Decoding the Blue city-Jodhpur
Updated: Aug 27
Jodhpur is one of the most popular cities in Rajasthan for domestic and international tourists alike. The blue streets of Jodhpur often see editorial photoshoots for fashion magazines and clothing brands, to the instagrammer looking for a good picture.
The blue houses of the Old quarter are cause for Jodhpur’s sobriquet of the ‘blue city’. But why are the houses painted blue? People don’t know. One would think the locals would be expert on the subject, but it was surprising to me that they are fairly unaware of it as well. A lot of asking around and a little bit of research has helped me come to a few conclusions about the mysterious blues of the Blue city.
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Why are the houses painted blue?
-Back in the day, the brahmin houses were painted blue, rather indigo, to separate their homes from those of the lower caste.
But now, people of other castes have painted their houses blue as well.
-The blue paint keeps the homes cool during the sweltering hot summers.
-Lord Shiva & Vishnu are depicted in shades of blue, owing to them having reached the highest level of consciousness, so some say the homes are painted blue in honour of their favourite gods.
-There is also speculation that the blue comes from the copper sulphate that is added into the whitewash for their houses. The homes were beginning to get infested with termites, and copper sulphate was added into the mix as a deterrent. But there are those who dismiss this theory saying that only indigo, a natural dye is used to colour this town blue. They pride themselves in being part of an environmentally friendly city.
-It is also said that the founder of the city of Jodhpur, Rao Jodha, ordered the houses to be painted blue.
There may be many reasons to the houses being painted blue, and for all you know, every house that is blue probably identified with one of the reasons I’ve mentioned above. But the passing time took with it the real reasons behind the blue of their houses. Now, most of the inhabitants paint their houses blue, solely because their house has always been blue!
During my search for the blue houses, I walked through most of the Old Quarter. I spent almost an entire day, walking through the tiny streets mostly because I got lost, and didn’t know how to get out :p).
I stopped on the way multiple times to ask the locals how to get to the blue houses, and most of them honestly had no clue of what I was asking. I was told that there are no cluster of blue houses, just a few among other white, or pastel coloured homes.
Contrary to popular belief all the houses in the old quarter are not blue, and there are no streets lined only with blue houses, though a few streets may have more of a blue hue than others. One gentleman even said to me, that the idea of the many blue houses together was just created to fool tourists! Oh well, I’m certainly one of the fooled!
It was a rather perfect day, wandering around the Old Quarter. The locals are friendly, and helpful, and a delight to talk to.
For those who are apprehensive about walking around Jodhpur on your own, I urge you to let go of your inhibitions, and just get lost in the streets! The locals are accustomed to tourists walking down their streets, photographing their homes, so they will either ignore your presence, or only try to help.
I had a couple of very interesting encounters with two Australian fellows who were just as lost as I was, and with a young local boy who invited us into his home. I’ve penned down my day with the three of them for The Hindu newspaper; do have a read and let me know what you think in the comments below.
Where to find the blue houses
I started my hunt for the blue houses from the Clocktower market, thanks to someone telling me that it was only a short walk up the road in the distance. ( But I should have known better, being Indian, I shouldn’t have fallen for the trap, of ‘just a short walk- 5-10 minutes, that’s all!’) I should have known that meant more like 40 mins!
But, the plus side was that I walked through all the markets, from the shoe haven to the silver jewellers.
But if I were to do it again, I would start from the Mehrangarh Fort- ask for the back exit, or ask someone there to direct you towards the houses. This will be an easier route to find the blue houses for your pictures.
You can also take a tour to the blue houses with a local guide, which will make your search a lot easier.
I hope I’ve inspired you to hunt for the blue houses in Jodhpur. Let me know if you have any doubts in the comments below!