The Pink & the Capital City of Rajasthan
Jaipur holds the distinction of being the first planned city of India. Renowned globally for its coloured gems, the capital city of Rajasthan combines the allure of its ancient history with all the advantages of a metropolis. The bustling modern city is one of the three corners of the golden triangle that includes Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
The story goes that in 1876, the Prince of Wales visited India on a tour. Since the colour pink was symbolic of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur painted the entire city pink. The pink that colours the city makes for a marvellous spectacle to behold. Jaipur rises up majestically against the backdrop of the forts Nahargarh, Jaigarh and Moti Doongri.
Jaipur traces back its origins to 1727 when it was established by Jai Singh II, the Raja of Amber. He shifted his capital from Amber to the new city because of the rapidly-growing population and an increasing water scarcity. Noted architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya used the established principles of Vastu Shastra to build the city.
City Palace Museum
Located deep within the walled city, the City Palace Complex was conceived and built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur. A beautiful fusion of Mughal and Rajput architecture, the palace is still home to the last ruling royal family which lives in a private section of the palace. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh is credited with building most of the structures, but it was expanded upon by later rulers as well. The City Palace Complex includes the Mubarak Mahal (the palace of reception) and the Maharani’s Palace (the palace of the queen).
Mubarak Mahal now houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum and displays a vast and unique collection of royal costumes, delicate Pashmina (Kashmiri) shawls, Benaras silk saris, and other dresses with Sanganeri prints and folk embroidery. The clothes of Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I are also on display. The Maharani's Palace, surprisingly, has an interesting display of very well-preserved Rajput weaponry, some dating back to the 15th century. Other than the arms, the palace is adorned with beautiful paintings on the ceiling that are well-maintained.
Amber (pronounced Amer) is at a distance of about 11 kilometres from Jaipur. The palace, located in craggy hills, is a beautiful melange of Hindu and Mughal styles. Raja Man Singh I began construction in 1592 and the palace, which was built as a strong, safe haven against attacking enemies, was completed by Mirja Raja Jai Singh. The contrast between the harsh exterior and the inviting interior couldn’t be more surprising. Made entirely of red sandstone and white marble, visitors are left spellbound by the magnificence of the palace that utilises paintings and carvings, along with precious stones and mirrors. The splendour of the palace is enhanced by the breath-taking vista of the Maota Lake in front.
The palace is nearly seven centuries old and has a legendary past. Originally a small structure that the Rajputs won from the Meena tribes, it was later transformed into the grand Amber Palace. Unfortunately much of the splendour is lost to time but conservation efforts have preserved a few parts of the structure from 16th century onwards.
Nahargarh Fort sits proudly on a ridge of the Aravalli Hills, creating an impressive northern backdrop to the city of Jaipur. It was constructed during the reign of Jai Singh in 1734, and was later expanded in 1868. Nahargarh, which means abode of tigers, was a formidable barrier, defending Amber against attacking enemies. Within its walls, the fort houses Madhavendra Bhawan, the summer destination for the members of the royal family. Built by Sawai Madho Singh, the palace has 12 matching boudoirs for the queens, at the head of which is a suite for the king.
They are all connected by corridors decorated with delicate murals. Even today the palace is a favoured spot for local picnickers. The fort looks brilliant when floodlit at night. Overlooking the city, it presents a glittering view of the city lights.
Of the three hilltop forts that overlook the city of Jaipur, Jaigarh is perhaps the most magnificent of them all. About 15 Kms from Jaipur, it was built by Sawai Jai Singh II sometime in the early 18th century amidst the arid, rocky and thorn-scrub covered hills. Despite its ancient construction, it still retains most of its imposing citadel appearance. Visitors can see the world’s largest canon – Jaiban, at the fort.
