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.
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, 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.
Read part 2 here.