The Blue houses of Jodhpur
Jodhpur, the blue city of Rajasthan has been in my list for so long. To be honest, as a traveler I am not fan of traveling in cities and usually disappointed by people, traffic and pollution. However, Jodhpur had soothing blue vibes about it. I was curious about this city, its history, its people and more importantly the blue houses.
Every magazine I picked up lately, had some feature where beautiful models are posing in these narrow streets. But I wanted to photograph real people living in these old styled houses and know about their life. So I started asking some basic question from the people like ‘why are Blue Houses are painted blue?’
Why are Blue Houses are painted blue?
I was told different theories to support the color Blue. It goes as, Jodhpur was once a princely state, a country in its own order for a very short period of time before Vallabhbhai Patel consolidated it and made it a part of India. Before this, Jodhpur was a much smaller city, entirely dependent on one lake and rain-water. This small town was built around Mehrangarh Fort and the primarily residents were Brahmins. Blue color has been associated with Lord Shiva due to his blue neck. The Brahmins consider Blue as sacred color and painted their houses in reverence to God Shiva.
Another reason which sound more practical is that Jodhpur gets really hot in summer, so the blue color is soothing to the eyes as it appears cooler. Also in earlier times, the blue color city seemed like as oasis in the desert to the thirsty merchants, which was one way to attract the merchants for trading.
Others say that due to the climate jodhpur houses are prone to termites and the termites damaged and destroyed the traditional building techniques which involved the exterior being coated in lime wash. It was discovered that the termites were repelled by copper salt compounds and these were added in low concentrations to the lime washes, the mixture produces blue colour. Since the limestone is easily available in the vicinity of jodhpur due to this is the cheapest option to deal with it.
How to photograph the blue houses?
Whole of the city is not painted blue, it’s only the fortified old city where houses nearby the fort are colored blue. For an overview of the blue houses, the best place is to be in Mehrangarh Fort for the sunset. A winding lane leads up the 125-metre-high hill, on which the ancient fortress is built and has a great view.
But to photograph the lanes and houses for the street photography, either one can go to Nawchowkiya or Chandpur. I often took an auto and asked them to drop me on elevated lanes and I walked down slowly through the stairs while photographing the blue houses. Infact one can walk down from the back side of Mehrangarh fort to photograph these blue houses.
The streets are very narrow and driving through these streets isn’t possible at times. Also, in the early morning and evening the light is low on the streets due to densely populated houses. I usually chose time 7 am to 10 pm and in the evening 4pm to 6pm.
Despite high exposure to camera and tourists, people of Jodhpur were extremely pleasant and warm. Some of the people in neighborhood invited me to have tea, or have a view from their terrace; and proudly told about the story of their house and ancestor. The best thing about Jodhpur was people from different religion living at peace. There are equal amount of temples, Jain temples and mosque you can find in the old city and at some places next to each other.
Where to stay?
To photograph the Blue houses, it is preferred to be centrally located within old city. So I got into one of the most popular home-stay/guest house of Jodhpur which has ab easy name to remember ‘The Blue House’. I found Blue house surprisingly good, not to exaggerate it surpassed all my expectations. A 500-year-old family-run guesthouse is one of the oldest guesthouses in the area. The guesthouse started as a welcome home for the travellers in 1968 on a friendly note with a free service and later in 1991 it received its registration for the paying guest. The family has endless stories to amuse you, and then treat you with some delicious home cooked food, their Thali is a must try. The Blue houses has multiple floors, and the view from top one is breath-taking.