Hawa Mahal, literally the Palace of Winds, was built in 1799 by the poet king Sawai Pratap Singh as a summer retreat for him and his family. It also served as a place where the ladies of the royal household could observe everyday life without being seen themselves. This unique five-storey structure is a blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture, and the exterior, with its small latticed windows (called jharokhas), resembles the crown of Lord Krishna. The windows also serve as an air-conditioner of sorts, blowing cool air throughout the palace, making it the perfect retreat during summers. Built from pink sandstone, the Hawa Mahal is Jaipur’s iconic landmark and visitors can view its complete magnificence from outside, from across the road.
However, it is also possible to climb right up to the top for a wonderful view from the windows. Today, the Mahal is maintained by the Archaeological Department of the Government of Rajasthan and also houses an archaeological museum in the courtyard.
The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is considered to be the largest of the five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur. It contains fourteen geometric devices, designed to measure time, track celestial bodies and observe the orbits of the planets around the sun.
Albert Hall Museum
The building gets its name from The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the inspiration for its design. The exquisitely built Albert Hall is housed in the centre of Ram Niwas Garden. Sir Swinton Jacob (who is also the mastermind behind many other palaces in Rajasthan) conceptualised and designed it using styles from the Indo-Sarcenic architecture and the Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone of the building in 1876. The museum displays a wide range of metal objects, wood crafts, carpets, stone and metal sculptures, arms and weapons, natural stones and ivory goods. It also houses a large collection of miniatures from Bundi, Kota, Kishangarh, Udaipur and Jaipur schools of art.
Lakshmi Narayan Temple | BIRLA TEMPLE
The Lakshmi-Narayan Temple, also known as the Birla Temple, is a comparatively newer temple built by the Birlas (a noted industrialist family). The temple, constructed entirely of white marble, is home to the deities of Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi.
One of the most wonderful sights in Jaipur is the beautiful Jal Mahal or Lake Palace. The light, sand coloured stone walls and the deep blue of the water make for a wonderful contrast. The palace appears to float in the centre of Man Sagar Lake, where its magnificent exteriors can be enjoyed by tourists.
Just off the Jaipur-Amber road is Gaitore, where the former Maharajas of Jaipur are entombed. The chhatris (cenotaphs), made of white marble display the distinctive Rajput style of architecture. The open pavilions with ornate domes are supported by delicately sculpted pillars. The crematorium is located in the middle of yellow sandstone hills. The décor and extravagance of a particular chattri is meant to reflect the stature and prowess of the ruler it contains. The most graceful and beautiful chattri at Gaitor is that of Maharaja Jai Singh with 20 carved pillars. Tourists are especially drawn towards it because of its intricate carvings.
SISODIA RANI PALACE AND GARDEN
Sisodia Rani Palace and Garden is located 8 kilometres from Jaipur on the Agra road. Laid out in Mughal style, it is painted with the legends of Radha and Krishna. The garden is multi-tiered and has fountains, water courses and painted pavilions. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II built it for his Sisodia queen.
Located near Sisodia Garden, this is yet another beautiful garden which is a must-see for visitors. It is named after Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, the Chief Architect of Jaipur.
Central Park is a large green zone right in the centre of Jaipur that offers city dwellers a spot for a moment of respite. Conceptualised and built by the Jaipur Development Authority, it is Jaipur’s largest park. It houses a lush garden, the Polo Ground and a golf club. However, the highlight of the park is India’s first all-day-and-all-night monumental National Flag which also happens to be the country’s tallest flagpole.
ANOKHI MUSUEM OF HAND PAINTING
At a mere ten-minute walk through the cobbled streets of Amber lies the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing. Located in a magnificently restored haveli (mansion), the museum displays a varied selection of block-printed textiles alongside images, tools and related objects – all chosen to provide an in-depth look into the complexity of this ancient tradition.
GOVIND DEVJI TEMPLE
The Krishna temple is a rare spire-less temple and houses the idol of Govind Devji that Sawai Jai Singh brought from Vrindavan. The deity, worshipped by the erstwhile royal family, is also revered by the Hindus in Jaipur and nearby areas.
