Once upon a Time at Jaipur
Quintessential forts, beautiful castles and palaces, religious shrines, iconic museums, lively and artsy bazaars, heritage hotels, traditional Rajasthani cuisine, intriguing festivals, and metropolitan culture cite impeccable juxtaposition of old and new that makes Jaipur the decisively perfect place to visit.
If I have to define Jaipur in one phrase, I’d say “Everything Regal!”
Jaipur truly is a fine portrayal of royalty. The city has treasured its elegance and royalty for decades now. In 1876, Prince of Wales was welcomed by painting the entire city Pink and since then it’s called the “Pink City.”
The history, architecture and glory of Jaipur have been an inspiration for many artists and historians all around the world. A journey through the history and culture of Jaipur is like being entangled in a time warp. I was intrigued by the vitality and charisma of the places. It’s a delight to understand the pertinence of historical and architectural marvels while entangled in the sorcery in everyday life.
Jaipur unfolds pulsating with hustle and chaos. Walking on the streets of Jaipur is the test of perseverance as you dodge the cow dung, struggle for space with street animals, pass over the streets chock-full with vendors and manoeuvre your way through traffic. You’ll realise the meaning of the saying, “No pain no gain” when you endure this chaos and confusion to discover the hidden gems of Jaipur echoing its splendid past in the midst of harum-scarum streets.
The culturally vibrant capital of Rajasthan needs you to slow down to savour its different flavours, to capture the timeless charm of the city and enjoy the authentic soulful experience.
The Amber Fort
Built over five centuries, by one of the navratnas (nine gems) in Akbar’s court, Raja Man Singh, Amber Fort (Amer) is a fine blend of Mughal and Rajput style of architecture. Colossal courtyards, elaborately chiselled jharokas, beautifully adorned ceilings and walls, serene gardens make Amber Fort a jewel of Jaipur. Series of doorways (chand pol, singh pol, suraj pol, and ganesh pol) each with a unique architecture are bound to amaze the visitors. A walk through Diwan-e-Aam (Hall of Public Audience), Sukh Mandir (relaxation spot for kings and queens), Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace) and Kesar Kyaari (Saffron Garden) gives you a glimpse of sumptuousness of the lifestyle Rajput dynasty led. Siladevi Temple inside the fort houses the idol of Durga recovered from the ocean and brought by Raja Man Singh I from eastern Bengal. Ride on the lavishly decorated elephants is a stately affair which makes you feel like a king/queen for some time.
Jaigarh Fort (Fort of Victory) was built at the top of Aravalli ranges for the safety of Amber (Jaipur) from the rivals. It was constructed for the extra protection and there’s a tunnel that leads to Amber Palace. The hill on which it is built is known as the Cheel ka Teela (Hill of eagles), and you really get an eagle’s eye view of the encircling area from the fort! The fort provides a breathtaking view of the Amer, Sagar Lake, and Aravali hills. Weaponry has been painstakingly preserved and displayed in the fort museum. It houses a cannon foundry too. World’s largest cannon on the wheel called Jaivana is displayed at the fort. Few of the areas like Kitchen area, dining hall and summer suites of king and queens are closed recently for public visit because some thoughtless tourist and/or citizens have done enough damage to our glorious heritage. Guide told us that people still write on walls and peel the paintings and carvings even when there’s a huge fine. I feel sorry to see the eroding parts of the fort or instead history.
Of the three forts, the one which enticed me most was Nahargarh Fort (Abode of Tigers). Its simplicity, charisma, minimum human presence made me just adore the place. The exquisitely designed terrace, secret passageway and the amphitheatre at Nahargarh Fort attracts attention after the shooting of the Bollywood movie ‘Rang De Basanti’ here. King’s suit has been converted into a fine dine Indian restaurant for visitors to eat and relax. Glass palace and Wax museum are some of the significant aspects of Nahargarh Fort.
In the evening, make your way to Jal Mahal to catch the gorgeous sunset and the intense sight of Jal Mahal in the glimmering beautiful lake.
Jaipur’s idiosyncratic landmark, Hawa Mahal looks resplendent with its five-storey perforated semblance made of pink-sandstone. It was built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 to empower the royal ladies to watch the festivities and performances, clandestinely.
