Jodhpur is second largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan and has long been a popular destination among international tourists. However, surprisingly few visitors know the origins of its sobriquet, "the blue city". The old town is a wonderful example of vivid colours providing a photogenic backdrop to everyday life. Yet upon arrival in Jodhpur, it isn't obvious why this bustling city is so closely associated with just one colour. After all, many other hues can also be seen on the busy streets and in the bazaars. The majority of Rajasthani women wear long, colourful skirts and you can see this while visiting the shops of the Nai Sadak and examining wares on the stalls of the Sardar Market. Eye-catching, bright oranges and yellows are popular colours for their fabrics. And the Rajasthani tradition for women to cover their heads with scarves - in light materials of complementary hues - adds to the multi-coloured impressions of life here. That's also exacerbated by local men wearing sizeable turbans. The yellows and reds of their traditional headgear is just as much a draw to the eye as women's garments.
To understand why Jodhpur is known as "the blue city" you should wander away from the market places and new town, and head into the older quarters of Jodhpur. Here, under the centuries-old protection of Mehrangarh Fort, whose foundations were laid in 1459, on the orders of the city's founder, Rao Jodha, many of the houses are painted blue. That, obviously, explains why Jodhpur is known as "the blue city" but even experienced tour guides can't agree on the underlying reason as to why blue was chosen. Some say the colour is associated closely with the Brahmins, India's priestly caste, and the blue houses of the old city belong to families of that caste. Consequently, you might well hear the properties referred to as the 'Brahmin Houses'.
There's also an argument that termites are the real reason. Proponents of this theory believe that, historically, termites caused significant structural damage to a large number of the buildings of Jodhpur. The insects are said to have munched their way into the walls of dwellings and businesses. Residents struggled to get rid of the unwelcome guests, repelled them and discouraged their return and further damage by adding chemicals, including copper sulphate, to their standard whitewash. Those who promote the termite theory say that it's mere coincidence that many of the blue houses are owned by Brahmins, and that numerous families from other castes also live in blue-painted homes. Some even rubbish the theory that chemical compounds are added to the colourwash, swearing that Jodhpur is a fine example of an environmentally-friendly city. Nothing but indigo, a natural dye, is the cause of the blue tint, they say. Ultimately there may be no way of establishing the true reason as to why the houses are blue. Strolling through the streets of the old town does, however, give you opportunities to peek into the homes. Many of the doorways remain open, allowing an insight into moments of everyday Rajasthani family life.
For an overview of Jodhpur, and the blue houses of the old town, nothing beats heading up to Mehrangarh Fort. A winding lane leads up the 125 metre high hill, on which the ancient fortress is built. The walls are 36-metre-high in places, providing additional elevation. From there you can look out and appreciate just how many of the houses in Jodhpur are blue. Not all cities deserve their sobriquets, but anyone looking out over the flat roofs of Jodhpur, from the perspective of the Meherangarh will realise that the term "the blue city" is indeed apt, whatever the true reason behind the prevalence of that colour.
Like most places in Rajasthan, Dal Baati Churma, a popular savoury, is eaten with relish. Jodhpur is popular for sweets like Laddoo and Mawa Kachori.
Bright colours are an integral part of the lives of the people in Jodhpur. The locals wear a variety of artistically designed costumes, aflame with bright colours and mirror work. The women folk wear wide gathered skirts and a hip-length jacket with three quarter length sleeves and the men sport colourful turbans on their heads! Jodhpur has a very strong tradition of folk art, where the figures are mainly robust warriors and dainty women. Paintings of the legendary lovers like Dhola-Maru on camelback and hunting scenes with innumerable horses and elephants dominate the paintings of the Marwar region.