Jaipur Paris of the east
Also known as the pink city, this is the capital city of the majestic state of Rajasthan. Jaipur, Rajasthan’s capital, is an enthralling historical city and the gateway to India’s most flamboyant and colorful state. The city’s colorful, chaotic streets ebb and flow with people and traffic, and the heady brew of the old tradition and modern living provide a beautiful contrast. Careering buses dodge dawdling camels and cows, leisurely cycle-rickshaws frustrate swarms of motorbikes, and buzzing everywhere are the auto rickshaws or tuktuks, looking for the easy prey customer. In the midst of this mayhem, the splendors of Jaipur’s majestic past are islands of calm, evoking a different pace and world, where it is easy to lose oneself.
Historical sights and sites
At the heart of the city, the city palace and Sawai Man Singh II museum are a must visit. They occupy about a seventh of the old city area. The palace is a blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture. The seven storied Chandra Mahal offers a fine view of the gardens surrounding the palace, within the confines of the fort walls. This is where the Maharaja or the king of the olden days would hold the public audience and hear out the grievances. The hall of private audience or the Diwan e-khas has a marble pawed gallery. The Hawa Mahal, or the wind palace, built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh is one of the most recognizable monument of Jaipur with the 5 storied windows facing the street. The stunning, semi-octagonal monument has over 152 windows with over hanging latticed balconies, this was designed for the royal ladies of the day, to observe the comings and goings of the city, when women stayed veiled and hidden.
Jantar Mantar, or the observatory is a huge, astronomical station, consisting of huge masonry instruments that were used to study the movement of constellations and stars in the sky and the sun dials provide accurate time to this day. This is enroute to the Amer Fort, the old capital of the Kacchwahas, which stands atop a craggy hill in the Aravalis. The fort is remarkable as much for its majestic and royal grandeur, as it is for the surroundings, its sturdy battlements and beautiful palaces, and affords a fine blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture. Made of red sandstone and white marble, this fort is reflected in the lakes at the foothills, and is a sight to behold. Sheesh Mahal, or the chamber of mirrors, and the Diwan e-aam, the hall of public audience, with its beautifully proportioned hall open on three sides and stands on two rows of ornamented pillars. Sukhmandir with its sandalwood doors, inlaid with ivory is a sight to behold. Close by are the Jaigarh and Nahargarh forts. Both of these, standing atop hilltops in the Aravali overlook the palaces and city of Amer. The world’s biggest cannon wheels, the Jai Ban is positioned at the Jaigarh fort. The Nahargarh fort is known for its walls that run along a hill ridge and the stunning view and architectural marvel that it is.
As one is driving to reach Amer fort, one crosses the Jal Mahal or the Lake palace, a relic of the royal times, a fort, one of a kind, situated on a manmade island in the midst of the Man Sagar lake, with beautiful hilly vista surrounding it. In these same valleys is also Kanak Vrindavan, a temple and garden, and a popular picnic spot for locals and tourists alike.
A town where Hinduism flourishes
Owing to the multitudes of temples that are in this city, Jaipur is often referred to as the city of temples.
The Govindev Jee Temple is one of the oldest temples in Jaipur. Dedicated to Lord Krishna and visited by Millions daily, this exhibits superb royal architecture and sits at a place of honor in the city palace complex. According to popular legend, lord Krishna’s image in the temple looks exactly like Krishna’s form during his incarnation on earth.
The Lakshmi Narayan temple, situated just below the hill of Moti Doongri is known for the intricate marble carvings, and is popularly known as the Birla temple, as it was constructed by the Birla Industrialists. The residents of Jaipur hold the Moti Doongri Ganesh temple in the highest religious regard. The first invitation from every family for every auspicious occasion goes to him. The temple adorns beautiful stone carvings and the figures of deities are engraved in shining white marble. The Ganesha idol is adorned in new clothes and ornaments everyday. Atop the hilltop of Moti Doongri is a shrine to the Lord Shiva, opened but once a year, and sight to behold.
