Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – India chapter Rajasthan has to say about Jaswant Thada and the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park:
“Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park
This 72-hectare park – and model of ecotourism – sits in the lee of Mehrangarh. It has been lovingly restored and planted with native species to show the natural diversity of the region. The park is crisscrossed with walking trails that take you up to the city walls, around Devkund Lake, spotting local birds, butterflies and reptiles.
For an extra insight into the area’s native flora and fauna, take along one of the excellent local guides. Walks here are the perfect restorative if the Indian hustle has left you in need of breathing space. Visit in the early morning or late afternoon for the most pleasant temperatures.
This milky-white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, sitting above a small lake 1km northeast of Mehrangarh, is an array of whimsical domes. It’s a welcome, peaceful spot after the hubbub of the city, and the views across to the fort and over the city are superb.
Built in 1899, the cenotaph has some beautiful jalis (carved-marble lattice screens) and is hung with portraits of Rathore rulers going back to the 13th century.
Look out for the memorial to a peacock that flew into a funeral pyre.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
I can’t quite believe that on our two previous visits, we were quite unaware of the Jaswant Thada, situated so close to the Mehrangarh fort. When we first came in 2008, I remember that we walked up to fort from where we were staying at the Yogi Guest House, and we would not have seen it either from the rooftop terrace at the guesthouse, or while we were hiking up to the fort.
I see that there is mention of it in my copy of the Lonely Planet – India 2017, but perhaps we were too focused on the fort and didn’t give a thought to much around it. This time, we arrived by Uber from our hotel on the outskirts of Jodhpur and we passed quite close to its location on our way to the fort. I was reminded that I wanted to see it when we stood high in Mehrangarh’s palace and could see it off in the distance.
After exiting the main gate to Mehrangarh, I brought the subject up with the others and they were game. At first, we thought of taking an autorickshaw, but then realized it was clearly within walking distance and there wasn’t much traffic on the road that late in the afternoon. The added bonus was that it wasn’t very hot that day and there was a light breeze to keep us cool.
Along the route we came upon the entrance to the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park. This is clearly a recent addition to the landscape, because when I checked in my edition of the Lonely Planet – India 2013, there is no mention of it, while there is in the 2017 edition that I was currently using. It’s too bad that we hadn’t started our visit to Mehrangarh earlier in the day, because we would have enjoyed visiting the Desert Rock Park as well as the fort and the thada.
Instead, we continued on our way and climbed up the path that led to the statue of Rao Jodha Ji that sits high outcropping of rock between the fort and Devkund lake. I did appreciate the fact, that this late in the day, it was possible to get some great photos of the statue with the sun lighting up the face of Rao Jodha as he pointed towards the magnificent fortress.
When we arrived at the entrance to the Jaswant Thada, I was surprised to see that there was another entrance to the Rock Park, and realized that we could have entered the park where we’d first come across it, and then exited at the Jaswant Thada, instead of walking along the road between the two sites. Oh well, if we ever come back again, I’ll do it right next time, or if I know anyone visiting Jodhpur in the future, I can give them some good advice.
The Jaswant Thada was a lovely way to end our sightseeing that afternoon. The path between the entrance gate and the grounds of the memorial passes along the edge of Devkund Lake the white marble edifice is nicely reflected in the water. There is some refreshing green grass surrounding the building, a delight after spending so much time in a dry desert landscape surrounding Mehrangarh.
We walked up the broad steps of the monument and spent a little time viewing the interior and admiring the portraits of the Marwar rulers. I found it interesting that they are the descendants of Kshatriyas, the traditional Hindu warrior caste. This is the same caste that my husband Anil and his family are part of. The surname of a Hindu family denotes the caste it is part of, Kapoor is a Kshatriyas surname.
We stepped back outside in order to spend more time enjoying the great views over the landscape. We had a great view of the Umaid Bhavan off in the distance. It is the home of the current Maharaja of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh II. I provided you with a biography of sorts of this former ruler, in a journal entry posted just before the entry about the Mehrangar fort. I found the information on the Smithsonian Magazine’s website and was fascinated with the man’s history, and that there are living descendants of these ancient rulers.
I was hoping to see the memorial to a peacock that has flown into a funeral pyre, but when I inquired about it, a guard told me that it was closed because of a recent act of vandalism. What a crying shame!