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The City of Jaipur earned its UNESCO heritage status as a unique example of urban planning in its time

Our drive to Jaipur from Ranthambore took us five hours, including a couple of stops, taking us deep in to the heart of rural Rajasthan passing through many small villages. We had a very careful and respectful driver but there were still a few occasions where we found ourselves headed directly towards another vehicle, but having spent a week in the country we were starting to feel a bit more relaxed in these life-threatening situations. It did not feel too long before we found ourselves heading into the vibrant capital of Rajasthan, with its population of around 3½ million. Strangely enough, it was this city that bought us to India, or more correctly its depiction in the film “The Very Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. Shallow or what?

Our hotel was situated in the old city, which took us a further 45 minutes to reach. As we passed through the gate that took us beyond the wall that surrounds the old city it was clear to see why Jaipur is known as the “Pink City”, with the walls of every building painted in a terracotta pink colour. The traffic came to a standstill and we soon discovered why as a procession approached us led by a very enthusiastic band. We were very excited to see an elephant in the parade decorated in bright cloth and paint. This was only the second elephant we had seen! At the rear of the procession was a float on which sat, cross-legged, a very stately looking Hari Krishna holy man, who was apparently very famous. Once the procession passed the traffic cleared quickly and we soon reached our hotel for the next two nights

Things to do in and around Jaipur

1. HAWA MAHAL (‘PALACE OF WINDS’ OR ‘PALACE OF THE BREEZE’)

Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan state, was founded in 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh II who ruled Jaipur State from 1699 – 1744. Initially his capital was Amber, some 11 km from Jaipur. He felt the need to shift his capital city as its population increased beyond the resources around Amber, especially the scarcity of water. Jaipur was the first planned city of India and the Maharaja took great interest in its design. He consulted several books on architecture and architects before deciding on the layout of Jaipur. The Maharaja created free housing to encourage traders and business people to move to the city. In 1876, when the Prince of Wales visited Jaipur, the whole city was painted pink to welcome him and after that Jaipur was referred to as the ‘Pink City’. The paint is renewed on a strict cycle to keep it looking fresh.

Hawa Mahal (‘Palace of Winds’ or ‘Palace of the Breeze’) is a five storey structure made from pink and red sandstone. It was built in 1799 by the Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh to allow the female members of the royal family to watch the processions and events happening in the streets below without being observed by the common folk. It is a very shallow building with many rooms that have ornately latticed windows through which the ladies could observe what was going on outside.

2. KANTAR MANTAR (OBSERVATORY)

Located in the heart of Jaipur, Jantar Mantar, is a monument that houses a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments. Built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, and completed in 1734, it features the world’s largest stone sundial and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The instruments are constructed from masonry, stone and brass and were built using astronomy and instrument design principles outlined in ancient Hindu Sanskrit texts. The instruments allow the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye; the scale of the structures was very impressive. As well as instruments of various sizes (and accuracy) for telling time there was a number set aside for astrology, which is very important in Hindu culture, especially when it comes to births and marriage.

A view of several optical instruments at Jantar Mantar
Optical instrument, at Jantar Mantar

3. CITY PALACE

Jaipur’s City Palace was built by Sawai Jai Singh who headed the Kachwaha Rajput Clan and is credited as the founder of Jaipur. The Palace served as the seat of his throne.

Construction of the Palace was 17th century, as he wanted to shift the capital of the state from Amber to Jaipur.

Raja Man Singh II was the last ruler of this dynasty to hold the throne in this Palace. The beautiful structure was designed by architects Vidyadhar Bhattacharya and Samuel Swinton Jacob who brought a European influence to the design.

The residence of the Royal Family
The entry gate to the City Palace

4. AMBER FORT 

Jaipur’s City Palace was built by Sawai Jai Singh who headed the Kachwaha Rajput Clan and is credited as the founder of Jaipur. The Palace served as the seat of his throne.

Construction of the Palace was 17th century, as he wanted to shift the capital of the state from Amber to Jaipur.

Raja Man Singh II was the last ruler of this dynasty to hold the throne in this Palace. The beautiful structure was designed by architects Vidyadhar Bhattacharya and Samuel Swinton Jacob who brought a European influence to the design.

The residence of the Royal Family
The entry gate to the City Palace

 

Must have taken sometime to stack that fruit
A bubbling vat of hot oil – looks dangerous
All look delicious
So many pickles to choose from
Another scary manikin
So many shops selling fabrics. This is our guide in the foreground!

A garland of money to hang around a brides neck

Two hours later our tour was done and as we had given our driver, the night off we had to make our own way (with help from our guide) back to the hotel and our chosen mode of transport was the tuk-tuk. As our guide went to hail a tuk-tuk (I don’t think there is an Uber for tuk-tuks) Karen noticed a man lying in the middle of the very busy road; cars, buses and motorbikes weaving their way around him. It was almost as if he was invisible! Sadly, India has a large problem with substance abuse, and in this case the man had apparently passed out from drink. There was no way Karen was going to leave him, so the guide, myself and a couple of passing men lifted the man and deposited him to the relative safety of the pavement. We made sure to use lashing of hand sanitizer when we were done. So, having done our good deed for the day we took the short tuk-tuk ride back to the hotel. For dinner we decided to eat at the hotel and chose a thali – which turned out to be delicious. Once again, we had a chance to talk to the owner who regaled us with more stories of his personal history and explained the history behind the family portraits that lined the walls of the dining room.

We had a busy schedule planned for the next day, so we were soon headed off back to our delightful room.

Lessons for the day:

  • Driving in India is very different from the USA and Europe (for the most part … Italy could be an exception) so try and relax and not panic when another vehicle is headed your way.
  • Street food is delicious – but buyer beware! The pickles are especially good!
  • A little bit of kindness can go along way – or even save a life.

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