The historic Pink City of Jaipur is an absolute must on the itinerary of any visitor to India. Together with Delhi and Agra, it is known as India's "Golden Triangle of Tourism" and we spent the maximum number of days here during our Rajasthan visit.
We explored as many nooks and corners of this delightfully interesting city as was possible in the four days that we were there. One can easily spend a week here... with every day being a new experience in itself!
The city of Jaipur is an artist's dream come true. The legendary Sawai Jai Singh II, a great ruler and astronomer, decided to shift his capital from hills of Amber to the plains and built it in accordance with the Vastu Shastra. Along with his Prime Minister Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, he built what is today known as a masterpiece of town planning by the architects and as a poem in aesthetics by the scholars.
He spared no effort in making his city the most complete one in the world - beautiful, charming, appealing, colorful, progressive, and of course hospitable. His predecessors and his people have till today carried down his vision and with its charm and warmth, Jaipur is Jai Singh II's city- his dream come true!
We covered Jaipur in 4 days below are our experiences.
We started the day with a drive through the walled Pink City - it was painted pink in honour of the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1876 - to the City Palace complex. It includes the Sawai Mansingh Museum with its excellent collections of rare manuscripts and miniature paintings, Mubarak Mahal and the armoury.
Two things caught my attention in particular. One, the massive robes of a maharaja who himself weighed over 250 kgs (500 pounds) and, the enormous 5 feet; high solid-silver urns that another maharaja had got made to carry the sacred Ganges water with him on his trip to England. Ahem, I wonder whether he got them filled with Scotch on his way back home. Incidentally, these urns are listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest silver objects in the world.
Outside the palace, I set right the time on my modern wrist-watch with the centuries-old world's largest sun dial at Jantar Mantar. Jesus, these guys were more advanced in those days than we are today!
In the afternoon, we had a sumptuous North Indian lunch at Laxmi Misthan Bhandar in the chaotic Johri Bazaar. The dahivadas were mouthwatering! It seems that the locals are extremely fond of sweets. There are a variety of sweets for different festivals and seasons. The special ones include Mishri-mawa, Fini, Ghevar, Rasmalai and of course Laddoos.
Johri Bazaar literally means Jeweller's market. I quickly got my wife out of the market before she got me bankrupt, buying some of the exquisite gold and kundan-meena jewellery, that Jaipur is internationally famous for.
Later, we climbed up the seven-storey high Isarlat and had a broad overview of the remarkably well planned Jai Singh's city of Jaipur.
I was a little fatigued, so we went over to The Polo Bar at the opulent Rambagh Palace for a couple of cocktails. This bar is one of the finest that we have come across – it had a marble fountain in the middle and lots of polo memorabilia on the walls including the famous Tatler cartoon.
The royal sport of Polo is synonymous with Jaipur. A number of international Polo tournaments are hosted here and are enjoyed equally by the classes and masses. There have been enchanting moments shared by Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana during Jaipur Polo.
The last Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai Man Singh II breathed his last while playing polo in England during the Ascot week tournaments in June 1970.Speaking of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II.His wife, the last Rajmata (Queen-Mother) of Jaipur, Maharani Gayatri Devi was once considered one of the most beautiful women in the world by Vogue.
In the morning, we went to Amber, stopping enroute for a few moments at Jal Mahal(Water Palace) and the Kanak Vrindavan temple with its manicured gardens.
At Amber fort-palace, we hired an elephant to take us up to the sprawling fort-palace complex. The main attractions are the Sukh Mandir (Temple of Contentment – an aptly named pleasure chamber, cooled by a stunning water cascade) and the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror palace).
We were closed into a tiny room with mirrors all over the ceiling. In the pitch dark, an attendant lit up two candles and holding them, waved his arms slowly over his head. In a typical guides’s tone (Don’t blame the guy – he must be repeating the same thing hundreds of times a day!), he said – "Thish is the winter bedroom of the rajah. Shince it was too cold to sleep in outshide, he made thish bedroom with tiny mirrors on the ceiling. If you look up onto the ceiling, you will find the same effect that the oil lamps beshides his bed made. Tinkle, tinkle, little ishtar…" And it really was a marvellous sight - twinkling stars on a clear night!!
On the way back to the city, we took a look at the intricately carved Jagat Shiromani Temple. For lunch, we hopped over to NIROS - one of the most popular restaurants on the bustling M.I.Road.
