Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Travels in India, 2020 - Culture and Couture



Perched on a hilltop three miles southwest from the city centre lies Umaid Bhawan Palace, the last great palace built in India and the largest in the world. Designed in 1929 by the British architect, Henry Lancaster for Maharajah Umaid Singh who commissioned the Umaid Bhawan as a food-for-work programme to avert starvation after years of famine. At a cost of around £11 million (in today's money) it took more than 3000 workers fifteen years to complete. No expense was spared, it has vast gardens, 347 rooms, an indoor swimming pool, marble squash courts & sumptuous Art Deco suites.


Part of Umaid Bhawan Palace is home to the current Maharajah of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh II, whilst the rest has been turned into a very swanky hotel. Although casual visitors aren't allowed inside the palace, the museum at the side of the building is open to the public.


It's worth a tuk-tuk ride out of town if only to swoon over these glamorous Art Deco interiors.




As luck would have it, Indian Interiors, a book I've had on my bookshelf for over a decade, has a few photos of the areas we peasants aren't allowed access to - the two collages below are courtesy of Taschen.


The rooms cost from £550 to £2500 a night. How the other half live!


The day we visited was overcast and very cold, so cold that we had to get Khan to drive us to the palace via FabIndia so Jon could buy a wool muffler to replace the scarf he'd mislaid somewhere on our flight between Istanbul and Mumbai. Obviously, as Anokhi was next door, it would have been rude not to have paid them a visit too and the lady in charge was thrilled to see me dressed head-to-toe in their clothes.


With Jon wrapped up, we continued on our way. Sitting 1km northwest of Mehrangarh and nicknamed Jodhpur's Taj Mahal is Jaswant Thada, a milky-white marble memorial dedicated to Maharajah Jaswant Singh II. It's a calm and peaceful spot away from the hubbub of the city and normally has great views over Jodhpur, sadly not on the day on which we visited.


Built in 1899, the cenotaph has gorgeous jalis (carved marble lattice screens) hung with the portraits of Rathore rulers going back to the 13th Century. There's even a memorial to a peacock who perished after accidentally flying into a funeral pyre.











After lunch at the stepwell and an hour basking in the sunshine, which had finally broken through the clouds, we headed home via the tailor's shop. The previous evening I'd asked the lads at the Gouri if they could recommend a local seamstress and before we'd embarked on our day's adventures Bablu took us to a tiny hole in the wall and, acting as translator, was able to explain that I'd like a dress I'd brought with me copied using the vintage sari Jon had bought me for Xmas.

Six hours later and this was the result. Not bad for £5, was it? That's me barefoot and barefaced on the beach in Goa four weeks later.


After dinner that evening we heard a commotion in the street below and decided to go and investigate. It turned out to be an impromptu party and naturally, we ended up joining in.




The following day, Khan suggested we went to the monkey garden. If you remember last year's experience in Jaipur (HERE), Jon wasn't overly enthusiastic but as there was no mention of the place in our trusty Lonely Planet guide we were intrigued to discover more.


The Mandore Gardens was the resting place of the ancient rulers of Jodhpur. Over the years the gardens had become neglected but, like much of Jodhpur, the park has recently undergone regeneration and it was a gorgeous place for a stroll.



Although we were the only people visiting that day, there were monkeys galore, but of the gentle black-faced langur variety as opposed to the more aggressive macaques.


 Of course, Jon managed to piss one of them off by daring to film it.



The cenotaphs were so large you'd be forgiven for mistaking them for temples.


These ornately carved buildings are Jain, as opposed to Hindu. Aren't they incredible?





The lovely Khan and Jon's new scarf!










And that was our last day in Jodhpur as we'd booked seats on a long-distance bus scheduled to leave at 6am the following morning but, an early night was out of the question, the marching band was at it again in the street below the Gouri Haveli.




This is the rather easy-on-the-eye groom leaving his family home on horseback to collect his new bride. Just watch his mum applying his eyeliner and that secret look they exchange.



Jodhpur stole our hearts, we could have stayed for much longer but further adventures in Rajasthan beckoned.

See you soon!

