"I wanna tell you a story"

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February 19th 2013
Published: March 16th 2013
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The BulletThe BulletThe Bullet

Decorated with garlands and offerings.
There was once a young man called Om Singh Rathore (known as Om Banna), who enjoyed nothing better than riding his Royal Enfield ‘Bullet’ motorbike. Alas, one day in 1991, near the village of Chotila some 50 kms from Jodhpur, he drove into a tree and was killed. The motorbike was taken to the local police station but, that night, it disappeared – and was found next morning back at the site of the accident. It was returned to the police station and chained up. Next morning, it was back again, beside the tree where Om Banna had met his end. The police tried several more times to prevent the bike from leaving their custody, but to no avail - next morning, it was always back where the accident happened.

News of this miracle quickly spread and a memorial temple was built near the tree where the fatal accident occurred. It’s become known as the Bullet Temple and is visited by hundreds every day. The motorbike is lavishly decorated with floral offerings and the tree itself is bedecked with coloured rope and bangles.

You can choose whether to believe this story or not. I can only say
Mehrangarh FortMehrangarh FortMehrangarh Fort

Built high on a rocky hilloverlooking the city.
that thousands of people here in India will attest to its truth.

An hour or so after our stop at the Bullet Temple, we reached our destination for the day: Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan. You’ll know from my previous blog that it was founded by Rao Jodha; he was a Rajput chief of the Rathore clan and his truly impressive fort dates back to 1459.

The city is known as the ‘Sun City’ because of the sunny weather it enjoys year-round. Don’t come here in July or August though as you can expect around five inches of rain in each month’s monsoon, as well as blistering temperatures.

I prefer to know Jodhpur by its other name, the ‘Blue City’ - a reference to the old-town houses at the foot of the towering hilltop Mehrangarh Fort, which are uniquely painted in a bright pale blue. (The name ‘Mehrangarh’ stems from the Sanskrit word for the Sun deity ‘Mihir’ and, as you know from the lesson in a previous blog, ‘garh’ is a fort – so Sun Fort).

Our arrival in the city started with something of a disappointment - the homestay which we'd booked
Bhavna's cookery classBhavna's cookery classBhavna's cookery class

Now we know how to make real Indian food - and we have a recipe book of Bhavna's dishes.
many moons ago and reconfirmed only last week, was unable to accommodate us (the family previously occupying our two rooms had fallen ill and needed to stay for a few more days; the proprietors, Chandrashekar Singh and his wife Bhavna, found themselves in an awkward position and were clearly embarrassed by it - particularly as Chandrashekar was a longtime school chum of my very good friend Khuman!). We were, however, provided with excellent alternative accommodation at the Polo Heritage Hotel and the homestay owners kindly paid the difference in cost, so all was well. We still returned to the homestay one evening for an interesting cookery lesson from Bhavna and dinner with them both.

Legend has it that, to build the Mehrangarh Fort, a hermit – the only human living on the rocky hill - had to be moved from his cave and, in protest, he put a curse on Rao Jodha. To appease the hermit and to make sure the site remained propitious, Rao Jodha buried a man alive in the foundations; in return, he promised that the man’s family would always be cared for and his descendents still live today on the estate bequeathed to them.
Jaswant ThadaJaswant ThadaJaswant Thada

Built among gardens overlooking a small lake.

Inside the massive walls of the fort, there are scars of bombardment by cannonballs and the handprints of the wives of Maharaja Man Singh who, in 1843, threw themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre – called ‘sati’, a tradition banned by the then British rulers in 1829!

There are several beautiful palaces within the fort too, and the ramparts offer far-reaching views of the city from beside numerous well-preserved cannons.

We also spent a while at the Jaswant Thada, a white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, built at the end of the 19th century. It’s a traditional cremation ground of Jodhpur rulers and it encompasses gardens and a small lake.

Our next visit was to the newest of the Maharaja's palaces that we've seen so far: the Umaid Bhawan Palace. It's part luxury hotel, part museum, part home to Maharaja Gaj Singh II (who I met at the marriage of Khuman's eldest son Vinku in 2007 - see It's a long way to go for a wedding!) and is one of the world's largest private residences. It’s named after Gaj Singh’s grandfather, Maharaja Umaid Singh, who philanthropically built it between 1929 and 1943 to provide employment to thousands of people during a time
Umaid Bhawan PalaceUmaid Bhawan PalaceUmaid Bhawan Palace

A museum, a luxury hotel, and home of the Maharaja of Jodhpur.
of famine. It has 347 rooms. Unlike when Pat and I visited the palace for a sundowner some 16 years ago, non-residents can now only see the exterior and the museum, but even this is quite an experience.

