In a marvelous feat of restoration, a barren landscape in Jodhpur transforms into Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park after six years of intense planning and labour. Don’t miss to visit this marvelous park on your next visit to Jodhpur.
Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park was created in 2006 to try and restore the natural ecology of a large, rocky wasteland next to Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. It had suffered years of neglect and was overrun by baavlia (Prosopis juliflora), an invasive, thorny shrub introduced from Central America almost a century ago. The challenge was to eradicate the baavlia and create a suitable home for native rock-loving plants that we would bring back from the desert.
Cultivating a garden in the desert might seem like a thankless task. But that’s what film-director-turned-botanist Pradip Krishen has been doing for six years on a giant patch of seemingly inhospitable rock in a corner of Rajasthan’s Thar Desert near Jodhpur.
The Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park, named after Jodhpur’s founder, opened this year in February month in the shadow of the imposing Mehrangarh Fort, which the Rajput ruler built more than 500 years ago.
A stretch of camel-colored stone is not the most obvious place for a garden but Krishen was asked by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust to rehabilitate the badly eroded and disused area surrounding the fort. But make no mistake: the Mehrangarh Museum Trust was not thinking about just a few cheery beds of shrubs. The area was about 70 hectares — or the size of 10 football fields.
Now, six years from its birth, the park is host to about 120 species of trees and shrubs, herbs and grasses, mostly adapted for a rugged rocky or sandy environment.
Visitors stroll down a pathway of naturally patterned rippled rock, a homage to the volcanic rhyolite that characterises this area. An original city gate, for many years bricked up, has been restored to form the centre-piece of the park and houses the ticket office, visitor’s centre, shop and café. A map and richly-illustrated plant guide makes the excursion meaningful to even the novice.
While late July to October offers the most vibrant show of ephemerals, the park can reveal its secrets year round with some plants flowering in February or March, or bursting into bud with the onset of the first rains. And because the park is still young, each year should see plants gaining a greater hold in what was once a wasteland.
Opening hours: Winter: 8am-6pm; summer 6.30am-7pm
Tickets: Adults Rs 30; students Rs 10