51 comments:

  1. Now that's what I call synchronized posting, and although our subject matters are somewhat different, it seems we were sharing weather just a little bit, if Jon had to go out and buy a wool muffler. How serendipitous that Anokhi was next door :-) What an amazing building Umaid Bhawan Palace looks absolutely is, and those Art-Deco interiors are glorious! The cost of those rooms, though. Jaswant Thada looks like a giant iced cake, what a shame about the view. Your £ 5 dress is gorgeous! Love that Monkey Garden, and your little video made me laugh. Jon and monkeys: not a good match! xxx

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    1. Jon and monkeys are definitely not great together which is odd as cats and dogs tend to gravitate towards him wherever in the world we go! x

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  2. The Jain architecture is absolutely beautiful, really detailed and unusual.
    I love the monkey photos, the video made me laugh, poor Jon, they seem to have it in for him.
    Your £5 vintage sari dress is lovely, as is the beach! xxx

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    1. Jain architecture really is wonderful, I can't quite get my head round how all that intricate work was chiseled from a lump of rock. x

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  3. Your travels always fill me with awe! SUCH opulence and great architectural beauty!! I cannot believe how expensive that place is to stay at! Bonkers! It looks so beautiful though!
    The kaftan you had made is beautiful!!

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    1. Thanks, Kezzie! Even the cheapest room in the palace would have cost more than a flight to India. Absolute madness! x

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  4. What a lovely city! Poor Jon, not a monkey charmer. Monkeys usually gravitate towards my hubby, when we were in honduras they had a monkey area in one of their wildlife parks and the spider monkey immediately ran towards him, hopped up on his shoulder and sat there admiring his chain, completely ignoring all other tourists. His handler wasn't keen on that but he couldn't get him off lol. Hubby loved it. I now call him the monkey whisperer

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    1. I'd loved to have seen the spider monkey being charmed by your husband! xxx

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  5. Love your new-from-old sari dress! Wow, only 5 pounds? Those langurs, I guess you could call them languorous? (HA!)

    The sheer scale and opulence (good choice of words, Kezzie) is stunning. Wow, those are amazing places!

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    1. I shall be hunting for vintage saris in the chazzas now - I couldn't believe the price either. She end made me a scarf from the leftovers (for free!) x

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  6. I am always in awe of the intricacies and level of detail in Indian architecture. Sorta like the way you artfully layer scarves, jumpers, jewelry and the like. And of course cool monkeys. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Indian architecture is overwhelming, so many different styles and all so beautiful. xxx

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  7. Your outfit it just incredible -- fabric and layers and prints-- love!! Jon's scarf is beautiful!! How amazing about the getting your dress made so quickly for so little. And the groom on the horse-- wow!!

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    1. Thank you! The temperature in Rajasthan starts off really cold and creeps to 21°C by midday, layering is the only answer! xxx

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  8. i totally understand why jodhpur stole your hearts! it looks so gorgeous and fairytale-like in your photos and videos - incredible.....
    the dress made out of the vintage sari turned out rather glam! and jons new scarf is chic - the BW could´t stopp buying scaves in india back then - so many high quality fabness :-D
    xxxxx

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    1. Jodhpur is so lovely, strange that it isn't as popular as Jaipur or Jaisalmer but that probably adds to its charm!
      Jon was spoilt for choice when it came to scarves and shirts - we'd go into shops "just to look" and he'd invariably fall in love with something! x

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  9. I can easily see why you fell for Jodphur with its glorious architecture and warm and welcoming people. You look wonderful in your Anohki pieces. How clever to have the sari remade in such a short time. Look forward to the next India installment.

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    1. It really was a special place, we'd definitely return. x

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  10. that Bhawan Palace is absolutely beautiful , The monkeys remind me of the time when one had to have one prized off him by a priest, well i think it was a priest and you were just laughing at him lol xx

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    1. Wasn't I naughty, making Jon face the monkeys again? xxx

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    1. They are - much nicer than the evil macaques! x

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  12. The buildings are simply incredible! I loved the Jalis - I really like lattice work especially in stone. You look fabulous as always and I can see why Jon needed a scarf as you are wearing a coat!

    The monkeys are so cute!

    Yes, a very attractive bridegroom; I was bit worried about the excitable horse but he was able to control it, thank goodness. How exciting to see all the weddings!

    Love your kaftan.
    xxxx

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    1. That lattice work is stunning, isn't it? The skill of the stonemasons who created it!
      Those monkeys were adorable, trust Jon to find the only grumpy one! x

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  13. I hate monkeys, I was attacked by one which chased me out of the botanical gardens in Penang. It was small but had enormous teeth which it bared at me!

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    1. Those yellow teeth are the stuff of nightmares! x

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  14. That palace simply took my breath away. It is magnificent from the outside but from on the inside it is just as impressive. Those Art Deco paintings are incredible. The Art Deco interiors are so beautiful, they are more than worthy a visit. What a pleasure it must have been viewing them in person. I adore Art Deco, such a great period in art. Moreover, it was interesting to read about the history of this palace. The whole food for work concept sounds great.