Our final port of call was the Clock Tower area of the city, with its wonderful Sardar Market surrounding the tower that was built by, you've guessed it: Maharaja Sardar Singh (1880-1911). It's a vivid example of 19th century town planning that failed to take into account the region's ceaseless increase in population! We just love markets – they’re so full of colour, people, sights, sounds and unfamiliar scents – and this one was certainly no exception. We've tended to spend perhaps a little too much time lingering in them. We couldn't help it - they’re fascinating and there’s a new photograph on every corner. Talking of which, I think we’ll need to spend quite a while reducing the sheer quantity of pictures that we’ve taken!

Accommodation: We had planned to stay at the Indrashan Homestay , a small and friendly guest house located a few miles from the old town centre.

In the event, we stayed at the Polo Heritage Hotel
The Polo Heritage HotelThe Polo Heritage HotelThe Polo Heritage Hotel

Our alternative accommodation in Jodhpur.
, a comfortable 24-room hotel set in large, well-maintained gardens, also away from the town centre but within easy reach of the main sights by car or tuk-tuk. Rooms are simply furnished, spacious, clean and quiet (apart from occasional barking dogs at night - a problem in most Indian cities). It has a swimming pool, Wi-Fi is available in some rooms and on the terraces and lawns near reception. Food and service were generally very good. As its name suggests, there are polo photographs and trophies scattered around the hotel's public areas.

At the suggestion of Khuman's youngest son Shibu, who kindly telephoned ahead and booked us a table, we ate one evening on the roof-top terrace of Pal Haveli .There we enjoyed a tasty and reasonably-priced dinner with a glorious view of the illuminated Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada, Umaid Bhawan Palace, and the nearby Clock Tower.

** "I wanna tell you a story" was the catchphrase of a well-known British entertainer, the late Max Bygraves . **

Regular readers will know that you need to scroll down for more photos – and that the panorama at the top of the page is actually part of a slideshow.
At the Bullet TempleAt the Bullet TempleAt the Bullet Temple

The highly-decorated tree at the scene of the motorbike accident.

For more about our journeys, click on Grey haired nomads to hear what my travelling companions have to say.

Additional photos below
Photos: 40, Displayed: 27


At the Bullet TempleAt the Bullet Temple
At the Bullet Temple

Believers bring offerings,including liquor, to the shrine, which makes one wonder whether Om Banna may have had a drink or two before he crashed into the tree.

This lovely pink bougainvillea clambered through a tree in the grounds of the Polo Heritage Hotel.
Bhavna's spicesBhavna's spices
Bhavna's spices

...which were used liberally during her cookery lesson.
A garlic pasteA garlic paste
A garlic paste

We had never before seen so much garlic used in a recipe - yes, Bhavna used nearly all of this in one dish!
Mehrangarh FortMehrangarh Fort
Mehrangarh Fort

From the Jaswant Thada
Mehrangarh FortMehrangarh Fort
Mehrangarh Fort

The colourful entrance
Mehrangarh Fort - Sati HandprintsMehrangarh Fort - Sati Handprints
Mehrangarh Fort - Sati Handprints

Handprints of the widows who committed sati.
Mehrangarh FortMehrangarh Fort
Mehrangarh Fort

Typical Rajasthani, hand-made puppets on sale inside the fort.
Mehrangarh FortMehrangarh Fort
Mehrangarh Fort

A mural inside one of the fort's palaces.
Mehrangarh FortMehrangarh Fort
Mehrangarh Fort

A view over the blue-painted houses of the old city.

16th March 2013

An excellent blog Mike - one of the best - Max would have been proud!
17th March 2013

Delightful blog Mike...a pleasure to read and view. 7 panorama pics...using them with tremendous effect...great pics throughout. Getting the sense that you have a remarkable affinity with what is the essence of India.
17th March 2013

You have a talent for storytelling
Mike, thanks for another great blog. Loved the story about the Royal Enfield and the others. Keep these great blogs coming.
26th May 2014

brought back my memories!
Now by reading your blog I got to see what the Om Bana Temple actually looks like! I mentioned it in my blog but didn't actually make it there... In fact, my last trip to India was 2.5 years ago, but life has been so busy that I am still catching up on my blogs. So it was very enjoyable and brought back some memories to read yours! Great photos also!

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