ink of Rajasthan, and the mind conjures up images of palaces, ne fabrics and timeless jewels. Jaipur, despite being the state’s busy capital, is no di erent. e city was planned under the rule of its founder Jai Singh II. Several veteran architects were consulted before nalising and implementing the city’s layout. ere was a clear demarcation between the areas for royalty and its administrative sta , and the remaining public. Palaces and opulent government buildings occupied the former, whereas humble homes and public facilities made up the later. To safeguard this development, seven forti ed gates were built all around the city that now sprawls beyond these walls and continues for miles therea er.
While the actual walls and forts are in a sorry state, Fairmont Jaipur has reproduced a part of them in its magni cent facade.In fact, it goes a step further with an impressive e ort at emulating how the Rajputs and their guests were welcomed into thecity. Gongs announce the arrival of each guest into Fairmont, followed by a dot of vermilion paste between the eyebrows as rose petals are showered on them.Nuances of Rajasthani aesthetic show in its high ceilings, arched windows and etched pillars — all created by local artisans and cra smen.
For a real feel of the city’s history though, head to — Hawa Mahal, Jal Mahal and Sheesh Mahal, all within a 20km radius of Fairmont Jaipur. There is a reason they’re known as architectural wonders. Take Hawa Mahal for instance — it is strategically built such that it falls in the path of the winds resulting in ventilating the palace during the still, dry summers. Located on the city’s beautiful Man Sagar Lake is Jal Mahal that has clear views of the still water from all its rooms. If you’re standing across it after sunset, its mirror image on the still waters is breathtaking. It too was built to cool down the rooms when temperatures rose. Quite the opposite is Sheesh Mahal, planned such that it retains heat. Holding it up are 40 pillars layered with countless glass pieces. Each pillar is positioned such that just two candles can illuminate the entire room.
Entry to Sheesh Mahal can be dubious though, as its officials choose to shut it to the public ad hoc. This is because some visitors haven’t been kind to the palace, for instance damaging its mirrors on purpose. However, another Sheesh Mahal, or at least a flattering imitation of the original one can be found at Samode Palace. The luxury property was once a living palace 475 years ago, and its Sheesh Mahal looks over the Durbar Hall. Handpainted walls and gilded pillars define its opulence. Stunning lattice work continue in its interiors, and the roof is a mosaic of mirrors. The rest of the palace too has been beautifully dressed; walking through this historic abode introduces you to Mughalstyle artwork, Indo-Saracenic architecture, and traditional Rajasthani decor.
On the face of it, present day Jaipur, as a city, is a stark contrast to these stunning hotels. It isn’t as opulent as it once was, yet there is a rustic charm to it. While it is one of the first few Indian cities to have jumped forward in terms of economy, its traditions, culture and history aren’t forgotten. Alleyways are crowded with
Fairmont Jaipur is close to the tourist spots such as Sheesh Mahal, Hawa Mahal and Jal Mahal
the local population in colourful saris and dhotis. Turn any corner and you will encounter a busy temple. Cycle-rickshaws are rampant even today and are the best solution to beat the traffic. Aromas of traditional food invariably tickle your nose because there is a small eatery beckoning you at every few steps. It feels like a tumultuous ride when moving through Jaipur, but when you look at it from afar, the city radiates a pink hue with hints of a powerful past and promising future.
For a 360-degree aerial view of the city, head to Alila Fort Bishangarh that sits atop a granite hill. Typical Jaipur Gharana architecture shows in the fort that has influences of both the Mughals and the British. Unlike the other hotels in the city, Alila has turned a warrior fort, instead of a palace, into a luxury hospitality offering.
LEFT: Facade, Fairmont Jaipur TOP: A fort in Jaipur
ABOVE AND RIGHT: Samode Palace, Jaipur; and Alila Fort Bishangarh