The mainly arid countryside around Jodhpur is dotted with surprising lakes, isolated forts and palaces, and intriguing villages. It’s home to a clutch of fine heritage hotels where you can enjoy the slower pace of rural life. Here’s a look at some of these:
Mandore Gardens (8am–8pm): Located 9km south of Jodhpur is Mandore, the former capital of Marwar, now marked by a large public garden that holds the cenotaphs of some prominent rulers of the dynasty. The once elaborate gardens, are now, sadly, unkempt. Even the cenotaphs need restoration. A gallery showcases two-dimensional wall carvings of prominent characters from Hindu mythology and the Marwar Dynasty. On the fringes of the garden lie the ruins of the old city.
Bal Samand Lake: Enroute to Mandore Gardens – 1.5km before – is the pretty Bal Samand Lake, originally built as a reservoir to provide water to Mandore. The grand Bal Samand Palace, owned by the royal family and on the banks of the lake, was the former summer palace, and is now a lovely hotel.
Osian: Located just 66km north of Jodhpur, Osian, once an important and prosperous town on the silk route, is today a dusty little place with many Hindu and Jain temples.The Mahavira Temple (6am-8.30pm) surrounds an image of the 24th tirthankar (great teacher), formed from sand and milk. The town is also known for its Sachiya Mata Temple (6am–8pm), a 9th-century Hindu temple built by a Parmar Dynasty king. Built from sandstone, it has intricate carvings on its outer walls and on the wooden ceiling that are reminiscent of the Jain temples in Ranakpur and Dilwara. One has to climb over 150 stairs to reach the temple complex.
Kheechan: This village, located 135km from Jodhpur, is famous for the Demoiselle cranes that migrate here from Siberia between the beginning of September and end of March every year. At sunrise and during late afternoon, the birds home in to an area in the western side of the village, where they feed them grains.
Rohet: This village, 40km south of Jodhpur on the Pali road, harbours Rohet Garh (ph 02936-268231; www.rohetgarh.com; single/double ₹5000/6000) one of the area’s most appealing heritage hotels. This 350-year-old, lovingly tended manor has masses of character and a tranquil atmosphere, which obviously helped Bruce Chatwin when he wrote The Songlines here, and William Dalrymple when he began City of Djinns in the same room, No 15. Rohet Garh has a gorgeous colonnaded pool, charming green gardens, great food (breakfast/lunch/dinner ₹500/600/700) and lovely, individual rooms. It also possesses a stable of fine Marwari horses and organises rides, from two-hour evening trots (₹2000) to six-day countryside treks, sleeping in luxury tents. The quirky Om Bana Temple is a short bus ride from here.
Snapshot: One of the strangest temples in all India stands beside a main road, 8km south of Rohet. The deity at Om Bana Temple is a garland-decked Enfield Bullet motorcycle, known as Bullet Baba. The story goes that local villager Om Bana died at this spot in the 1980s when his motorbike skidded into a tree. The bike was taken to the local police station, but then mysteriously twice made its own way back to the tree, and travellers along the road started seeing visions of Om Bana – inevitably leading to the machine’s deification. Buses from Jodhpur to Rohet (₹32, one hour) should continue on to Om Bana, but check with the driver. Otherwise, you can hop on almost any passing bus from Rohet (₹10).
This article is a compilation of extracts from Lonely Planet India’s Rajasthan travel guide and Lonely Planet India 15th edition – October 2013.