Jaipur – the first time I heard about the ‘Pink City’ I was only eight or nine. My tender mind instantly drew a vivid picture of a city where everything from the houses to walls to streets – is tinged pink, which is also my favorite shade. I cherished that picture deep in my heart and dreamt of seeing it all someday in my life. I cherished that picture until I visited Jaipur in November 2013. To my surprise, I hardly found any trace of pink in the city. The City Palace area is left with antique stone edifices which looked more orange than pink. And it is not just my perception; my co-travelers also expressed the same opinion.
A few hours later that morning, when we entered Jaipur City Palace with a guide accompanying our group I came to know that in time of Rajput monarchs it was a strict order from the administration that all houses in the city have to be painted in pink, hence the name ‘Pink City’. There is another story I found on the web on why Jaipur is called the Pink City. Later the government lifted the restriction and now citizens paint their houses as they wish. That’s why we didn’t see much of pink that will do justice to the city’s popular name.
We boarded Howrah-Ajmer Express from Kolkata on November 22 at 11:20pm and reached Jaipur on 24th at around 3:30 am. Our travel agent arranged a bus for transportation of the group. It was a short and convenient drive from the station to the hotel through the neighborhoods still in their predawn deep sleep. The bus dropped us at Hotel Mangal, a budget hotel with clean rooms and attached bathroom with hot and cold water. Though I was not very hopeful about this hotel from its TripAdvisor reviews, but I found it is quite okay if you are looking for a moderate accommodation at cheaper rate for one or two nights.
Things to See in Jaipur
The capital city of the state of Rajasthan, has many things to offer even the most discerning traveler. On one hand, it is a modern, organized and clean city and on the other hand it exudes a quaint charm with old city palace and classic edifices dotting the cityscape.
We started for Jaipur sightseeing early in the morning. Our first stop was Jaipur Birla Temple.
Birla Temple is situated at the foot of Moti Dungri Fort in Jaipur. Just as any other Birla Temples found in different cities across the country Jaipur Birla Temple, built with white marbles, is a treat to the eye from architectural point of view.
Jaipur City Palace
Built around 1732 by the then king Sawai Jai Singh Jaipur City Palace is a magnificent construction located at the heart of the city. The most interesting point about the palace architecture is that it is a wonderful blend of Hindu (Rajput), Christian (European) and Islamic (Mughal) architectural genres.
The stone detailing on the columns accentuated with touch of colours, the frescos, the painted ceilings, ornate doors and windows will blow your mind with their artistic appeal.
While Chandra Mahal is still the residents of the royal family a large portion of the palace is open for public visit.
The palace houses three galleries. One is for display of weapons used by the Rajput kings and fighters. Another gallery is for the robes and garments of the kings and queens. The third one is Sabha Niwas still maintaining its regal air with its interior decor set as it was in time of the royal dynasty.
There are four gates in the inner courtyard the most notable being the Peacock Gate. Our guide told us that each gate represents a climatic season. The Peacock Gate represents monsoon, the Lotus Gate relates to summer, the Green Gate is meant for spring and the Rose Gate symbolizes winter.
On our way to City Palace we saw Jaipur’s iconic Hawa Mahal or the “Palace of Winds”. The structure was built so that the royal women, whose world was limited within the enclosure of the palace, could watch the festive activities on the streets. The sight of the Hawa Mahal, designed in the shape of Lord Krishna’s crown, swept me off my feet. It was one of the most beautiful instances of architecture I have ever seen. While appreciating its artistic and architectural beauty I was also thinking of the life of those women in the palace around 400 years ago… Was it like living in a golden cage?
Jantar Mantar is an enclosed area with a collection of huge sundials and various other astronomical instruments. Located at a few minutes walk from the City Palace, Jantar Mantar, also built by the king Sawai Jai Singh, is an architectural wonder. These instruments were used to measure the exact time of the day and to observe celestial phenomena such as the position of the stars and planets at a given point of time. The words Jantar and Mantar are derived from Sanskrit ‘Yantra’ meaning instrument and ‘Mantra’ meaning magical. ‘Magical instruments’ … they really are.
Our next destination was Kanak Vrindavan located on the way to Amber Fort.
It’s a beautiful, well-manicured, landscaped garden with classic structures and fountains dotting its sprawling green lawns. Paved walkways are lined with thick red bougainvilleas. Occasional trees amidst the garden offer cool shades for tired travelers (as we were). Kanak Vrindavan was once a favorite shooting spot for Hindi movies. Many film song sequences had been shot here in old days. Now it is a popular picnic spot for locals as well as tourists.
It was already 1:30 in the afternoon – time for lunch. So, we choose a quiet corner and sat down on the grass and ate our meals. It was a wonderful experience sitting right on the ground under a tree and having lunch – it reminded me of good old school days when we used to go for picnics in winter with our teachers and classmates!
This is the first time I have ever visited a fort. I was pretty excited about this exploration and Amber Fort did not disappoint me. In fact, if I try to write everything I saw, heard and liked about Amber Fort it will not fit into one post. Amber Fort, also called Amer Fort, has fascinated me with its royal heritage, its mesmerizing Sheesh Mahal (palace of mirrors), intricate stone carvings on the columns and walls and its intriguing stories about ancient kings and queens. It is a massive stronghold from outside. But inside, it awaits you with wide-open courtyards surrounded with temples, minarets and palaces.
We were lucky this time to get a veteran guide who was knowledgeable and considerate enough to depict the stories of each ‘Mahal’ (palace) slowly and in detail and gave us enough time to explore every section at our own pace, unlike our City Palace guide, who was always in a hurry and demonstrated with the speed of Rajdhani Express! 😉
The guide told us about some intriguing stories about the kings and queens and the royal lifestyle which I am going to share with you in my post on Amer Fort.
Jal Mahal (meaning – ‘palace on water’) is a palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in the backdrop on Aravalli Hills. Enjoy a boat ride to the palace and explore its ornate foyers and decorated compartments and terrace garden. The credit for the present beauty of Jal Mahal goes to Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amer who renovated the palace in the 18th century. When we reached Jal Mahal it was already dark and the palace looked amazing at night. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take good shots with my Nikon Coolpix P500, so borrowed an image from Wikipedia. 😦
To be continued…