THERE’S a good reason why Jaipur is hailed as the Holy Grail of Indian tourism. Dubbed “the Pink City” after the colour wash of its old city walls, the capital boasts stunning visual treats in the form of an assembly of world-renowned monuments.
Despite having all the trappings of a modern metropolis, the city is still tinged with age-old charm.
Stunning backdrops of grandiose palaces and ancient forts testify to a bygone era of lingering romance and chivalry. If anything, the old Jaipur painted in pink will grip visitors with admiration.
It’s interesting to note that the ancient city has been laid according to the conventional nine-grid pattern that astrologers believe to be lucky. Each grid consists of a square, and these have been planned so that the City Palace rests at the heart of the city.
A wonderful blend of Mughal and traditional Rajasthani architecture, the City Palace sprawls over one-seventh of the area in the walled city. The palace complex houses the Chandra Mahal palace, Shri Govind Dev Temple and the City Palace Museum.
Located within the City Palace complex is the Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds. Built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, the Maha was a royal grandstand for palace women in the past.
With its unique five-storey facade of 593 latticed-stone screened windows, the exterior resembles the honeycomb of a beehive. The monument is made of sandstone encrusted with fine trelliswork and elaborate balconies.
There’s also plenty of majestic allure to be found at the Jal Mahal. Situated in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake, the palace was developed as a pleasure spot and was used for the royal duck shooting parties.
Pay a visit to Jantar Mantar for an up-close experience with Jaipur’s astrological prowess. It’s the largest and best preserved of the five observatories built by Jal Singh II in different parts of the country.
This observatory consists of 14 major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars’ locations and determining celestial altitudes.
In the middle of Jaipur is a small hill, Moti Dungri, meaning pearl hill, because it looks like a drop of pearl. An exotic palace is perched atop the hill, which is a replica of a Scottish castle once occupied by Maharaja Sawai Man Singh. The highlight of the hill is the famous and auspicious temple of Lord Ganesh, which is frequented by the locals on religious occasions.
It’s imperative to visit the massive forbidding forts when one’s in the city.
In Mughal times, the Jaipur region was a major weapon-producing centre for Rajput rulers.
Jaigarh Fort, also known as the fort of victory, is the most imposing of the three forts in Jaipur. Built between the 15th and 18th century AD, the place houses a collection of canons in the fort’s museum.
Then there is the Nahargarh Fort, which is located on the rugged ridge of Aravali Hills. The fort overlooks the city and presents a glittering view of the lights at night.
Navigate inside the fort and you will chance upon the Madhavendra Bhavan.
Built by Sawai Madho Singh, it’s a unique cluster of 12 identical suites for queens and at the head is a suite for the king himself. The rooms retain delicate frescoes as well as toilets and kitchen hearths.
Situated about 11km from Jaipur is Amber (pronounced as Amer), the ancient citadel of the ruling Kachwahas of Amber before the capital was shifted to present day Jaipur. Amber Fort – a fascinating blend of Hindu and Mughal architecture – is set in the picturesque and rugged hills of this city.
Built mainly as a safe place in times of war, the heavily-structured walls of red sandstone and white marble could defend the residents within the rampart of the fort in the past. The forbidding exterior conceals an inner haven of beautiful art and architecture.
The interior wall of the palace depicts expressive painting scenes with carvings, precious stones and mirror settings. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, elephant rides to the fort are available from the lower base.
Vibrant shopping experience
Jaipur is also a city that’s vibrant with market bazaars, offering a unique shopping experience with its rich treasure of bewitching jewellery, beautiful gems and colourful fabrics.
Visit the Tripolia Bazaar, Kishanpol Bazaar, Bapu and Nehru Bazaar, where you can find fabrics and carpets.
It’s easy to be enthralled by the majesty of India when one is in Jaipur. The city exudes elegance and class of the bygone years.