausoleum Jaswant Thadas serves as an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of the city. 

Back on the street, the carnival whirls on: the clinking of brightly coloured bangles, cows ruminating on pieces of cardboard in the middle of the road, scooters honking in a discordant symphony, ancient melodies emanating from well-preserved temples — all mingling together in a haze of incense, spice and dust

Published in the October 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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