….. Rajesh Deshpande. Based upon my personal visit in October 2013.
Destination Type – Architecture. Trip Type – Leisure. CLICK HERE to view photostream of Jaipur
Jaipur is the symphony in pink, a city with breath taking beauty and a rich blend of art and culture. This jewel in pink is a tourists Eden. Jaipur is known as the ‘Pink City’ of India due to the pink colour of buildings in the walled city. It’s also known as the ‘City of Victory’. Jaipur is a splendid showcase of rich Rajasthani culture and heritage where relics of the golden past and aristocratic antiquity are carefully preserved. Jaipur was the former capital of the Kachhawaha Rajput’s nestled amidst the Aravali hills crowned by three formidable citadels and studded with grand palaces, majestic mansions and gracefully landscaped gardens exemplifying the character and extravagant lifestyle of the erstwhile Amer (also known as Amber) state and its rulers.
Jaipur is a city of forts and palaces, it epitomises the spirit of Rajputana and preserves its rich history and culture even though the city has grown in to a sprawling metropolis and a bustling commercial hub. The fusion of antiquity with modernity, excellent planning, wide streets, imposing architecture and cheerful atmosphere of the city makes it the most sought after destination for tourists from all over the world. The city is known for producing exquisite gold jewellery laid and enamelled with precious stones and colours (called as meenakari); blue pottery; wood, stone and ivory carvings; block print textiles; tie and dye (known as bandhanis) textiles; leather articles; miniature paintings; and footwear (known as mojris) making it a shoppers paradise.
The antiquity of Jaipur can be traced back to 1699 when Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II ascended the Amber throne. Jai Singh was a renowned astronomer and mathematician. He decided to shift his capital from the citadel of Amber to present day walled city of Jaipur. The foundation stone of Jaipur, the new capital of Amber state was laid in 1727 and the city is thus named after its founder Sawai Jai Singh. The walled city is well-planned with wide roads, shopping arcades and majestic palaces. The vision of Jai Singh is laudable – he appointed a Bengali architect named Vidyadhar Bhattacharya to give shape to his ideas and vision, one of which was to design and construct the pink city to be earthquake resistant. Jaipur’s walled city is thus a quake resistant city and perhaps the first planned city of India.
Jaipur is also the capital of Rajasthan. It’s located in eastern Rajasthan. The city stretches about 25 Kms from Amer in the North to Sanganer in the South. It’s also one of the constituents of the golden triangle of tourism – Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
How to reach?
By Rail – Jaipur can be reached by rail from all major cities of India. From Mumbai, Jaipur Duronto (12239) is the fastest train while the Jaipur Superfast (12979), Mumbai Central Jaipur (12955) and the Garibrath (12216) are good express trains. From Delhi, Ajmer Shatabdi (12015), Jaipur Double Decker (12986) and the Ahmedabad Rajdhani (12958) are superfast trains for Jaipur. From Udaipur, the Udaipur Jaipur Intercity Express (12991) is the fastest train to reach Jaipur in 7.5 hrs.
By Road – Jaipur is on the Mumbai Delhi National Highway 8 (NH-8). From Mumbai, it takes about 18 hrs. to reach Jaipur through Surat, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, and Ajmer. From Delhi, it takes about 4.5 hrs. through Gurgaon, Kotputli, Shahpura to Jaipur. There are many buses, both private and run by state transport corporations to Jaipur and in between cities.
By Air – Sanganer International Airport, Jaipur is the nearest airport, 10 Kms from the city.
Where to Stay?
Jaipur is a sprawling metropolis with modern 5 star hotels, palace hotels, heritage hotels, business hotels, budget hotels and lodges. The super swanks can opt for one of the many 5 star palace hotels like the Oberoi Raj Vilas, Taj Rambagh Palace to modern 5 star or 4 star properties like the ITC Rajputana, Holiday Inn, Mansingh, Royal Orchid, Country Inn and Suites, Trident Hilton, Jaipur Mariott and the Lalit Jaipur.
Souls seeking aristocratic luxury at less than 5-star prices can opt for heritage hotels like the Raj Palace Grand Heritage Hotel, the Alsisar Haveli, Samode Haveli and the Royal Heritage Haveli to name a few.
