Jodhpur the blue city of India

Stuart Forster visits Jodhpur the blue city of India and looks into why the Rajasthani destination got its nickname.

Jodhpur is second largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It has long been a popular destination among international tourists. Surprisingly few visitors, though, know the origins of its nickname, ‘the blue city’.

The old town is a wonderful example of vivid colours providing a photogenic backdrop to everyday life. Blue is the dominant colour on buildings in the Jodhpur’s historic centre.

Blue facades in Jodhpur the blue city of India.
Blue facades in Jodhpur the blue city of India.

Visiting Jodhpur in Rajasthan

On arrival in Jodhpur it isn’t obvious why this busy city is so closely associated with just one colour. It may be known as ‘the blue city of India’ but many other hues can also be seen on the Jodhpur‘s streets and in its bazaars.

A market stall in Jodhpur, India.
A market stall in Jodhpur, India.

The majority of Rajasthani women wear long, colourful skirts. You can see this while visiting the shops of the Nai Sarak and examining wares on the stalls of the Sardar Market.

Shopfronts in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, viewed from a nearby rooftop during the blue hour.
Shopfronts in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, viewed from a nearby rooftop during the blue hour.

Eye-catching, bright oranges and yellows are popular colours for fabrics. Additionally, the Rajasthani tradition for women to cover their heads with scarves made of light materials in complementary hues adds to the multi-coloured impressions.

Women in brightly coloured dresses at Nai Sarak in Jodhpur, India.
Women in brightly coloured dresses at Nai Sarak in Jodhpur, India.

That’s 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.

A man wears a white turban in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
A man wears a white turban in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.

Jodhpur sightseeing

To understand why Jodhpur is known as ‘the blue city of India’ wander away from the market places and new town. Head into the older quarters of Jodhpur where many of the houses are painted blue.

Rooftops in the city of Jodphur, India.
Rooftops in the city of Jodphur, India.

That, obviously, explains why Jodhpur is known as ‘the blue city’. Yet even experienced local tour guides don’t agree on the underlying reason as to why blue was chosen.

A man wearing a turban looks out from one of the windows of Mehrangarh Fort. Visiting the fort counts among the top things to do in Jodhpur.
A man wearing a turban looks out from one of the windows of Mehrangarh Fort. Visiting the fort counts among the top things to do in Jodhpur.

The blue city of India

Some experts say that the colour blue is associated closely with the Brahmins, India’s priestly caste. The blue houses of the old city belong to families of that caste. Consequently, you might well hear the properties referred to as ‘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 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. They repelled them and discouraged the termites from returning and avoided further damage by adding chemicals to their standard whitewash. Copper sulphate resulted in the colour blue.

Elephants painted onto the wall of one of the blue house, known as Brahmin houses of Jodhpur, which is nicknamed the blue city of India.
Elephants painted onto the wall of one of the blue house, known as Brahmin houses of Jodhpur, which is nicknamed the blue city of India.

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.

A blue building in the old town of Jodhpur, India.
A blue building in the old town of Jodhpur, India.

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.

A woman and a child look at a cow at Jodhpur's Sardar Market. The animal has a patch similar in shape to the map of India.
A woman and a child look at a cow at Jodhpur’s Sardar Market. The animal has a patch similar in shape to the map of India.

Visiting Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort

For centuries Jodhpur was protected by Mehrangarh Fort. The foundations of  the fortress were laid in 1459 on the orders of the city’s founder, Rao Jodha, after whom Jodhpur is named. One of the best places to view the blue houses is from the ramparts of Mehrangarh Fort.

Mehrangarh Fort overlooking Jodhpur, India's blue city.
Mehrangarh Fort overlooking Jodhpur, India’s blue city.

For an overview of Jodhpur nothing beats heading up to Mehrangarh Fort. A winding lane leads up the 125-metre (410-feet) high hill, on which the ancient fortress is built. The walls are 36 metres (118 feet) high in places, providing additional elevation.

Rajasthani musicians in boldly coloured turbans playing near the entrance to Mehrangarh Fort in northern India.
Rajasthani musicians in boldly coloured turbans playing near the entrance to Mehrangarh Fort in northern India.

From the wall’s fire steps you can look out and appreciate how many of the houses in Jodhpur are blue.

The high wall of Mehrangarh Fort, one of the principal tourist attractions of Jodhpur, India.
The high wall of Mehrangarh Fort, one of the principal tourist attractions of Jodhpur, India.

Whatever the reason for the prevalence of blue that colour dominates the facades of houses. Anyone looking out fro Mehrangarh Fort over the flat roofs of Jodhpur will realise that the ‘the blue city of India’ is indeed an apt nickname.

A woman looks out over Jodhpur the blue city of India and towers of Mehrangarh Fort from one of the windows of the historic fortress.
A woman looks out over Jodhpur the blue city of India and towers of Mehrangarh Fort from one of the windows of the historic fortress.

Books about Jodhpur and Rajasthan

Planning on visiting Jodhpur and Rajasthan? You may find the following books worth reading (£):

Insight Guides Rajasthan (£):

Lonely Planet travel guide to Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra (£):

Berlitz Pocket Guide Rajasthan (£):

Christine Chitnis is the author of Patterns of India: A Journey Through Colours, Textiles, and the Vibrancy of Rajasthan (£):

Lonely Planet India (£):

Accommodation in Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Looking for hotels in Jodhpur? Search for accommodation in Jodhpur and elsewhere in Rajasthan via Booking.com (£):



Booking.com

A Rajasthani woman wearing bangles.
A Rajasthani woman wearing bangles.

Map showing Jodhpur

The Google Map below shows the location of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, India. Zoom onto the map to see details:

Google Map showing Jodhpur, India.

Further information

See the Incredible India website for information about tourist attractions and reasons to visit India.

Enjoy this post about Jodhpur the blue city of India? You may also find this post on a heritage walk in Delhi worth reading.

Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.

Stuart Forster is an award-winning travel writer. His work has been published by Discover India, Rough Guides and The Sun.

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A version of this post was originally published on Go Eat Do on 15 January 2014.

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6 Comments

  • Rajesh Verma

    January 31, 2014 at 12:08 Reply

    Jodhpur is very beautiful and heritage city of Rajasthan & also a one of the most hot spot tourist destination all over the india due to its beauty

  • Julia Deichmann

    March 4, 2017 at 06:29 Reply

    We’ll be heading to Jodhpur later this month. Really looking forward to seeing the city after reading this blog post.

  • Os Vincent

    February 10, 2018 at 21:27 Reply

    It seems that the use of blue to deter insects was widespread, also beyond India. Interesting post.

    • Stuart Forster

      February 11, 2018 at 19:43 Reply

      I’ll have to look into that. I found Jodhpur fascinating.

  • Amber Stephens

    June 18, 2018 at 05:09 Reply

    I had no idea why Joghpur is known as the blue city! I hope to combine a visit with a trip to see the Taj Mahal during a Golden Triangle Tour.

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