The capital city of Rajasthan is a riot of colour and the sensory overload of the beautiful sights and sounds is bound to leave you bewitched.
Set against the backdrop of the Nahargarh and Jaigarh fort, the city was established by Jai Singh II, and dates back to 1727. Architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya has built the city using Vaastu principles and the city is also the first planned city of India. While it may be known by the epitaph ‘Pink City’ Jaipur has several sights beyond its old walled city that will ensure your Rajasthan break is both memorable and interesting.
Sights and Sounds
Start your tour by visiting the iconic Hawa Mahal that translates to Palace of Winds and was built in 1799 by Sawai Pratap Singh as a place where the ladies of the royal family could see how everyday life unfolded while not being seen themselves. The five storied structure has small latticed windows called jharokhas locally that allow fresh air inside creating a cool environ in the inside. The pink sandstone structure is best viewed from the outside but you can also climb up for beautiful views of the city. Being in a city with a royal heritage a visit to the Amber Palace a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must. This is where you can see a seven century old palace and admire the construction details aimed to protect against enemies. The City Palace Complex houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum where you can admire the display of royal costumes, Pashmina shawls, Benaras silk saris and folk embroidery. The Maharani’s Palace is where you can see Rajput weaponry and beautiful ceiling paintings. This is also the residence of the current generation of the royal family.
Off the Beaten Track
While many of these sights are well known, Jaipur has several offbeat and non-touristy experiences that make a visit here worth everything. For starters, get up early and drive to the Nahargarh fort located outside the city. The drive up the hill is scenic and once you are on the top you can witness a magical sunrise amidst the mountains. This is where you see a huge step well (where a portion of the Hindi film Rang De Basanti was filmed) that was built to collect and conserve rain water from the canals laid in the hills of Nahargarh. Take a detour from here to head to Galta temple on a route that is full of peacocks. The complex has several buildings including temples as well as places for other religious activities and is inhabited by monkeys!
And if you are a bird lover, stop at the Jal Mahal, a large water body that is inhabited by several species and can be spotted almost through the day. To understand the local culture, stop at The Museum of Legacies that is housed in a close to 200 year old building that houses artefacts from private collections that have been made accessible to the public for the first time. These include textiles, jewellery, paintings, photographs, inlay works and stone wear. Do not miss the massive puppets on display here.
A visit to Jaipur however is never complete without seeing its bustling local market in the old city which is a riot of colour courtesy the colourful wares that are on display here. This is the place to shop for fabrics, joothis (traditional shoes), handicrafts including figurines of animals and birds as well as the famed Rajasthani puppets. Known for gems and jewels as well as precious stones of different kinds, Johari Bazaar offers a plethora of choices. At Tripolia Bazaar buy lac jewelry and the bangles as well as the famed Bandini tie and dye fabric. Chandpole Bazaar is where you can buy local handicrafts while Bapu Bazaar is a one stop market for all things local.
The bright blue pottery of Jaipur is among the best souvenirs to get home and the best place to check it out is at Mirza Ismail Road (MI Road). And to sample some local authentic fare a visit to the legendary LMB or Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar is a must for its large thaali full of regional flavours. Also check out the Masala Chowk’ where the street food of Jaipur comes alive in the 21 street food stalls. Jaipur is a great introduction to the majestic state of Rajasthan and its sights and sounds are bound to stay with you much after your trip here is done.
This story first appeared in Deccan Chronicle Bengaluru dated 14th Jan 2019 here: