City Palace & Observatory: The inspiration and indulgences of Rajasthan’s Royal Family
KJANTAR MANTAR – OBSERVATORY
Firstly, we stopped at Jantar Mantar, 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.
CITY PALACE – JAIPUR
A short distance from the Jantar Mantar is the City Palace complex, which includes the Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal palaces and other buildings.
The Chandra Mahal palace now houses a museum, but the greater part of it is still a royal residence.
Mubarak Mahal, meaning the ‘Auspicious Palace’, was built with a fusion of the Islamic, Rajput and European architectural styles in the late 19th century by Maharaja Madho Singh II as a reception centre. Today, it is a museum with exhibits of textiles and carpets from the royal family’s collection. Our guide was particularly enthusiastic about the display of the voluminous clothes worn by Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I, who was a mind-boggling seven feet tall, 4 feet wide and weighed 550lb and had 108 wives (most probably died from being crushed or suffocated!)
From the Mubarak Mahal we passed through another gate into the courtyard of the Chandra Mahal, at the centre of which is the Diwan-i-Aam, the Hall of Public Audience, a marble floored chamber located between the armoury and the art gallery. On display are two huge sterling silver vessels 5.2 feet high and each with capacity of 4000 litres and weighing 750lb.They are made from 14,000 melted silver coins and are from a single cast and hold the Guinness World record for the world’s largest sterling silver vessels. This inner courtyard provides access to the Chandra Mahal. There are four small gates that are adorned with themes representing the four seasons and Hindu gods. The gates are the Northeast Peacock Gate representing autumn and dedicated to Lord Vishnu; the Southeast Lotus Gate for the summer season and dedicated to Lord Shiva-Parvati; the Northwest Green Gate, also called the Leheriya (meaning: “waves”) gate, in green colour dedicated to spring and Lord Ganesha, and lastly, the Rose Gate with repeated flower patterns representing winter season and dedicated to Goddess Devi.
At the far end of the Chandra Mahal is seven storey building which is primarily used by the Royal Family as its primary residence.