On our way back from Udaipur we dropped down at Jaipur. Since the railway track was of metre gauge in those days trains were necessarily slow. Hence it was a journey almost of 12 hours to cover the distance of only 430 kms. We reached early in the morning and we got out on sightseeing soon after breakfast.
Jaipur has always been known as the Pink City. Rajasthan has this peculiarity – the cities have been given different names by the colour of majority of their structures. Like Jaipur, Udaipur is known as the “White City”, Jodhpur the “Blue City” and Jaisalmer “Yellow City”.
Much need not be written about Jaipur as it is a much-visited place by Indians. It is one of the most popular tourist places in the state and its popularity prompted to make the state government work for increased tourist visitations so much so that Rajasthan today gets one every three foreign tourist visiting India. Tha state has sold its forts, palaces, the rugged landscape, cuisine and colourful dresses of its people successfully both, to domestic and foreign tourists.
Among the cities of Rajasthan Jaipur has one distinctive feature and that is, it is a rare example of a planned city though its construction started as far back as in 1726. The planning for the city was based on vastu shastra and shilpa shastra, i.e the technical and specialized knowledge of town planning available to the people in those early days. The founder of the city Maharaja Jai Singh is said to have consulted numerous architects and books on architecture and planned the city tying it together with the help of grids The pink colour of the town came much later, during the reign of Sawai Ram Singh who had it painted pink in 1876 to welcome the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. Since then the city maintained the pink colour acquiring the epithet of “Pink City”.
Most of the city, especially, its core, the Babu Market, wears a pink ambiance that is distinctly different from the cores of the many cities that were contemporaneous to Jaipur. Despite the heavy rush of people the market remains as attractive as ever and one occasionally comes across a typical architectural feature of Jaipur. One must hand it to the shop owners who have readily agreed to maintain the pink ambiance. The authorities, too, do their bit by painting beautiful designs in white on the pink walls of the several gates that are there as points of entry into the market.
Very close to Babu Market is that fabulous iconic structure called Hawa Mahal that can be called symbolic of Jaipur. The amazing five-storey structure is replete with jaali and lattice work with almost a thousand windows which are called jharokhas. Built in 1799 with the idea of providing a screened view of the street in front to the women of the palace observing purdah, the jaali also ensured cooling of the insides during the hot summers, and Jaipur, with a desert very close to it, can really be hot in summers. The frontal view of the palace offers a honeycomb-like view of intricately worked windows with lattice work and a miniature window in each. The whole effect is captivating besides being very photogenic.
We gave a pass to the Jantar Mantar having seen the one in New Delhi. Instead we proceeded to Amer Fort 11 miles away. Amer was, in fact, the capital before Maharaja Jai Singh decided to build Jaipur. A move became necessary for reasons, among others, of scarcity of water. It is such a pity that a Maharaja had to leave a lived-in palace imaginatively constructed, opulently decorated and impeccably furnished because of certain physical constraints. It is built in four levels on the Aravalis with a small lake in front. It is supposedly the most attractive tourist destination of Jaipur and, from all evidences, it actually is. We saw loads of foreign tourists being ferried to the Fort or Palace as the Amer Mahal is called on elephants’ back. They are dropped after negotiating a massive gate in front of the entrance that is called the Ganesh Gate which is intricately decorated.
Built in the 16th Century by Raja Man Singh, who later became the famous general of Emperor Akbar’s army, Amer Palace is known for its artistic flavour with a mix of Hindu and Rajput architectural styles. Constructed of sandstone and marble here one finds the Diwane Khas and Diwane Aam, a la the Red Fort of Delhi. In addition there is a Sukh Niwas which has a channel to make water flow along to keep the king, his queen and mistresses in cool comfort during the hot summers. Of all the structures, however, it is the Sheesh Mahal which walks away with the cake. It has beautifully painted walls with clever mix of glass all over. It is the same place where the Bollywood film Mughal e Azam’s dance sequence was shot with late Madhubala lip-syncing in the run-away popular song “pyar kiya to darna kya” sung by Lata Mangeshker.
While there are many more sights to see we had to avoid them for want of time. But, we came across a very attractive building which is named after Prince Albert, later Edward VII, who laid its foundation stone. The building houses a museum – In fact it is the State Museum displaying the local artifact, textiles, carpets, handicraft, sculpture, gems, jewellery etc. The building is a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architectural style and having been constructed more than a hundred years ago wears its age well.