Stuart Forster answers that oft-asked question of why is Jodhpur known as ‘the blue city’?
Jodhpur is second largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan and has long been a popular destination among international tourists. Surprisingly few visitors, though, 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. Blue, above all other colours, impresses is you’re in that district of the city.
Rajasthani women in colourful clothing
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 tribal 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.
Viewing Jodhpur from Meherangarh Fort
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 Meherangarh 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.
Blue is the Brahmin colour
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.
An environmentally friendly colour?
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.
Elevated views of the blue city
For an overview of Jodhpur, and the blue houses of the old town, nothing beats heading up to Meherangarh 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.
Jodhpur is also known as the ‘Sun City’. You can find out more about the city’s tourist attractions on the Suncity Jodhpur website.
For information on the state as a whole, see the Rajasthan Tourism website.
See the Incredible India website for insights into the nation and its tourist attractions.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
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