BAZAARS OF THE BLUE CITY

(Parul Srikanth)

If the words, rummage, swap, bargain and collectibles excite you then some retail therapy in the rocky outcrops and golden sands of the Marwar Region of Jodhpur -is a must do!  Every little shop here has a story to tell through interesting insights about life in this region of Rajasthan.

The markets of Jodhpur are an eclectic mix that meet both the approval of the flea market shoppers to the bespoke clientele.

Just as the history of the City is steeped with grandeur, so are its market by-lanes. The market of the Blue City has a memory to share with each of their own traditional wares starting with Jodhpur’s modern centre with the heart of the Old City -Sardar Market, where a the bustling bazaar is tucked beneath the landmark clock tower. The Ghanta Ghar is also the Jodhpur version of Janpath Market in New Delhi, the National Capital. The market is a home ground for people that travel from afar to sell their handmade goods- it’s a haven for junk jewelry collectors. The pieces available here are unique and represent the jewelry mostly adorned by the ladies of Marwar, from thimaniya (chokers) to kamarband (waist bands) -you get it all. The lanes also nestle a cosy corner laden with artifacts made from clay and bamboo, appealing to the more eco-aware among us.

The serpentine streets of the town and hustling markets provide a lifetime of experience. The City, rich in architecture and culture heritage, is also the home of ethnic art and crafts. The uniqueness of handicrafts of the town has led the world to the fantasy of its rich cultural heritage. Because of the artistic and ornate craftsmanship which do not have parallel the world over, the masterpieces of handicrafts of Jodhpur, while preserving the centuries old traditions and legacy, have carved out an important niche in the highly competitive international mercantile.

Jodhpur is a treasure trove for connoisseur’s of handicrafts and artistic wooden furniture. It is a delight to come across shop after shop  filled with one-of-a-kind pieces – starting from grand doors, benches, chairs, columns, ceiling panels to other striking accessories and much more. Most of the semi-antique elements have been given new life by the addition of modern inlay and overlay work.

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The handwoven Dhurrie or Rugs are another speciality of Jodhpur,  and the small hamlets around the City in Salawas, supply some of the best rugs in the world. From soft silk threads Resham to rugs made from camel hair, they as indigenous as it gets. For the more artistic among us, on display are colourful patch work wall hangings, all painstakingly woven  together to make one big patchwork display.

Blink and you will miss this-a 150 years old nondescript shop of the Royal  Lakhare’s (Royal glass bangle seller) who are 6 generations into the business now. Bibaji Churiwala’s crystal bangles adorns the petite wrist of the ladies of every Rajasthan royal from Marwar to Mewar to Shekhawati. There is an interesting story about how the name Bibaji came about. During the days of the yore, men were not allowed inside the women quarters of the Royal houses. The grandfather of the current head of the family used to accompany his mother known as Bibiji when he was a kid. The women folk used to lovingly call him Bibaji and that’s how the name stayed on. Listen to many such wonderful stories as you browse through their impressive collection of bangles which they are happy to display with lots of zest and affection.

Jodhpur, remains the playground of the rich. Palaces, forts, deserts and even a bit of hunting is part of the course, but the real secret of this city is a comely gentleman called Mohammed Tayeb Khan- the superstar of the Blue City.

Tayeb Khan (and his father Hassan before him) makes the finest leheriyas in the city. The leheriya is a dyeing technique where a piece of chiffon is rope-tied and then dipped in dye, resulting in wave-like lines across the fabric. It is a rather simple process, loved only because its bright colours stand out in arid deserts. Tayeb has “invented” the shaded leheriya, where the chiffon is first shaded in multiple colours and then tied to dye. He also cleverly indulges in pearly pastels, making them as glamorous as they are rooted. There are also shaded mukaish (silver spotted chiffons), and bandhanis (dotted tie-dyes where the quality is measured by the smallness.

The tall and rugged Pathan is also the  recipient of the Padma Shri, the President’s award and his contributions as a craftsman are immense, and an astute businessman too. He doesn’t sell from a store, by choice. You have to know someone who knows him and can invite him (which is practically the whole city). He visits Mumbai and Delhi a few times each year, but only his inner circle hears of it. He has turned him himself into quite a local legend, who delivers the best product and demands the best price.

Apart from the colourful and happy lehariya’s and bandhej’s, Jodhpur is also quite well known for its jutti’s and mojari’s ,and there are several happy finds in the never ending yet exhilarating lanes of Makrana Mohalla of Jodhpur.

From leather juttis or mojaris  that celebrates the culmination of two cultures, the authentic Jodhpur Kadai (needle and thread embellishment) and the Punjabi Jutti.

Diamonds are truly a girls best friends and in some cases, semi-precious stones are too and while in Jodhpur it would be difficult to miss the many bespoke jewellery store in the city, that boasts of clientele like Richard Gere, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and much more recently Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

The exclusive Jewellery stores in the city are  famous for their hand craftmanship and wide array of traditional and Victorian designs. If you looking for authentic traditional polki (un-cut diamonds) designs or a an elegant Victorian design, then the popular jewellery stores are a must visit.

The air of royalty still envelopes the city like a spell cast in time. But don’t let this aura influence your understanding of Jodhpur only as a royal remnant. Take a walk along the alleys of the city and a whole new world of culinary delights will welcome you in myriad flavours and aromas. Jodhpur cuisines are all about spice, chilly and a rich repertoire of sweets and the best place to enjoy them are the local eateries and food joints.

You haven’t truly tasted the flavours of Jodhpur unless you get your hands on the varied assortment of kachoris, which are a hit among tourists and locals alike. Of these, the onion kachori (or pyaaz ki kachori) and mawa kachori are to die for! If you are looking for that perfect balance of crispness, richness of textures and a dose of traditional taste. Mirchi badaa, another specialty, is not for the faint-hearted as it will test your ability to consume a full-grown green chilly. The chilly is marinated in gram flour, before it is deep- fried in oil. So, when it reaches your plate it looks like a normal pakora but only with a raging chilly inside! Dip it in either mint chutney or tamarind syrup and let the heat set fire to your senses.

if you are in the market around the Clock Tower, we suggest you to hunt for some makhaniya lassi. It’s the famous creamy drink made with curd, cardamom and saffron, and is nothing less than a sinful indulgence for the sweet tooth.

No discussion on Jodhpur food will be complete if laal maans does not get a frontline mention. A mutton curry prepared in typical Rajasthani style, laal maans is synonymous to Jodhpur and is easily available in any eatery of the city. A prized item in almost all the high-end resturants of the city, laal maans is equally popular and easily available on the streets.

This City, which is also the core of Marwar, has several reasons to be a key destination for the international jet setters, and one of the finest ways to experience the history of the city and its cultures is to travel through its bazaar’s as we never know, which unique piece of memory we may carry with us back.

Happy Shopping!

Photo Credits: Anirudh Khatri

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