Jaipur - of royal palaces and desert land­scapes

OF ROYAL PALACES DESERT AND LAND­SCAPES

The Luxury Collection - - Contents - -By Sub­ha­sish Chakraborty

Ra­jasthan –“The land of Roy­alty & Valour” is In­dia at its ex­otic and colour­ful best. This is the do­main of the Ra­jputs – an as­sem­blage of bat­tle hardy tribes who have for more than a thou­sand years been in com­mand of this western fron­tier of In­dia. The Ra­jput’s sense of dig­nity and valour is un­par­al­leled in the In­dian con­text. The Ra­jastha­nis them­selves are a bril­liant splash of colour and Jaipur, the state cap­i­tal, is of­ten re­ferred to as In­dia’s “Pink City” largely due to the pink coloured sand­stone with which the city’s re­gal splen­dours con­sist­ing of forts and palaces have been con­structed.

The city be­ing lo­cated in the sur­real back­drop of a breath­tak­ing desert like land­scape has been lur­ing dis­cern­ing trav­ellers from far off lands since time im­memo­rial.

Apart from op­u­lent palaces, Jaipur and much of Ra­jasthan is filled with mag­nif­i­cent gar­risons, bat­tle scarred for­ti­fi­ca­tions and sneaky watch tow­ers that re­mind one of the state’s bel­liger­ent past. The spirit of the Ra­jputs and their zest for life is pal­pa­ble in the bustling streets of the city with the men folk top­ping their out­fit with huge pas­tel coloured tur­bans and al­most with­out ex­cep­tion, sport­ing fierce “han­dle­bar mous­taches”. The women are con­spic­u­ous by their bright, mir­rored skirts that gel so well with their chunky jew­ellery, worn from head to toe. No won­der, vis­i­tors to Jaipur make it a point to buy eth­nic Ra­jasthani jew­ellery as sou­venirs. A visit to Jo­hari and Tripo­lia Bazar could be a very re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence where ex­clu­sive eth­nic Ra­jasthani jew­ellery items like Kun­dan, Thewa and Meenakari can be bought. In fact, Bri­tain’s Prince Charles was gifted an ex­clu­sively crafted Thewa Jew­ellery set by the In­dian gov­ern­ment on his mar­riage to Princess Diana. Ma­haraja Jai Singh II (1699-1744) is the founder ar­chi­tect of the city and it was un­der his con­nois­seur-like ar­chi­tec­tural vi­sion that the city of Jaipur was de­signed, ad­her­ing strictly to the an­cient In­dian ar­chi­tec­tural style – “Shilpa Shas­tra”. Be­fore con­ceiv­ing the city of Jaipur, Ma­haraja Jai Singh II had his royal hill­side fortress at neigh­bour­ing Am­ber, but with the grad­ual ero­sion of Mughal power in Ra­jasthan from 1727 on­wards, he de­cided to move down­hill onto the plains to build the city of his dreams.

City ori­en­ta­tion:

The Walled “Pink City ” is ideally sit­u­ated in the north­east of Jaipur while the new parts have spread away to the south and west. The main shop­ping cen­tre in the Old city is Jo­hari Bazaar or the quin­tes­sen­tial Ra­jasthani jew­eller’s mar­ket. Mirza Is­mail Road is the main street of the new part of Jaipur and is home to a plethora of shops and com­mer­cial es­tab­lish­ments. The Old City is en­cir­cled by a crenelated wall with seven gates – the ma­jor gates are Chand­pol, San­ganeri and Ajmeri. The broad av­enues of the Pink City di­vide them­selves into neat rec­tan­gles. This part of the city is ex­tremely colour­ful – in the evening light, the pink and or­ange struc­tures emits a mag­i­cal glow, nicely com­ple­mented by the brightly clothed Ra­jastha­nis them­selves. The Minaret pierc­ing heaven – Iswari Mi­nar Swarga Sul near the Tripo­lia Gate was built for the ben­e­fit of vis­i­tors to have a panoramic view of the cityscape.

Palace of the winds:

Built in 1799, Palace of the Winds or Hawa Ma­hal is Jaipur’s cen­tral land­mark, al­though it is ac­tu­ally lit­tle more than a fa­cade. This im­pos­ing five sto­ried struc­ture looks out over the main street of the Old city. Del­i­cately carved out by mas­ter crafts­men, the struc­ture is best known for its in­tri­cate sand­stone win­dows and semi-oc­tag­o­nal shape. The Palace of the Winds was orig­i­nally built to en­able the ladies of the royal fam­ily to watch the ev­ery­day life and pro­ces­sions of this charm­ing city. If you take the trou­ble of climb­ing atop the Hawa Ma­hal, you are guar­an­teed a breath-tak­ing view of the cityscape.

Cen­tral Mu­seum:

As you move south of the Old City, the Cen­tral Mu­seum, one of the best pre­served mu­se­ums of this princely state draws your at­ten­tion. Lo­cated in the beau­ti­fully land­scaped Ram Ni­was Gar­dens, the ground floor in par­tic­u­lar has one of the most ex­ten­sive col­lec­tions of royal cos­tumes and wood­work, de­pict­ing the life and times of Ra­iasthan's iconic royal past. The first floor is ded­i­cated to the Ma­hara­jas of Jaipur and apart from the minia­tures, it also houses price­less Ralasthani arte­facts.

