This city was founded in the eighteenth century by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II who was a great astronomer and town planner. It is a very well planned city. We had taken the evening train from Jaisalmer and reached here early in the morning. We had arranged for our stay here for 2 days at Dera Rawatsar.
This is a family run hotel which is more like a home. The family hails from Rawatsar which was part of the state of Bikaner. Their ancestors were the chiefs of the Rawatsar estate and served under the King of Bikaner. This place proved to be a grand finale for our Rajasthan trip. One of the most exquisite places we have ever stayed at! We couldn’t find a single fault with this place throughout our stay. The staff was courteous and the food was great. The hostess Mrs Mandvi Ranawat personally supervises all the affairs and ensures that the guests are having a good time. Every article in the room looked as though it had been chosen with a lot of care. The decor was very artfully done.
The matriarch of this family Padmashree Rani Laxmi Kumari Chundawat is a gifted story teller. She played an important role in Indian politics and was pivotal in abolishing the purdah system. Being the avid reader that I am, I felt very happy to be gifted a copy of (English translation) of her book – ‘Love Stories of Rajasthan’.
We wanted to see Jaipur in a different light other than just the normal tourist destinations. The best way to explore a city and know its secrets is to take a walk through its streets. We decided to go on the Chowkri Modikhana walk to the old city with Virasat Journeys. Anurag from Virasat took us on this walk.
We started the walk with a visit to the Kalyanji temple which is pretty old and has beautiful frescoes.
Next was a visit to the Brass Artisans Street where they were busy at work. We also went inside a ramshackle building where these artisans have stayed for generations together. The building looks ready to collapse. Already some sections have collapsed. Yet this does not deter the residents from continuing to stay there.
We then visited a unique museum called the Sanjay Sharma Museum which chiefly houses thousands of rare and ancient manuscripts as well as paintings and other relics from all over India. This is the collection of one man! No mean feat. Left us mightily impressed. This museum was being shifted to a new building constructed near Jal Mahal.
The next stop was at the Sita Ramji temple which supposedly predates the city.
Now came the time to savor some goodies. We stopped at a shop where fresh Jalebis were being fried. They tasted heavenly and we happily gorged on them :)
The city of Jaipur was planned very well by Raja Sawai Jai Singh II. He planned the city such that separate areas were allotted to people belonging to different professions. He then invited artisans and scholars from various parts of the country to come and settle in Jaipur. Even today most of these artisans have stuck to the areas where their forefathers lived. We passed through a street where lac bangle makers were busy at work. Saw some old havelis which had beautiful frescoes. Our walk ended at an antique shop, where amidst beautiful antiques from a bygone era, we had some lovely tea.
This charming minaret near Tripolia gate in the old city was built to commemorate the King Sawai Ishwari Singh’s victory over the Marathas and other Rajasthani rulers. It is a nice place to get an aerial view of the pink city. It has seven storeys and around 200 odd steps to climb to the top. Having climbed to the top, we spent some time soaking in the views :)
The City Palace is a palace complex in the old city. The royal family still resides in one part of the palace while the other parts are open to public.
Some parts of the palace like the Diwan I Aam or the Hall of public audience have been converted to museums for displaying the clothes, weapons and other artifacts belonging to the royal family.
One of the sections of the palace has been used for displaying the works of various talented artisans.
The Diwan I Khas which used to be a private hall of the Maharajas is a marble floored building adorned with exquisite chandeliers. This houses a couple of huge Silver Urns as well as a nice model of the layout of the entire pink city and around.
A beautiful inner courtyard in the palace depicts the four seasons of the year namely summer, spring, autumn and winter! I would love to go back to the palace just to see this courtyard again :) I don’t think any picture can do justice to it’s glory.
Chandra Mahal is where the royal family reside now. The flag of the Jaipur Kingdom flies atop this building.
The Baggi Khana houses the collection of old carriages (Baggis) and palanquins owned by the royal family.
The Govind Dev Ji temple next to the palace complex dedicated to Lord Krishna was built by the Jaipur Kings. It is said that the King could see the idol here from his chamber in the palace. Since our visit here was close to the time of Holi, this place was swathed in festivities. It looked very colourful. We paid our respects to Lord Krishna and sought his blessings :)
The Jantar Mantar is an observatory which houses astronomical instruments. It was built by the King Jai Singh II in the early part of the eighteenth century when he shifted his capital from Amer to Jaipur. There are around 15 instruments here which serve various purposes like determination of time of the day, altitude of a place, times of eclipse and so on. It is difficult to capture the scientific beauty, if one can call it that, of this place in words. Let the images do the talking.
The Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds is a pink coloured palace complex in the centre of the old city. The striking feature of this place is its exterior which resembles the shape of a beehive. There are more than 900 jharokhas (windows) across five storeys here with intricate latticework. The ladies of the royal family who had to follow strict purdah used to sit near the windows and watch the goings on outside unobserved. As we reached here around closing time, we could not go inside though we had tickets.
The Jal Mahal which translates to Water Palace is a palace situated in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake between Amer and Jaipur. This palace has been restored recently and might have been opened to public now. The lake which had got polluted by sewage for so many years has been cleaned as part of conservation programme initiated by the State Government of Rajasthan. We spent some time observing this beautiful palace from outside.
This fort atop the Aravalli Hills on the outskirts of Jaipur is close to Amer Fort. Nahargarh translates to the fort of the Tiger. This was the hunting residence of the Kings. Unlike the other forts, this fort is sadly in a neglected condition. Added to this, lot of the unscrupulous elements have booze parties here and litter the place with broken glass and plastic. This place became popular when a song from the Bollywood movie ‘Rang De Basanti‘ was shot here. We spent some time by the ramparts here and did not venture inside the fort to see the palace.
The Jaigarh Fort (translates to Victory Fort) overlooks the Amer Fort. We could not go here due to lack of time. However managed to catch a glimpse of it from afar on the way to Amer. The chief attraction of this fort is the ‘Jaivana’ which is one of the largest cannons on wheels.
Undoubtedly the jewel among the forts of Jaipur, Amer was where we spent a good deal of time. Its splendor and beauty knows no bounds. My next post will be dedicated exclusively to Amer.
Apart from the above mentioned places, there are a plethora of other places in and around Jaipur which we could not cover due to lack of time. Some of them are Albert Hall Museum, Vidhyadhar Gardens, Sisodiya Rani Bagh, Galtaji temple, Chand Baori in Abhaneri, Chokhi Dhani, Parshwanath temple in Sanganer and Sambhar Lake.
We did not get to try the chats and sweets of Jaipur. Our plan to pay a visit to LMB (Laxmi Mishtan Bhandar) in the old city did not materialize.