City SundayTravel Expeditions

Mystique of India –14: Jaipur, the Pink City

Jaipur – the capital of capitals

It is well known that Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan. However, there is a story which is seldom known. Before reorganization of states, the present Rajasthan had many princely states. Cities of Udaipur, Bikaner and Jodhpur were capital cities of respective states which had glorious history of their own. Princes of Jodhpur in particular have had very cordial relationship with the British Empire. It was, more or less, taken for granted that Jodhpur city would be the capital of reorganized Rajasthan state. That was the precondition laid down by the prince for merger of Jodhpur state with India. However, due to logistic and the defense considerations, at the last moments Jaipur emerged as the state capital. Thus, unlike capital cities of several other states in the country, Jaipur has the distinction of being capital of several former capital cities in the princely states of Rajasthan!

We toured Jaipur, the Pink City in two installments. We arrived at Jaipur on July 16 evening and next day, we undertook first round of our tour. Our second stint was on July 26 and 27, having returned from tour of Rajasthan. On both the occasions our stay was arranged at Hotel Arya Niwas. In between our stay at Arya Niwas, we had visited Ajmer, Pushkar, Udaipur, Haldi Ghati, Kumbalgarh, Ranakpur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Deshnok, and Mandawa.

Coming to Jaipur, it has a historical link with Mysuru and hence there are many similarities. Sir Mirza Ismail was the Dewan of Jaipur and later on he went on to become the Dewan of Mysore as well. There is an MI road, named after Sir.Mirza Ismail in Jaipur. A circle on this road is similar to Nehru Circle in Mysore. Both the cities have boulevards, wide roads, wide footpaths on either side of roads, road side trees, parks and fountains.

The Pink City

Jaipur is called as Pink City because of the color of the stone used exclusively for the construction of all structures.  The pink color has its own history. In 1876, the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria had visited India on a tour. Since pink denotes the color of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur at that time painted the whole city in pink color to welcome the honored guests. The tradition has been sincerely followed by the residents who are now, by law, compelled to maintain the pink color. .

It has already been stated that Rajasthan is the largest state (area-wise) of the country. Jaipur is the largest city of the state. The census of 2011 has declared Jaipur as the tenth most populous city in the country with a population of 3.1 million. It was founded in 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh, and is named after the founder. He planned to shift his capital from Amer, 11 km from Jaipur to accommodate the growing population and increasing scarcity of water. It is said that the city was planned according to Indian principles of Vastu and Shilpa Shastra under the guidance of Vidyadhar Bhattacharya.  In the first four years major roads, offices and palaces were constructed.

A planned city

It is said that unlike other pre-modern Indian cities Jaipur has regularity of its streets, and the city is divided into six sectors by wide streets (111 ft). The urban quarters are further divided by networks of gridded streets. Five quarters wrap around the east, south and west sides of central palace. The palace quarter encloses the Hawa Mahal complex, formal gardens and small lake. Nahargarh Fort which is the residence of the King Sawai Jai Singh II, crowns the hill in the northern corner of the city.

A tourism magnet

Bazaar Scene

With such cultural and historical background, it is no surprise that over decades, Jaipur has developed into a preferred tourist destination. A vibrant city, Jaipur has been an important part of the Golden Triangle of India’s northern tourist circuit, along with Delhi and Agra. And millions of foreign tourists and equal number from within the country visit Jaipur every year. The culture, architecture, traditions, art, jewellery and textiles of Jaipur have always charmed the tourists.

Entrance Pink Arch Gate

Hawa Mahal

Located in the heart of the city, this beautiful five-storey palace was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, as a continuation of the City Palace. Architect Lal Chand Ustad built this palace in red and pink stone. This structure, erected on a thin shield or podium approximately fifty feet high, has walls less than a foot thick. Its entrance is a door which leads to a spacious courtyard surrounded by two-storey building on three sides. Of the five storyes of the Mahal, the top three storeys have thickness of a single room while the bottom storeys have courtyards. The interior of the Hawa Mahal is stark and plain with passages and pillars reaching to the top storeys. The building does not have stairs to reach the upper floors; the storeys are connected by slopes.

It is believed that this palace is constructed in the form of crown of Lord Krishna. Considered as an embodiment of Rajputana architecture, it is in the shape of a beehive or pyramid, and has 953 windows, called “Jharokhas”, which enable the circulation of air within the structure, and are decorated with intricate designs. The main intention behind the construction of the Mahal was said to be to facilitate the royal women who never appeared in public, have a view of everyday life through the Jharokhas.

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