Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jaipur - the Pink City

The "pink city" of Jaipur (the city of Jai or victory), the capital of the state of Rajasthan, was built in 1728 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. This royal house had ruled from Amber, seven miles (11 kms) away, since the early 10th century. Jaipur was not always pink. The original city was light gray, edged with white borders and motifs. In honor of the visit in 1883 of Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria, it was ordered to be painted the traditional color of welcome, which has been retained since.

The city was designed by Vidyadhar Chakravarty, a young Bengali architect, who succeeded in making a marvelous synthesis of many influences - Hindu, Jain, Mughal (with Persian overtones), besides his own ideas from eastern India. Jaipur's nine rectangular sectors symbolize the nine divisions of the universe.

The City Palace, a part of which remains the residence of the Jaipur family, is definitely worth a visit. Several gateways lead from the crowded streets into the palace, but the Museum entrance is recommended, through the courts of justice to the Jantar Mantar, the observatory of Maharaja Jai Singh II. The construction and precision of the observatory were an unique achievement for the year 1716. Jai Singh's Delhi observatory had preceded this and three other followed: in Mathura, Ujjain & Varanasi, when the Maharaja travelled over North India as the Governor of Agra.

The City Palace Museum, named after Raja Man Singh, is a treat, no matter what the interests of the visitors are - textiles, arms, carpets, paintings, manuscripts. It houses two large urns, possibly the largest silver vessels in India, which were used by Maharaja Madho Singh to carry a six month supply of holy Ganga water to the coronation of King Edward VII in London.

One of the best known sights in Jaipur is the Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds, which is, in fact, no palace, but an extra-ordinary facade of 953 airy windows used by the ladies of the palace to watch the outside world - without being watched.

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