Rising from the middle of Jaipur is a small pearl-shaped hill called Moti Doongri. At the top of the hill sits an exotic palace – a replica of a Scottish castle – which is the private property of the royal family. The highlight of Moti Doongri is a famous and auspicious temple of Lord Ganesh located at the foothill.
Akshardham Temple at Vaishali Nagar is among the most popular attractions for tourists visiting Jaipur. The temple, dedicated to the god Narayan, is well-known because of the beautiful architecture that includes magnificent idols, lifelike sculptures and intricate carvings.
DIGAMBER JAIN MANDIR
The ancient Digamber Jain temple at Jaipur is in Sanganer, 14 km from the city. The principal idol in the Sanghiji Temple is of Lord Adinath in the Padmasan (lotus position) posture. The temple is made of red stone and has attractive carvings. The seven-storied temple has sky-high 'shikharas' (spires) and its inner sanctum is a stone shrine with eight sky-high shikharas.
Galtaji is an ancient pilgrimage centre in Jaipur. Set amidst low hills and packed with locals and tourists alike, the attractive spot has temples, pavilions and holy kunds (natural springs and water tanks). Visitors to Galtaji will come across the complex of Ramgopalji temple, locally called the Monkey temple (Galwar Bagh). It gets this moniker because of a large group of resident monkeys. The green landscape and chattering monkeys add to the delight of the area. On top of the hill is a small temple dedicated to the sun god, called the Surya Mandir. Constructed by Diwan Kriparam, the temple can be seen from anywhere in the city.
A life-size white marble statue of Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur, stands tall in the middle of a circle in the C-Scheme area. Erected in his honour, the statue pays homage to the founder of Jaipur.
RAM NIWAS GARDEN
This historical garden was built by Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh in 1868. Located in the heart of the city, the garden houses the Albert Hall Museum (now known as Central Museum), a bird park, a zoo, the Ravindra Rang Manch theatre, an art gallery and an exhibition ground.
The Zoological Garden or Jaipur Zoo was founded by Sawai Raja Pratap Singh in the year 1868. It is located in Ram Niwas Bagh, within walking distance of the famous Albert Hall.
Ishwar Lat, also known as Swarg Suli is a 60 feet high grand minaret in Jaipur. Also called 'Swarg Suli' or 'heaven piercing minaret', this tower near Tripolia Gate was built by Raja Ishwari Singh in 1749 A.D to commemorate a grand victory against his brother Madho Singh in the Bagru war. Ishwar Lat offers a breath-taking view of Jaipur. Another popular story about Ishwar Lat goes that Maharaja Ishwari Singh built it to secretly view and admire the beautiful daughter of Prime Minister Argobind Natani. She lived in the haveli opposite Swarg Suli and the Maharaja was said to be in love with her.
AMAR JAWAN JYOTI
The Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the ‘flame of the immortal soldiers’, is a memorial dedicated to the martyrs of Rajasthan. This memorial is situated near Jaipur’s Vidhan Sabha Bhawan (Legislative Assembly).The key attraction of the Amar Jawan Jyoti is that the torches at the four corners of the structure are always burning. In evenings, this formidable structure is attractively lit up in vivid colours. The brilliant lighting effects make this a picturesque spot a favourite with tourists.
MAHARANI KI CHHATRI
Maharani Ki Chhatri was a special funeral area for women belonging to Jaipur's royal family and is located on the way to Amber fort. This crematorium has several exquisitely carved cenotaphs built to commemorate them. The cenotaphs are either built with marble or the local stones. As a popular belief, a cenotaph was finished with a roof structure only if the queen died before her king. In case she died after the king, it would remain unfinished. One of the significant features of these cenotaphs is the use of chhatri (umbrella), a quintessential architectural style of the Rajputs. The magnificent beauty and the historical significance of Maharani ki Chhatri makes it one of the most visited tourist attractions in Jaipur.