JODHPUR: Even old-time residents of Jodhpur said they had never before been to some parts of the city that were part of the 'heritage walk' on Sunday, in which over 100 women participated. Winding through the narrow lanes of the city, the women divided themselves into small groups, each of which was led by a trained city guide. "It's rare for us to take our own people around on such a tour. We usually deal with foreign visitors, you see. I speak English, Hindi and Spanish, and have been working as a guide in these parts for over 20 years," said Lalit Kumar Purohit. His wife Chandrakala is the first woman tourist guide in the city.
The walkers went to different historic sites, spread over three km. The event was organized jointly by the Rajput Mothers Foundation and Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach). Gayatridevi Kumariji Raje, the daughter-in-law of the erstwhile royal family, addressed the women at the beginning of the walk and promised she would join walkers the next time.
The group's first halt was at Tunwar Ji Ka Jhalra stepwell, built by Maharaja Abhay Singh's consort in 1740. An army officer had slipped and drowned here weeks ago. The stepwell had been reduced to a rubbish dump until it was recently restored. "There are verandahs where people could rest when it grew terribly hot. The water made this place remain cool all the time," said the guide.
The walkers wound through the narrow lanes that do not allow modern cars to ply. Even two-wheelers would have to carefully negotiate the space if there were walkers about.
Significantly, it was women folk who contributed towards the building of the temples and the stepwell that the group stopped to see. Among the many halts was a haveli that belonged to the diwan of the king, still occupied by his descendents.
"Seema!" called some of the women on the walk, and out emerged the lady of the house, welcoming the large group. She invited walkers in, and it was quite a sight to see the sheer rock wall of the fort rising behind the haveli. On the rock wall were little niches, specially carved in the rock to offer a home for pigeons.
Chandrakala Purohit, the city's first woman tourist guide, opened her doors to welcome all the walkers in - a narrow and tall structure, one could get a view of the entire city from the terrace of the house. The rooms were arranged one on top of the other, giving residents a fair share of exercise each day as the stairs were steep and each step quite high.
Walkers also stopped at a well that was believed to have water that aided in curing diseases. Mahendra Singh Tanwar, Jodhpur coordinator of Intach and librarian looking after the scrolls in Mehrangarh Fort Library, said that while Jodhpur was still a princely state, there was a system by which the water was rationed to those who sought it as a cure.