Just 10 kms from the city of Jaipur is the temple of Galta, also known as the monkey temple, owning to the large number of monkeys present at the premises during daytime. Surrounded by the Aravalis, this temple is dedicated to the sun god, Shiva and Lord Hanuman. Made of pink sandstone, this appears more like an abandoned palace than a traditional temple building. It is situated inside a huge complex with pavilions, temples, natural springs and ponds, and holy water bodies.
Celebrations and festivities
The city of Jaipur celebrates not only the most common festivals and holidays with massive pomp and show, the city is known for several festivals, which happen during various times of the year. These encompass every aspect of living, from culture to academia. The Jaipur Literature festival is famous around the world, literary and otherwise. The five-day festival sees the who’s who of the author world, writers, poets, playwrights, artists and journalists around the world, with back to back parallel sessions on various current issues. Topped with great food and musical evenings, this has become a massive attraction for the Pink city.
The Teej festival, celebrated during the monsoon season, during the month of July and August, the women eagerly await Teej across Jaipur. Worshipping for the longevity of their husbands, or husband intended, the festival is marked by many preparations in advance, shopping, new clothes, henna, singing traditional songs and hymns, and swinging in gardens, traditional to this city, in anticipation of a heavy monsoon and relief from the summer heat. Gangaur, celebrated during between March and April, women seek blessings of Goddess Parvati and hope for a husband like Lord Shiva. The women pray for the eternal life and health of their husbands and there are huge processions across the streets dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
The elephant festival is organized around this same time, during the festival of Holi, or the festival of Colors, in the month of March. Witness the most loved sport in most unique setup- elephant polo. Bedecked elephants, embellished with colors and garlands. Spotting female elephants, the ones wearing anklets, and folk dances are some of the highlights of this festival.
Food is life!
Jaipur, the pink city offers some of the most authentic Rajasthani cuisine. The local dishes that must be tried range from the most delicious Dal Baati churma to the spicy laal maas. Exquisite sweets like Ghewar to the piping hot pyaz kachori are absolute favorites with the locals, along with a piping hot cup of tea. Try the Daal Baati Churma at the choki dhaani on Tonk Road, or Santosh Bhojanalaya next to Sindhi camp. They will also serve kadhi and gatte ki sabzi along with the daal baati churma, which must be tried. Made with yogurt and chick pea flour and dumplings made of chickpea, these soupy curries are a delight for the foodies.
Freshly fried in ghee, Ghewar from the Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar in Johri Bazaar, who also are the proud inventors of this sweet meat, or try the Rawat sweets at sindhi camp. They also serve a beautiful onion or pyaz kachori and mirchi vadas, made by dunking green chilies in chickpea flour and deep fried. Laal maas (red meat) and safed maas (white meat) is for those who think that Rajasthan is primarily vegetarian.Straight from the kitchens of the royals, the best ones can be found at Niros or Handi restaurant on MI road. The old kebab shop on the roadside on MI road, next to the mosque is the original kebab shop. The famous lassi wala on MI road has the best buttermilk and lassi human kind has to offer.
Nearly three centuries since its inception, the pink city is pink no longer. The pink is where it was sometimes taking on an orange hue under the glare of the desert sun, though it has been slowly and steadily edged out by the sprawling modern city. But the gateway to Rajasthan, this city must be on the absolute top of your list, if you love palaces and want an insight on the lifestyles of the rulers on a bygone era. The flamboyant lifestyle of the past, even for a few days, will transport you to a lifetime experience.
Getting there: Most commercial airlines run flights to Jaipur connecting it to most domestic and international cities. The Jaipur junction railway station serves as the headquarters of the Northwestern railway zone of the Indian railways and is connected to most major cities in India.
The interstate bus terminus is located at Sindhi camp and is also close to the railway station.