The Royal Family of Jodhpur, Motherland Joint Ventures and Architecture Discipline unite to regenerate Jodhpur and breathe life into its historic symbols. A project that brings us a new Jodhpur for a new decade and centuries to come.
By: Jiya Sharma
Posted on: February 5, 2020
Jodha, Mughal king Akbar’s mystical queen, whose very existence is debatable for most historians, was supposedly a Rajput princess who hailed from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Although most films and poetry claim she was Akbar’s love interest, many historians say she was actually married to Jehangir, Akbar’s son. Nevertheless, Jodha’s legacy goes far beyond, co-joined to the legacy of the City of Jodhpur.
Founded in the 15th century by Rao Jodha, Jodhpur almost instantly became a valuable landmark, serving as the capital of the Marwar kingdom. Over the four following centuries, the magical land of Jodhpur experienced and experimented with a variety of leadership, culture, art, tradition and exposure. It was quite a close call getting Jodhpur to be a part of the newly formed Dominion of India in 1947. Incidentally, it was only under Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s persuasion that Hanwant Singh, the king at the time, acceded to India. During the redistribution of states in 1956, Jodhpur found its lifelong home in the wondrous state of Rajasthan.
Today, Jodhpur is one of Rajasthan’s most precious gems, deemed by tourists as a must-visit destination. Even for its residents, Jodhpur provides a perfect mélange of ancient art, culture, modern education and technology. It is on the path to becoming a hub for aspiring artists, musicians and designers, with institutions such as NIFT investing in the talent that Jodhpur hosts. Apart from the scenic desert terrain of the city, Jodhpur’s history still survives in the form of forts, palaces, lakes and fairs, spread across the city. Thousands of years’ worth of tribal and royal heritage can be seen throughout Jodhpur even today. The heritage and all of its symbols are, however, unfortunately on the course of deterioration. It is with this cause in mind that Motherland Joint Ventures (MJV) and Blue City Hospitality have joined hands to embark on a journey to revive the ‘Sun City’ to a new height of glory.
The Birth of a New Jodhpur
When a city has existed for centuries with a long legacy of kingdoms that have led it through the years, countless monuments and sites of historical relevance as well as cultural importance are born, that together write the city’s biography. With the inevitable, haphazard urbanization of such a city, however, it is natural for these sites to lose their sheen and integrity. Especially today, when we live in a time when the world is looking ahead towards a future led by technology and progress, there are cities like Jodhpur that find themselves in a dilemma. A struggle between the past and the future. Questioning what to adapt and what to retain.
The solution to such a dilemma lies in realizing that we are, in fact, in the 21st century. A time in mankind’s journey on Earth when more is possible than ever was. If not now, then when else can one say with confidence that it is indeed possible to live in as much harmony with the past as we have excitement for the future! In 2015, the Royal Family of Jodhpur and MJV commissioned the Jodhpur (JDH) Urban Regeneration Project, which is doing exactly that.
Together, the two parties, along with Architecture Discipline, a multi-disciplinary design studio, aim to renew and breathe new life into Jodhpur’s priceless landmarks. As an epicenter of talent and ideas, this project unites a range of new ideas complimented by modern technology and local community volunteers to lead a fruitful and environmentally sustainable regeneration process. The invaluable expertise and knowledge of the locals in Jodhpur is at the core of the project. In doing so, each and every one of the transformations that do take place are done in complete awareness of cultural sensitivities and community opinions.
An initial development was done at Laxmi Nivas, the first haveli to be acquired, which has been transformed into a grand commercial space with luxurious stores interspersed with native retail shops. Another great example of the work being done is the ancient stepwell, ‘Toorji ka Jhalra’ that has seen a monumental restoration. The first step was to eradicate the waste that had filled the well to the brim with toxic water over the years. A recent investigation had led to the discovery of a stone, hidden deep within the depths of the stepwell. Sandblasting along with careful manual effort to avoid any damage to the stone, finally revealed it to the world.
Today, the stepwell buzzes with pious, dedicated locals of all religions and intrigued tourists who spend their evenings exploring the stepwell and the ‘New Step Well Café’. The cafe’s balcony opens up to the depths of Toorji ka Jhalra on one side and the heights of Mehrangarh Fort on the other. An interesting infographic timeline at the café narrates tales of Jodhpur’s historical encounters while spreading awareness about the regeneration project. Through the eradication of litter, introduction of diverse food outlets and even luxurious lifestyle shops representing India’s finest labels, Toorji ka Jhalra is a symbol of how a great effect can lead to an even greater impact. All these changes have elevated the stepwell to become a Jodhpuri hotspot which has something to offer for every visitor.
Along with weakening heritage landmarks of Jodhpur, urban spaces such as the grain market and main market street have been restored as well. From pedestrianizing the market streets and urban planning moves regarding traffic control, to creating stairs on Jodhpur’s sloped terrain, the overall quality of the urban landscape has increased.
The awaited inaugural of a clock tower and its opening up to the public hand-in-hand with a Reuse-Recycle-Regenerate mindset reimagine the city of Jodhpur to be a modern paradise. It is quite ironic, in fact, that the area being redeveloped is infamous for its brass thieves, but despite the numerous project signages across the area in brass, including even the custom-designed brass fountain, not one incident of theft has been recorded, recounts principal architect, Akshat Bhatt. With the project’s well-thought out developments, the local communities gain economically and socially, as a result of which the project has their full support.
A New Forest Essentials Store
Today if one were to visit Jodhpur and walk up to the stepwell square in the Old City, one would be faced with a marvel of Art Deco architecture that immediately arises a curiosity to explore further. If one were to then, follow that wanderlust instinct, a Forest Essentials Store reveals itself. A store, that stands as one of the core pieces of regenerations in the JDH Project. A ‘residence-turned-retail’ space, as it is called, it was built using the existing mass using strategic re-planning and efficient additions.
What strikes the visitor in the first go is the vivacious color scheme of the store. With interiors in pastel green and a seemingly gold-plated outside, the retail outlet is something one could call ‘traditional chic’. The northern facade is masked in COR-TEN steel which corresponds to the colour and texture of the regional Red Sandstone. The metal is consciously selected because of its ability to change its appearance with time, allowing the building to respond to the changing weather conditions and environment. Not just the colors, but also the design scheme is breathtaking. Re-introducing brass and gold, metals synonymous with Art-Deco, the store is a new jewel for the area.
The flooring of the store is conceived in hand-cut and wax polished linoleum, representing an adaptation of an old mosaic inspired flooring pattern. Following the illusion like designs on the floor, one is surreally guided eventually to a dramatic golden spiral staircase that compels one to want to continue the journey onto the upper floor. After the bewildering exploration, one can’t help but feel the need to sit and admire what is all around. That’s where the furniture in velvet and suede with compliments of brass and gold framing, make one feel like a king or queen, relaxing in their palace.
The examples of Forest Essentials and Laxmi Nivas along with other brands such as Good Earth, Nicobar and Rajesh Pratap Singh, are a symbol of how the JDH Project has managed to internalize the soul of Jodhpur, keeping in mind everything and everyone that make it. To represent Jodhpur’s massive heritage and culture in a way that the 21st century understands, is not an easy task. At the end of the day, however, Jodhpur is going to become a lesson in how heritage cities can walk together with the globalized world.
Images courtesy: JDH Project, Anshu A., Fred Nassar, Jyotirmoy Gupta & Yash Raut