    It was a fantastic idea to find a local seamstress and let her transform a vintage sari Jon bought for you in a dress. You look fabulous rocking it on that beach in Goa. Another great travel post. I can see why you love India so much. It is truly a fascinating place.

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    1. Isn't it beautiful? The colour of the blue paint the artist used to create those murals is unbelievably lovely. xxx

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  15. I’m intrigued to know if you make notes as you go along Vix or if you write it all up remembering each moment from your photos. I know I say it every year but your travelogue gets better and better.
    I’ll have to come back to the videos as I can’t get these to load. The street party one worked and looked such fun. I bet you were in heaven in Anokhi and I can just imagine the owners face when you walked in. Brilliant.
    Philip has a shirt made in just a few hours when we were in India. The tailors are so talented aren’t they xxx

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    1. I do keep a journal when I'm travelling, although there's hundreds of photos to remind me of each day, I find re-reading my notes - people we met, somewhere we stopped for a lime soda, a bus journey - instantly transport me to that day.
      I love how Indians retain their skills down the generations - tailors, stonemasons, potters - they take such pride in what they make. xxx

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    2. I love a bit of journaling and have notebooks all over the house. Think it’s an obsession xxx

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  16. How appropriate that the patterns mix in your daytime ensemble mirror the intricate ornament of the buildings! And those brilliant colors! Hmmm. John's socks are rather startling when contrasted with his handsome new scarf -- can monkeys see color?

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    1. I was tempted to pack an entirely blue wardrobe but felt I might blend in too much with my surrounding!
      Those vivid socks were well-hidden under Jon's boots when we encountered the monkeys. xxx

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  17. Absolutely stunning Vix. The stone carving is just eyewateringly beautiful.
    Can you add a monkey to me shopping list....lol.
    Hugs-x-

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    1. Shall do! I'll let Jon capture one, he's got a way with monkeys! xxx

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  18. So interesting - feel like I've travelled there vicariously through you! Glad I found your travelogues - share the fascination with history and architecture.

    Mark

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    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Mark. Glad you're enjoying the travelogue. xxx

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  19. I am definitely swooning over the interiors of the palace. And look how your dress turned out! How clever the seamstress must be to replicate a dress you already had.

    Oh my goodness, Jon’s rightfully careful, I would have been terrified being so close to a monkey. X

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    1. Oh to live in that palace (or to have £2500 to squander on a hotel room!)
      I couldn't believe it when she asked via Bablu, if £5 was an okay price! xxx

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  20. What a fabulous city. The hotel does indeed look sumptuous, but really to my eyes not any nicer than where you stayed. And how fabulous is that sari dress! xx

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    1. Jodhpur is magical, we loved every minute we spent there. xxx

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  21. Hopefully Jon has learned his lesson about leaving Monkeys alone! They are rather handsome though - I would have wanted a closer look too. My God, that building is incredible

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    1. He never learns! It's funny because every other animal in the world adores him, especially cats! x

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  22. woww, those decó interiors are amazing, even if many of them only can be seen by wealthy guests!, glad that you could enjoy the museum and thanks for sharing the pics from your book!.
    Fabulous buidings, love the carved details and the sculptures!, and love those gardens too!. And Jon's monkey business made me laugh!
    Woww, I'm enjoying your posts so much!
    besos

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    1. Those murals blew my mind, the colours were so rich and opulent. I'd have loved to have been given a sneaky peep at the rooms! xxx

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  23. How the other half live indeed. I'm not averse to splashing out on something genuinely special and luxurious but the cheapest rooms in the Palace make my eyes water. Maybe with a lottery win...

    Jodhpur really looks like a gorgeous place. Do you think you'll revisit it?

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    1. We'd definitely need a lottery win for a night at the palace, it's such a shame you can't have a look round for a small fee.
      We've already decided that we'll go back to Jodhpur. Although Jaipur was lovely there was something really authentic and magical about Jodhpur, refreshingly traffic-jam free and amazingly clean. xxx

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  24. The prices of how the other half live are obscene... but when you have that much wealth I suppose it doesn't phase the filthy rich!? I just cannot get over the Architecture everywhere, and for that alone a trip to India would be worth it to me, even on the most modest of budgets, since I'd have to go Peasant Class. *LOL*

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    1. How the other half live! Even if I had endless cash I don't think I'd feel comfortable splashing it so extravagantly - although I'd kill to wander round those rooms.
      We always go peasant class! xxx

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Lots of love, Vix