Later, we visited the famed Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), the five storeyed architectural marvel (frankly, it looks better from outside!). We browsed through the nearby handicraft shops for some souvenirs. I picked up a lovely pair of jootis, while my wife bought a bandhej salwar-kameez. Rajasthan is a shopper's paradise and Jaipur is one big emporium where you can buy just about all the Arts and Crafts from various parts of the state. It is one of the leading centers in the world for Gems and jewellery, Gold enamelling, Carpets, Hand block-printed textiles, Puppets, Handmade paper, Blue pottery, Bangles, Marble work etc.
For dinner, we tried out ethnic Rajasthani food in the rustic settings of one of the nearby resorts.
We spent the forenoon browsing through the streets of Jaipur seeing the craftsmen working on marble statues in Khazaane-walon ka Rasta and making bangles in Maniharon ka rasta.
In the old times, different streets were allotted for different professions. And apart from the stray shops that have come up of late, the tradition still continues. In fact, lifestyle in the older part of the city (the walled Pink City) still depicts the flavour of the old times. Except for the increased crowds and motorized vehicles plying over the roads, nothing seems to have changed here. I have covered it in detail in my notes on the lifestyle and culture of Jaipur together with visuals of Chhoti Chaupar.
After a quick bite, we visited the beautiful cenotaphs of the rulers of Jaipur at Gaitor and then drove up the hills to the Jaigarh fort.
The world's biggest cannon on wheels, Jaivaan was truly intimidating – it is 6.15 m (20.2 ft) long and it weighs 50 tons. Made in the fort's foundries, it was used only once – that too a test firing as the Jaipur rulers were pretty pally with the Mughals.
An old guide with a weather-beaten face told us that "the cannonball weighing 150 kgs landed 40 kms away, making the brave tremble and aborting the pregnant women." Phew!
Another of Jaigarh's attraction is the elaborate water filtering and storage system, which in its watery depths also housed the royal treasury.
By now, it was dusk and we drove to Nahargarh (Tiger fort). The fort's location is like a tiger standing on the crest of a hill and overlooking the city below. Over a beer, we saw a majestic sunset, typical of this desert state. The panoramic view of the sprawling city of Jaipur from here, especially after nightfall, is simply breathtaking.
Later my wife wanted to brush up her Hindi and on our way back, we saw the late-night movie in the grand interiors of Rajmandir theatre.
My wife was feeling religious and while I slept, she took off early in the morning for a Temple Tour – heading straightaway for the morning prayers at the sprawling Sri Govind Devji temple. It was, as she put it - "a pure spiritual experience - the collective chanting of prayers and the devotion of the people are too mesmerizing."
After visiting a few more temples (Jaipur has temples in thousands!), she drove down the narrow Ghaat ki Ghoni, with chhatris on both sides of the road, to Galta - this Sun temple is situated on a gorge and has a natural water spring, not to mention a number of monkeys all around. On her way back, she took breather at the lovely garden, Sisodia Rani ka Bagh.
I made good of my wife's absence by taking one of guides for a Scholar's Tour. Started with the majestic Albert Hall in Ramniwas Bagh. It's especially noteworthy for the beautiful 16th century Persian carpet and Egyptian mummy. From there I went to the unique Museum of Indology.
The Birla Planetarium near the Statue Circle was the next stop. The same complex also has a Science and Technology Museum with live display models and an international-standard auditorium.
The exterior had the majestic grandeur of Jaipur's palaces and the interior was ultra-modern with state-of-the-art designing and acoustics. I clicked a couple of snaps in the fervent hope that my company decides to get in touch with the Ashoka Holiday's people and organize our next Sales Conference there.
Ate a yummy pizza at the nearby Café and then visited the Jawahar Kala Kendra. This beautifully built cultural centre houses a number of art galleries and regular theatre plays are staged here.
From there, I went to Jaipur Kathak Kendra (Centre for classical dance) and Sangeet Sansthan (Institute of music). Also took a look at the Gallery of Modern Art at Ravindra Rangshala and returned to the hotel to find that Her-Holiness (wife) had returned.
She had deliberately left out one of Jaipur's major attractions as she wanted me to see it as well. So, a cup of cappuccino later, we went to the beautiful Birla temple. Completely done up in milky white marble, it has intricate carvings... and the best part of all, it's air-conditioned!
On our way back to our hotel, we passed the Albert Hall in Ramniwas Bagh, which I had visited earlier in the day. In the twilight, it looked even more impressive with its subdued illumination.
Half-day excursion famous for its hand block-printing textile and handmade paper industries
Half-day excursion famous for printing of cotton textiles in earthy colours
Half-day excursion to see its fort and palace with fine mirror work