Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jodhpur Tales - The Old City and Around Sardar Market

Jodhpur has two distinct districts in the city. The Old City is the enclosed area that dates back from the Rathore era. It should have evolved already, but there’s no mistaking the local color that abound in this place: the sinewy streets are narrow, most have no names. The Old City is this conglomeration of small buildings looking down Meherangarh Fort. The New City comprises the establishments and dwellings outside the Old City. It is, as I mentioned before, cramped, wanting of character, and ugly.

From Jodhpur Junction train station (turn left), riding north towards Sojati Gate, you could see the New City. Once you find the Clock Tower, you know that you’re near the Girdikot's landmark gate, called Sojati Gate. Girdikot, I believe, is the name of the area that comprises Sardar Market and the contiguous locality, like a county or “barangay”. How do I know? The Post Office a few blocks north from my guest house was labelled “Post Office Girdikot, Jodhpur”.

After breakfast, I wanted to check out the area around my guest house before starting my main itinerary. I walked south! Shivam GH was just a few blocks from the main "city" square. There were shops starting their day early. An hour later, this place had come alive. The Sardar Market is the oldest in Jodhpur and accounts for 6,000 to 7,000 shops. I had the pleasure of visiting more of these shops at sundown. It was a heady thrill just going through stalls and shops of spices, teas, fruits, garments, Rajasthani trinkets, jewelries, handicrafts, lassi (yoghurt, दही), and a million other things. The market (बाजार में) is, after all, the heart of the city.

Right in the middle of the street, I saw a horse being fed some leaves. Further afield was the Sojati Gate that basically demarcates the old city and the new one. From this gate, I could see the Clock Tower which stood proud in the flurry of movements around it. I walked 500 meters south until I realized I was already at the New City. Curiously, there were cows scattered on the city road. Several shops were just starting to open – since I wasn’t planning on any shopping just yet, I backtracked to the Sojati Gate. A man sat stiffly. There were flies on his hair – and he was fast sleep (see first photo above). I don’t think I could sleep like that, with nothing behind my back. I hoped he was alright.

The surrounding scenery was a feast for my eyes: a young man selling hundreds of bread on a basket; a saree-seller reading the morning papers; auto rickshaw drivers queuing for passengers; a woman dressed in all-pink peddling artificial flowers. It was beautiful! And it was just before 10 in the morning! I stood from a street corner looking north. The market was around me, and from a distance, the captivating view of Meherangarh Fort loomed large and majestic.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Horse being fed in the middle of the street.

Sojati Gate (Girdikot) in the heart of Sardar Market.

Clock Tower, a landmark in Jodhpur, just a few hops from the Sojati Gate.

Clock Tower's beautiful architecture.

Saree seller and his morning paper.

Flower peddler.

Auto rickshaws waiting for customers.

New City and its mixed population of CNG's (tuktuk), buses and bikes, and cows!

Selling a hundred breads.

Meherangarh Fort looking large and majestic.

At the Girdikot Post Office: Postcard for mom! Stamps sent out within Asia costs 12 rupees a piece. Unbelievably cheap.

Outside Girdikot Post Office: Cheaper rates than in the big city!

Clock Tower from from the Sojati Gate.

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