May 16, 2013
Part 2 of my Jaipur travel. Read the first part here.
Amer fort is something you should never miss if you go to the pink city. To the north-east, on the outskirts, lies this beauty of a fort. Among the most well maintained forts in India, it was built by Raja Man Singh I on the Aravalli mountain range.
You can either go by car half way or by elephants. It is extremely scenic though very dry (after all this is Rajasthan). On our friend’s advice, we hired a car from Metro cabs.
I always had a fascination for forts. This one seemed like a dream come true! The fort has various levels or courtyards. Diwaan-e-Aam (where the king met the normal people), Diwaan-e-Khaas (where the king met the “special” people), Sheesh Mahal (his quarters) and finally the ladies’ quarters. Beautiful gardens inside the fort. And a garden in the middle of the lake below. It even has a secret tunnel, running underground half-way to the Jaigadh fort, 8 kms to the north.
Nahargarh fort is situated a little above Amer on the mountain range. The drive and the view from the top is amazing. Our hired car driver got a little emotional and said that during the night, the view of Jaipur with its twinkling lights is just like a star-filled night sky.
The tourist traffic has increased after a portion of the film Rang De Basanti was shot here. The well though is very dirty and there is hardly any water, so please don’t attempt what they did in the film – jumping from the wall backwards!
While returning back, we saw the Jal Mahal, which nowadays can’t be accessed, only glimpsed from the lake shore.
I was under the impression that my hometown Ahmedabad is the vegetarian fast food capital of the world. But Jaipur gives solid competition! On all the 4 days I was there, had loads of pani puri, bhel puri, kachori, samosa, pav bhaji and dahi papdi.
Also visited the oldest sweet shop in this region – Laksmi Misthaan Bhandaar (LMB), and bought the famed sweet ghevar (a demand from my sister).
My minimalist tendencies were severely challenged when we roamed in the Johari bazaar and the streets around. So many ethnic items at unbelievably cheap prices (provided that you either know how to bargain or have a local friend). I ended up buying 2 kurtas and 1 mojdi.
The state of Rajasthan consistently ranks among the lowest in social-economic indices. After having heard so much, I didn’t expect the capital to be anything more than a smallish, dusty and barren city. But Jaipur did surprise me by its clean, well-maintained roads, buildings and parks, its openness towards visitors and general enthusiasm in people for the future. (It is in the list of cities slated to drive IT industry growth in the next decade.) Just like across India, perhaps things are now changing.
As my Jaipuri friend remarked (when I told him I hardly expected anything of this sort), this city does pleasantly surprise you in its own ways.
May 8, 2013
Having friends in different cities does have its advantages. After my trip to Kolkata to attend a friend’s wedding, I got a chance to visit Jaipur on another friend’s marriage reception in April end. Again as before, will cover in 2 posts, this being the first.
Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan is a comparatively new city in an ancient country like India. Sawai Jai Singh II established it in 1727, shifting over his kingdom capital from Amber due to water shortages.
I had been forewarned about the heat in this city, but it didn’t turn to be as hot as expected, probably because of unseasonal rains a few days ago.
The question of stay out of the way (my friend had already made arrangements), I focused my efforts on exploring Jaipur.
Jaipur has more historical monuments per capita (if such a metric exists)! But as expected, our Govt. will have its say – most of the monuments close by 5 pm!
So, we could cover only Birla Mandir on the first day. Built by the industrial family of Birlas, it is a beautiful temple made of marble. The setting is spacious and one feels peaceful in its environs. Just behind the temple on the hill is the palace-cum-fort of Maharani Gayatri Devi, some consider the most beautiful princess (she passed away 4 years ago). I actually found this structure more intriguing, but unfortunately, entry for general public is permitted only on 1 day – on Shivaratri.
The next day was dedicated to the old city i.e. the original city. Nicknamed the ‘pink city’, it truly is pink! (Brownish pink to be more accurate.) The inner part is surrounded by walls on all sides with various gates. We entered via the Ajmeri gate and the first stop was City Palace.
Constructed right in the middle, this is where the royalty lived and continues living. The beautiful architecture of the buildings; and the clothes, weapons and other things on display give a glimpse into the life of the Rajput royals. Initially built by Sawai Jai Singh II, it combines Rajput, Mughal and European styles of architecture and is based on the ancient Indian science of Vaastu shastra.
Just beside it is Jantar Mantar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built nearly 3 centuries ago, this astronomical observatory has many instruments including the world’s largest sundial. Inside the compound, just like the people who built this observatory, I felt the same age-old feeling – the thrill in discovering the wonders of the universe.
Hawa Mahal proved to be an anti-climax. After having heard so much and seen it in so many pictures, it turned out to be just an ornamental wall! (And adding to that, it was under restoration.) In those days, the female members of the royal families used the windows of this wall to look at processions on the street below.
NOTE: I have written just 1-2 sentences for each monument, which I agree isn’t fair. But my simple blog can’t cover so much material. Please go through the suggested links for further reading.
UPDATE: My last post on donating 10% received surprisingly high traffic. Thank you for the support and really glad to know that a lot of us feel the same – a need to take tangible action.
May 2, 2013
“The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
It is 43C outside my parents’ home in Ahmedabad. The Indian summer has arrived. We are seated in one of the cooler rooms.
And then, I make an announcement – going forth, I am going to donate a full 10% of my take-home income.
My mother exclaims – don’t you want to save for your future?! Or have you become so rich?
I reply – no, it is nothing to do with being rich. But my basic needs have been met long back.
You might ask, what is so great about my announcement? I have already been donating since a while now (mentioned in some of my initial posts).
Over the last few years, I have given it some serious thought. As I travel and read and see the world more, I feel all the more blessed. Things which I take for granted are daily struggles for a lot of people.
The time has come to step it up. Committing on donating is something entirely different, as compared to doing it occasionally. It is a lifestyle change decision.
I know. Money is not the answer. And I can’t even claim that I am helping in addressing the root causes by donating.
But I do believe that even a small amount can make a difference. Especially in India, where many don’t even have access to basic levels of education and health.
I am not rich. And 10% is a small amount. But 10% over the years will definitely build into something significant (btw, donating 10% is a pretty popular concept).
So here it goes. Just like my personal manifesto of creativity, this one is another manifesto – that of giving back. I will keep donating as far as my earnings exceed my needs.
There are a lot many who already do this. Wait up people, I am joining you.
Any you? Coming with me?
NEXT: A visit to the royal city of Jaipur.