It’s been almost five years since I visited Jaipur, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a mere 3-day trip, but really, what fun!
Since we were travelling by train, it took us almost 17 hours to reach the Pink City, as Jaipur is called. After exiting the station, we met our car, reached the hotel, freshened up in no time flat and stepped out to explore the city.
A little bit of history here, just so I get to show off my knowledge. Constructed in 1727, under the leadership of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, Jaipur was transformed from a simple settlement to a flourishing centre of art and science and, as the first planned city in India, Jaipur’s construction was based on an astrological grid, for good luck. In 1876, the city got the moniker of the Pink City, when the sandstone, that the buildings were made of, was painted pink as that was the signature colour of Rajput hospitality and the city wanted to celebrate the visit of the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria.
Our first stop in our tour of the city was the fabled Hawa Mahal. This romantic sandstone fortress, cascading over the streets of Jaipur, was originally built in 1799 as a vantage point for the ladies of the royal household. From behind the shadowed windows of Hawa Mahal, high above the streets, the women could observe the city below without being observed themselves. The landmark “honeycomb” facade of the structure reaches five stories high and is made up of 152 windows nestled into rounded latticed balconies, exemplifying the strong yet delicate Rajput architecture in all its splendour.
Our next stop was located just behind the Hawa Mahal, Jaipur’s famous City Palace. The heart of founder Jai Singh II’s reign, the City Palace includes Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal as well as a number of other structures. Built with highly trained architectural care, it combines Rajput, Mughal and European styles and is another stunning example of Jaipur’s royal influences. Today, part of the City Palace is home to the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, which showcases historical relics and art from the city and the region.
Next in line was the famous Jantar Mantar, one of the five well-known astronomical observatories developed by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. A wonder to mathematicians, scientists and architects alike, the observatory is a collection of 19 well-built and highly accurate instruments, including the world’s largest stone sundial. We sent practically half our day in there marveling at the capabilities of Indians even in the 18th century.
Our last stop of the day was the Albert Hall Museum, home to an industrial arts exhibit with artifacts and information on the history of traditional arts and crafts around Jaipur and Rajasthan.
Unfortunately we were out of time so we missed seeing the intriguing Ishwar Lat, but really not bad for a day’s worth of somewhat hurried sightseeing.
The next day was spent in exploring the Brahma Temple in Pushkar and the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, two opposing places of worship, which were quite unique experiences by themselves. But, that’s another story for another day!
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