Jaipur: Exploring the Pink City
THE city of Jaipur forms one point of India’s “Golden Triangle” but when I arrived in the Pink City I confess I knew little about the sights to see, apart from it presumably having some pink buildings.
The rose-coloured ochre wash was originally applied to the buildings as part of preparations to welcome Prince Albert, the consort of Victoria, Empress of India during the time of the British Raj.
The practise became understandably unpopular in later years but thanks to government tax breaks, Jaipur’s soft pink aura is making a comeback.
It is a big city, with urban India’s usual complement of pollution and rubbish, but for me a tour of Jaipur is about the excessive consumption of the Rajput rulers and about the delicate detail of the many works of art.
Entering the City Palace through the Tripolia Gate is to enter a world of exquisite silverwork, rich fabrics and elaborate armoury.
Nearby the façade of the beautiful Hawa Mahal – the Palace of the Winds – offers a glimpse into the world of the court’s purdah ladies, who watched public processions from tiny, high windows.
This kingdom’s most famous son – Jai Singh II – was an important player in the Mughal Empire that ruled much of the Indian subcontinent from 1526 through into the 18th century.
He was a keen astronomer and responsible for building a number of medieval observatories – the Jantar Mantar – in Jaipur, Delhi and elsewhere.
The Jaipur example is the only one still operational and the 16 massive instruments still accurately tell the time and can be used to make astronomical calculations. One of these is the world’s biggest sundials: an impressive 27 metres high.
In the gardens of the Amber Palace, just outside the city, fountains play and lead visitors into the delightful summer royal rooms – built high to catch the breeze and cooled by water cascading through fine perforations in the wall.
Walls are covered with mosaics and passing through to the winter rooms, it is not difficult to imagine thick carpets and glowing lamps.
A pillared meeting place in the centre of the apartments was the venue for the many maharanis to discuss conflicts and controversies, in other words to gossip.
Back in the old quarter of the city metalsmiths pound their sheets of tin and copper, a noisy wedding procession passes by and a goat nibbles on a string of discarded marigolds. Today Jaipur is a place for everyday people rather than kings.
Natasha von Geldern is the Wandering Kiwi, a freelance travel writer whose obsession is discovering and covering the world: making the pages of the atlas real, one trip at a time.
Main image via Shutterstock