City Palace is the abode of Jaipur’s royal family at present. Parts of it are open for public viewing. Mubarak Mahal in the City Palace complex houses a textile museum where you can have a look at the meticulously preserved royal wardrobe. Friends of the Museum is a gallery that provides space to artisans and craftsmen to display their work of art. You can see the way they create artwork and buy something if you want to. Money goes directly to the artisans.
Pritam Niwas Chowk is a square courtyard inside the City Palace. It has four exquisitely adorned gates representing the four seasons. The balconies above the gates were used by performing singers. Royal family (current maharaja of Jaipur) resides at Chandra Mahal. It also encapsulates Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II museum. To witness this beautiful piece of architecture you need to pay 2500 Rs. separately along with the city palace tickets.
Jantar Mantar is an excellent blend of ancient architecture and history of astronomy in India. Guide narrated a lot about the way measurements are done using these instruments but he was somewhat right when he said that don’t try too hard because even he couldn’t understand so many things after spending 25 years here 🙂
Albert Hall Museum is the oldest museum of Rajasthan. Its Indo-Gothic architecture and rare collection of traditional Indian and international art work and handicrafts attracts people from all walks of life.
Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing in Amber is a must visit if you are a textile fan. You can witness the artisans performing the art of hand block printing and can try printing your own scarf or T-shirt.
Chokhi Dhani is a quintessential Rajasthani themed village which lets you savor the quirks of Rajasthan under one roof. Be it traditional Rajasthani folk dances (Ghoomar, Kalbeliya, and Chari), Puppet show, Camel, elephant and bullock cart rides, authentic Rajasthani food and shopping for handicrafts. The ticket (600 – Adults/ 350 – kids) includes food and cultural events.
Other places of interest are Birla Mandir, Rambagh Palace, Govind Dev Ji Temple, Ram Niwas Garden, Panna Meena ka Kund, Royal Gaitor Tumbas, Sisodia Rani Garden, Kanak Vrindavan, Raj mandir, Moti Dungri Ganesh Temple, Man Sagar Lake and the list continues!
A trip to Jaipur is incomplete without relishing the authentic Rajasthani Food. Head to Rawat Mishtan Bhandar at Station road for the famous finger-licking pyaaz kachoris (a fried pastry filled with a spicy onion filling), dal-bati churma (Indian dish comprising lentils and hard wheat rolls), Rajasthani Thali and warm hospitality. Gopalji ka Rasta at Johri Bazaar is the perfect hole in the wall to try some sinfully oily street food.
Jaipur is famous for its traditional artistic jewellery, hand-printed textiles, beautiful Mandala tapestries, colourful turbans and no trip to the city is complete without buying one of these. Even if you are not a shopaholic, ambling in the colorful markets and streets of Jaipur is a treat in itself! Bapu Bazar is a perfect shopping destination. You can also buy souvenirs from here.
Despite the crowds, dust, and chaos, Jaipur retains its charm. It leaves you craving with so much to see and understand. Practically and cosmically, it’s not really possible to see each and everything; it’s wise not to quantify the experience because quality is what matters and anyhow we take home beautiful memories.
Whenever we see the photographs, we feel happy that we made it! 🙂
There are regular flights to Jaipur from all the metropolitans. Jaipur is also well-connected by road, so taxi and car are great options because nothing beats the road journey.
Walking is the finest way to explore the city. Rickshaws and autos can be hired for longer distances. It’s wise to discuss the fare antecedently to avoid the hitch.
Where to stay and eat
Pearl Palace Heritage is the best budget-friendly bet. The rooms are artistically and tastefully decorated and the ambience is great. Pearl Palace’s Peacock Rooftop Restaurant (a walk away or hotel can arrange an auto) is like a voyage that blends art, gastronomy, delightful ambience and visual experience. Food is delectable and reasonably priced. Highly recommend their breakfast menu.
Rambagh Palace is for those who want to experience the regal and royal Rajasthani hospitality.
Best time to visit
Winter (October-February) is the best time to visit any part of Rajasthan. Summers are harsh. Days are usually warm and evenings are lovely during August and September.
This post is part of guest submission in lieu of the ongoing blogfest celebrations on my blog all the month of September for my blog’s first bday!