The intrepid traveller or backpacker or tourists who don’t wish to burn a hole in the pocket may opt to stay at one of the many small hotels and lodges spread across every nook and corner of the city.
If inclined to explore rural ambience near Jaipur, head on to Choki Dhani on the outskirts towards the airport.
Things to see
Jaipur has many things to see, shop and eat. It’s a real treat to the eyes with stunning palaces, forts, garden and bazars. It is recommended to reserve three full days for sightseeing, shopping and eating, of which one fully day must be reserved to visit the three forts – Amer (or Amber), Jaigad and Nahargad, along with Jal Mahal, Gaitore, Samode and Galta if time permits. Since a visit to all the three forts, Samode and Gaitore is a distance of about 50 Kms it is advisable to hire a private car. Rajasthan Tours is a trusted name to hire a private car or to book a sight-seeing tour. Booking a car through the hotel may turn out to be expensive.
Another full day is required to explore the pink city – The Hawa Mahal, City Palace, Jantar Mantar, and to see nearby attractions like the Albert Hall museum, Birla temple and Sisodia Rani ki bagh. One whole day can be reserved for shopping at the bazars spread around the badi chaupad and the choti chaupad – the Sireh Deori Bazar, Johari Bazar in the badi chaupad or at Bapu bazar in the choti chaupad.
General Tips – all the forts, palaces and monuments in and around Jaipur charge a decent sum in the form of parking fees, entry fees and camera fees (separate amount for still and video cameras). Photography and Videography is prohibited in some areas of the City Palace. The fees are different for Indian and foreign tourists. The forts and monuments are open from 8 AM up to 6 PM. Check timings before visiting.
Jaipur is a very expensive city rather it can be termed as the most expensive city of India. Everything from street food, auto rickshaws, restaurants, hotels is expensive. Auto rickshaws don’t run on meter and the rates are negotiable. 50 Rs. for 5 Kms distance is a good deal. Jaipur also has cycle rickshaws, recommended for shorter distances. In-house restaurants and facilities in luxury hotels could be overpriced and forbidding, check rates before indulging.
While shopping at the bazars, it is essential to haggle hard for the best deal. Beware of some shops selling poor quality textiles or fake antiques and artefacts.
Amer (or Amber) Fort – is a citadel with a complex of palaces atop a range of craggy hills about 11 Kms from Jaipur city on the Jaipur Delhi highway. The placid Maota Lake at the base of the hill adds to the beauty of the fort. Maota Lake is surrounded by gardens like the Mohan Bari and Dala Ram ka Bagh from where a steep uphill path leads to Surya Pol, the grand entrance of Amer Fort. The fort can be reached on foot or by car (from rear side of the fort). An elephant ride uphill is also available from the base of the fort.
The massive Surya Pol leads to an open courtyard known as Jaleb (Front) chowk. To the south of Jaleb chowk are the royal palaces set on a high plinth which can be reached through the Singh (Lion) Pol. The famous Shila Mata temple is adjacent to the Singh Pol. On entering the palace area through the Singh Pol is the beautifully pillared pavilion made of marble and sandstone known as Diwan-I-Aam or hall of public audience. To the south of Diwan-I-Aam is an imposing gateway – the Ganesh Pol, on top of which is the Suhag Mandir with windows having marble grills for the royal ladies to watch the proceedings of Diwan-I-Aam.
On entering the Ganesh Pol, is the Diwan-I-Khas or hall of private audience decorated with beautiful mirror work and intricate carvings on the walls and ceilings. Opposite to the Diwan-I-Khas is the Sukh Niwas or house of pleasure where an air-conditioning effect is created by the cool breeze blowing over the water channels. Adjacent to the Sukh Niwas is the Jai Mandir or Temple of Victory which is a fine blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture at its best. It houses the Sheesh Mahal or the Hall of Mirrors above which is the Jas Mandir or Temple of glory which has alabaster windows with marble grills offering spectacular view of the Maota Lake. Behind the palaces is the zenana or ladies suites beautifully decorated with murals of Radha and Krishna and private chambers of the queens having latticed screens for watching the proceedings of the royal court.