City Palace:

One of the most iconic pala­tial struc­tures in Jaipur is the mag­nif­i­cent City Palace, lo­cated right in the heart of the Old City. This is one of the finest ex­am­ples of In­dia’s fu­sion ar­chi­tec­ture, where the very best of Ra­jasthani and Mughal ar­chi­tec­ture blends in per­fect har­mony. The pièce de ré­sis­tance is the seven sto­ried Chan­dra Ma­hal, of­fer­ing breath­tak­ing views of the gar­den and the city. On the ground floor and first floor is a mu­seum ded­i­cated to Ma­haraja Sawai Man Singh II. For the art con­nois­seur, the mu­seum is a must visit site for its paint­ings that in­clude minia­tures from the Ra­jasthani, Mughal and Per­sian schools. The ar­moury is well stocked with guns and swords dat­ing back to the 15th cen­tury. The tex­tile sec­tion is par­tic­u­larly awe-in­spir­ing with op­u­lent cos­tumes of the for­mer Ma­hara­jas and Ma­ha­ra­nis of Jaipur. Two other ma­jes­tic struc­tures on the way to the palace com­plex are the Di­wan-i-aam, ‘hall of pub­lic au­di­ence’ and the Di­wani-khas, the ‘hall of pri­vate au­di­ence’, adorned with a beau­ti­fully paved mar­ble gallery.

Ob­ser­va­tory:

As you move on from the im­pos­ing City Palace to the Ob­ser­va­tory or "Jan­tar Man­tar", a sense of cu­rios­ity en­gulfs you. Ma­haraja Jai Singh is cred­ited with build­ing five ex­clu­sive Ob­ser­va­to­ries in In­dia. The one in Jaipur is the largest and best pre­served. The Ma­haraja's abid­ing in­ter­est in As­tron­omy is re­flected here and one could mea­sure the po­si­tions of stars, al­ti­tudes and even cal­cu­late eclipses. The piece de re­sis­tance here is the 30 me­ter high sun­dial.

In­ter­est­ing trips away from the city:

Am­ber, the an­cient cap­i­tal of Jaipur state, 11 kms from Jaipur city, could be a riv­et­ing out-of-the-city ex­pe­ri­ence. The hill­side Am­ber Fort over­look­ing a shim­mer­ing lake of­fers pic­turesque panoramic views. Ram­bagh Palace, 8 kms from Jaipur city, used to be the for­mer royal res­i­dence of the Ma­haraja of Jaipur. It is one of the finest ex­am­ples of In­dia’s con­tem­po­rary lux­ury hos­pi­tal­ity scene and one of the Jew­els of The Taj group of ho­tels and eas­ily one of the world’s most out­stand­ing Palace Ho­tels.

Reach­ing Jaipur:

The Jaipur In­ter­na­tional Air­port is well con­nected by a net­work of do­mes­tic flights to and from Delhi, Kolkata, Mum­bai, Ahmedabad, Jodh­pur and Udaipur. There are also a few in­ter­na­tional flights from Dubai and Mus­cat.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion:

The Taj Ram­bagh is a high end lux­ury ho­tel, much pre­ferred for its op­u­lence and royal Ra­jasthani hos­pi­tal­ity. Ex­pe­ri­ence the finest lux­ury ho­tel in Jaipur at the ITC Ra­jputana. Known for its long cor­ri­dors, iso­lated court­yards and in­tri­cate Ra­jashthani lat­tice work, ITC Ra­jputana is de­signed in the tra­di­tional Ra­jasthani haveli style. An­other 5 star lux­ury ho­tel which epit­o­mises tra­di­tional Ra­jasthani charm is The Oberoi Ra­jvi­las. Adorned with Mughal arches, gold leaf fres­coes, high domed ceil­ings and mag­nif­i­cent crystal chan­de­liers, The Oberoi Ra­jvi­las is a per­fect choice for those look­ing for seren­ity and peace. The Lalit Jaipur, lo­cated in one of the city’s prime com­mer­cial neigh­bour­hoods, is ideal for busi­ness meet­ings and con­fer­ences.

Chokhid­hani – Cu­rat­ing the Ra­jasthani vil­lage ex­pe­ri­ence in lux­ury

Chokhid­hani, which lit­er­ally trans­lates to ‘special vil­lage’, is about 20 km from Jaipur and a fan­tas­tic to way to en­joy a recre­ated ex­pe­ri­ence of a typ­i­cal tra­di­tional Ra­jasthani vil­lage. It’s great fun, es­pe­cially for lit­tle chil­dren, who will have much to keep them en­ter­tained – ele­phant and camel rides, games stalls, dancers, food coun­ters, ac­ro­batic acts, pup­pet show, street ma­gi­cians and much more. It’s like a per­ma­nent vil­lage fair, only in an ul­tra lux­ury set­ting. Of the four restau­rants, San­gri of­fers the quin­tes­sen­tial Ra­jasthani din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, com­plete with cross legged seat­ing on the floor and eat­ing off a tra­di­tional leaf plate on a low ta­ble. It’s an eat-as-much-as-you-can ex­pe­ri­ence and the staff keep ply­ing you with food, course af­ter course, till you are quite lit­er­ally ‘fed up’! Don’t miss the tra­di­tional Ra­jasthani sta­ples – the dal bhati churma, the missi roti and that de­lec­ta­ble sweet­meat made of bro­ken wheat, lapsi. For a more fine din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, opt for the Royal restau­rant, where you are served in sil­ver table­ware and can en­joy live en­ter­tain­ment with your din­ner, much as the Ma­hara­jahs of yore did.

Pic­ture Credit: Ra­jasthan Tourism

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