It started when the original palace/fort got to big to house all of the important members of the Maharaja’s household. So some of the officials left the palace to go build their own homes in town. But so that they could be quickly found, the officials painted their houses blue.
I have an image of the King going to his window and surveying the town. Then pointing to blue houses at random. “I want that guy and that guy and that guy. Go get them.” But I’m sure that would never happen …
One day, according to our guide, Disney came to town to film scenes from the original Jungle Book. But they decided that more houses needed to blue to really make the scene (which is funny, because this Jungle Book was filmed in black and white …) so they paid the town to paint their houses. Now, I can’t actually confirm this legend anywhere on google. So maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not. But it sure is a good story and it sounds like something Disney would do!
Our first stop of the tour day was the Mehrangarh Fort. This fort is situated 400 feet above the city and has the reputation of being one of the most impenetrable forts. A fact confirmed by the design of the fort where certain walls and features were carved from solid rock giving the impression that they were built on top of rock but really are made of rock. And you just can’t fire enough cannon balls at a solid rock wall and hope to bring down the fort. This doesn’t mean that attackers didn’t try … the imprints of cannonballs fired by attacking armies can still be seen on the gates of the fort.
This fort is also semi-famous in Hollywood. For instance, this is the fort that is seen in the background when Batman escapes from the dungeon in the Dark Knight Rises. It was also used for a VISA commercial. As our guide reminded us over and over. Pointing out each spot used for the 30 seconds clip.
My favorite features were the museums with the different conveyances of the royal family. From Howdahs (also know as elephant seats) for the Maharajah to Palanquins (those stretcher looking things that are almost always carried in movies on the shoulders of a group of really buff looking men) for the wives … to carriages that were built for the English rulers who never mastered the art of sitting cross-legged. There were also treasure museums, galleries of intricate artwork and even a weapon display.
After we left the fort, we drove by the Jaswant Thada – the crematorium for the maharajahs.
Then headed in to town for the best part of the day. Shopping!!!
We went to the town square located beneath the clock tower to spend time with some of the local artisians. Where we ran in to the local dentist. He’s the guy behind the guy shaving. Sometimes a fight breaks out between the dentist and his patient because he pulled the wrong tooth.
Wait, back up, we need to talk about the clock tower really fast. As you would expect, it was built by the British. Who were tired of their Indian subjects living on, well, Indian time. Which means, we will get to you when we get to you. The British thought that maybe the problem was that no one had a clock. So they built one. Except it didn’t help because Indian time isn’t time at all. It’s more of a way of life. And you can’t change a way of life by just building a large clock.
Anyway, we first visited a textile showroom. Where we bought blankets. And bedding. And wall art. And pashminas. It was a glorious stop.
Then we went to a spice store where we purchased spices to recreate our favorite Indian dishes … which you know isn’t going to work out very well but at least we will have tried! Also, did you know that you can’t carry chili powder through an airport? Turns out it gets confiscated.
Lisa even purchased a set of bangles from one of the street vendors.
All in all, a very successful stop.
By this time, I was tired. All that shopping really takes it out of you. And I really wanted to do nothing more than sit by the pool. So I bowed out of the rest of the sightseeing to some of the local villages. And spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool. Totally recommended.