Jaigad Fort – is to the south of Amer fort with rugged bastions and fortifications, beautiful gardens, a granary and a tall watch tower. The highlight of Jaigad is the Jaivana Cannon – the biggest cannon in Asia with a range of 20 miles and a 20 foot long barrel. A single shot of the humongous cannon required 100 Kg. gunpowder. Due to its height, Jaigad offers breath taking views of Amer Fort and the Maota Lake on the northern end and an equally stunning view of the far off Jal Mahal to the south.
Nahargad Fort – is a straight drive from Jaigad on the other side of the range of hills stretching southwards. This majestic fort affords a commanding view of Jaipur city beneath. Nahargad with its crenelated walls running alongside a ridge can be seen from the choti chaupad or Jantar Mandar in the walled city of Jaipur. It houses two architectural marvels – the Hawa Mandir and Madhavendra Bhavan reflecting the grandeur of the era bygone. The erstwhile royals used the fort as a summer retreat.
Jal Mahal – or the Water palace was built by Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 amidst the Man Sagar Lake as a summer resort and pleasure spot. It is on the way to Amer fort 6 Kms from Jaipur city.
Hawa Mahal – or the Palace of Breeze is the hallmark of Jaipur and the most photographed monument. It was built in 1799 by Sawai Pratap Singh for the royal ladies to see the processions and day-to-day activities on the street outside from the cool confinement of this majestic façade. Hawa Mahal has 953 niches and 152 windows with overhanging latticed balconies, curvilinear roofs, domes and spires. This gently tapering structure is a fantasy in pink sandstone located at the Sireh Deori bazar and is a part of the City Palace complex. Hawa Mahal also has a museum exhibiting a fine collection of ancient paintings, sculptures, handicrafts, coins and armoury.
City Palace – is the dream of Sawai jai Singh II, a spectacular complex divided in to a series of courtyards, gardens, palaces and halls. It’s a splendid fusion of Rajput and Mughal architectures. The magnificent Chandra Mahal or the moon palace occupies the centre stage and is also the residence of the current royal family. The outer courtyards have architectural marvels like the Mubarak Mahal, Sarvatobhadra, Diwan Khana and Pritam Niwas which are now converted in to a museum known as the Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II museum. The palace still retains the pomp and grandeur of the bygone era.
The Chandra Mahal is a majestic seven storeyed structure in the quadrangular Jai Niwas Bagh with the palace suites donned with paintings, floral decorations and mirrored walls. The two most beautiful suites in Chandra Mahal are the Chandra Mandir and the Shobha Niwas. The Chandra Mandir houses an exclusive museum with a collection of ancient manuscripts in Arabian, Persian, Latin and Sanskrit, grand outfits of the royalty woven in gold threads, antique carpets and miniature paintings.
Diwan-I-Aam or Sabha Niwas is a hall decorated with magnificent chandeliers, ornamental painted ceilings studded with semi-precious stones. The ornate pillars of the hall are embellished with bright Jaipur designs and motifs. The hall has Afghan carpets and fine collection of miniatures and life size portraits.
The Mubarak Mahal or Hall of Welcome is built in the Indo Saracenic style of architecture reflecting Rajput and Persian influences. It contains the textile section of the museum displaying the rich and stylish array of royal costumes with fine embroidery.
The most splendid things in the city palace are two huge Silver Urns known as Gangajalis recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the largest Silver objects in the world. The Sileh Khana or Armoury located to the right of Mubarak Mahal has an assortment of swords, daggers, javelins, guns and battle axes. The most remarkable weapon is the 11 Kg. sword of Sawai Man Singh.
Jantar Mantar – is an open air observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh II, a legendary astronomer and mathematician. The original brass instruments are replaced by masonry for greater accuracy. The instruments are useful for astronomical calculations for measuring time, altitude of stars and constellations, meridian and eclipses. Some of the important instruments are the Dhruv Yantra, Raj Yantra, Disha Yantra and the Samrat Yantra.
Albert Hall Museum – is built in the Indo Saracenic architecture. It was opened in 1887 as a public museum housing a large collection of handicraft, textiles, armoury, carpets, paintings and musical instruments.
Birla Temple – was built in 1988 and is known for its intricate carvings on marble. This milky white temple of Lakshmi Narayan retains the same style and architecture alike other Birla temples in the country. It is located on the Jawaharlal Nehru (JLN) Marg ahead of the Albert Hall museum.
Gaitore – is the royal crematorium located on the foothills of the Nahargad Fort. It has many beautiful cenotaphs or Chhatris built in the memory of various members of the royal family of Jaipur, the most prominent being of Maharaja Jai Singh II built in white marble. Gaitore can be visited as a part of the day trip to the three forts of Amer, Jaigad and Nahargad.
Galtaji – is an ancient pilgrimage site amidst the hills of the Ramanand Vaishanavite sect about 10 Kms east of Jaipur. The temples, pavilions and kunds along with a lush green landscape make it a delightful spot.
What and Where to eat?
Apart from being the most popular and sought after destination, Jaipur is also home to foodies. The Rajput royalty is known for their extravagant food cooked in pure desi ghee (clarified butter), served in silver utensils and ceremoniously feasted.
Some of the best sweetmeats and savouries in Jaipur can be relished at the Lakshmi Misthan Bhandar popularly known as LMB situated at the Johari Bazar off the Badi Chaupad in the walled city. A popular sweetmeat for which LMB is known is the Paneer Ghevar. Dal Kachori, Pyaz Kachori, and Dahi Vada of LMB are also popular. LMB is also famous for its delectable Rajasthani Thaal, a thali meal served unlimited with authentic Rajasthani food specialities like Dal Bhaati Churma, Gatte Ki Kadhi, Ker Sangri and Bajre Ki Roti.
Aloo Tikki and Kulcha is popular on the streets at the road side stalls.
Another popular name in Jaipur is Rawat Misthan Bhandar situated at Polo Victory near the Sindhi Camp Bus Stand. Rawat is famous for Pyaz Kachori and sweetmeats like Moti Pak.
Kanji on Station Road opposite Polo Victory cinema is popular for sweetmeats and savouries and also has a restaurant that serves good thali meals.
For the best makhaniya Lassi of Jaipur head on to the Lassiwala at Shop No. 312 – the original Lassiwala at Paanch Batti on MI Road. It’s diagonally opposite to the popular Niros Restaurant. The thick delicious Lassi is packed with lot of cream and is served in a clay pot.
The fine dine restaurants of Jaipur are predominantly concentrated in the Paanch Batti area of the MI Road. Niros is a 75 year old restaurant known for its Indian and Continental Dishes. Also popular are Copper Chimney for Laal Maas, Natraj for Rajasthani Thaal and Moti Mahal, a little ahead of Niros in Paanch Batti, MI Road. Annapurna off MI Road serves good Gujarati Thali. Spice Court in civil lines serves traditional Rajasthani specialities like Kheema baati (wheat balls stuffed with minced meat), safed maas (white meat) and sula (barbequed meat). Four Seasons and Garden Café in C-Scheme are also well known fine dine restaurants.
Chokhi Dhani on the outskirts of Jaipur towards the airport has a typical Rajasthani rural ambience. Food is served in traditional Rajasthani style, with seating on the floor and bolsters to lay back, the impressive thaali is well laid on an altar with delectable dishes such as gatte ka saag, ker sangria, bajre ki roti, lasun mirch ki chutney to name a few.
Jaipur is a shop till you drop destination, an abode of shopaholics. The bazars of Jaipur in the walled city are the centre of all shopping activity. It is thus essential to understand the orientation of the area. The walled city is divided in to two blocks known as Badi Chaupad and Choti Chaupad. The chaupad or square are surrounded by bazars. The most popular bazars for shopping block print textile sand Tie and Dye textiles, kurtis, dress material, bed sheets, cushion covers, light quilts and handicarafts is the Sireh Deori bazar to the north of badi chaupad and the Johari bazar to the south of badi chaupad. Just off the Johari Bazar on the Gopalji Ka Raasta and Haldiyon ka Raasta are shops selling meenakari jewellery. Ramganj Bazar to the east of badi chaupad is known for leather footwear whereas Tripolia bazar to the west of Badi Chaupad is well known for steel and brass utensils.
The markets around the Choti Chaupad are the Chand Pol bazar, and the Kishan Pol bazar. Other important markets around Choti Chaupad are the Bapu Bazar and Nehru Bazar.
The upmarket shopping area is just outside the walled city on MI Road.
….. Rajesh Deshpande © 2013