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The International Writers Magazine: INDIA

Jaipur: The Royal City
• Jiten Bhoi
The very name of Jaipur is synonymous to Royal City with a host of Palaces, Forts, Temples, Museums and everything that is related to the Royal Past. Though the modernity is spreading very rapidly, there certainly are places where the charm and elegance of Royal Days is still very much visible.


The main attractions are Magnificent Palaces, Sturdy Forts, Old Temples, exquisite artifacts and Awe-Inspiring Weapons of Olden Days (including the world’s largest cannon) to name a few. The city is aesthetically studded with so many magnificent places that no matter however much time you will spend here it will never be enough. On each of your visit you will discover a new facet of this City, a new place to admire, a new aspect of this city with multi-dimensional personality. Or in short, on each visit you will get a new reason to fall in love with this vast beautiful city. The city seems to be ready to embrace you with its vast open arms. Be it the traditions of Jaipur that treat guest as the God, simple innocent people who will go out of their way to help you, the celebrations and festivals that break the boundaries of caste, creed and nationality, everything about this City makes its permanent place in your heart and memory. 

Jaipur is perfect marriage of Royal Past and Modern Present Lifestyle without any of the either encroaching upon other’s land. The modernity easily gives the sufficient breathing space to Royal charm and Royal Heritage, traditions and beliefs does not strangle the neck of modernity. This beautiful city demands attention. Well decorated with various forts, temples and palaces, the city will give you the pleasures of roaming in an old era without depriving yourself of modern amenities. 

Here you can find huge Malls, Complexes, Business centers, and Amusement Parks coexisting peacefully alongside Royal Palaces, Sturdy Forts, ancient temples and artifacts of old days. But if you insist on choosing only one option of the modern recreation centers and  amusement or Royal Heritage and Culture, I will definitely advice you to go for the latter. It is this Royal Atmosphere fragrant with balmy airs of age old traditions and culture that gives a unique identity to the city. Though the city is a home to innumerous places to visit there are a few that I would like to explain:

Amber Fort:  Built in 1597 by Raja Mansingh and completed by Raja JaiSingh Ist and IInd, Amber Fort served as Royal Palace to Kachwaha Rulers in 17th century, this massive fort complex comprises beautiful and opulent buildings, Gardens, Lake and palaces like Goddess Temple, sheesh mahal, Diwan I Khas, Diwan I Aam, Kesar Kyari, Maotha and Dil E Aram to name a few. Earlier it was connected with Jaigarh fort by the means of some covert passages Amber fort is named after the town Amber. The fort complex is exquisitely built using red and white sandstones with an aesthetic use of marbles. Apart from magnificent palaces and exquisite artwork, the place is also famous for elephant riding. These massive pachyderms with their elegant and slow gait are sure to give you some moments to relish for years. With their calm eyes and tranquil demeanor they can undoubtedly be called the symbol of power and peace. Like the Jaipur city these elephants too have an air of royalty around them. Don’t forget to take some snaps of these adorable animals.  If you are daring enough, you can also pose with them. Words of warning though, always make sure that a mahout is around! Not all elephants are camera friendly and certainly fewer are pleasantly willing to pose with a stranger without the mahout’s instructions.

Though the whole fort is beautifully populated by magnificent examples of architectural excellence and exquisite artwork, Some of the places worth mentioning at some length are:
Sheesh Mahal: One of the most exquisite place here worth seeing is sheesh mahal. Sheesh means Glass or mirror and Mahal means Palace.  As the name suggests it is a Palace of Mirrors, with its ceiling and walls tastefully studded with innumerous Belgian convex mirrors. You will be stunned to enter this palace adorned with thousands of glittering mirrors and glasswork studded in the most aesthetic way. One is impelled to appreciate the minds and hands behind this aesthetic building. The mirror mosaics, and glass pieces of varying hues will leave a magical impression upon you. Even a single ray if light is enough to make the whole palace bathed in blazing radiance because of reflection by innumerous mirrors. The legend goes that There was a beloved queen of the king. As an admirer of the nature she cherished a wish to sleep under the open night sky fully studded with stars. But The Queen could not sleep in the open to maintain her womanly and royal dignity. That is why upon orders of her lovely King Husband this palace was made. If only single candle is lighted it will reflect in numerous mirrors and give a look of star studded sky. Hence by sleeping in this palace the queen was able to get a similar view of stars and sky without sleeping in the open. The pillars of this palace are intricately decorated. Worth mentioning is a particular pillar embellished with beautiful flower and that changes it hues each time you look at it from a different angle. 

SukhNiwas: Opposite to this palace is sukh niwas a palace that facilitates the cool breeze for natural flow of air.  Its beautiful and elegant door made of highly expensive sandalwood and embellished with ivory is really admirable. You can see a channel running through this palace. This channel of cool waters was designed and planned in such a way so as to permeate the whole place with soothing cool air. We can call it a kind of natural cooler. A breathtaking view of the garden Kesar Kyari from the top of the palace is worth seeing. The aesthetic geometrical figure of Kesar Kyari will etch itself into your memories for ever. 
Temple of the Goddess: One of the highly revered respected and most visited place in Amber Fort is Temple of the Goddess, built by Raja Mansingh in 1604. The soothing atmosphere inside the temple will strongly remind you of its divinity. There is also an image of God Ganesha carved out of s single piece of Coral.

Maotha Lake: Maotha Lake is another place worth visiting there with the tranquil serene waters. The above said Kesar Kyari and DilAAram Bagh Garden are situated in the middle of this Lake. The serene waters of lake embracing the exquisite Gardens present a picturesque scene. It seems as if all your worries have flown away while you stand near that lake. You can see lots of people feeding the fishes in the waters of Maotha Lake.

Amer Museum
: If you are interested in archaeology then visiting Amer Museum is worthwhile. The museum is housing an impressive collection of archaeological and sculpture items of royal era.
Zenana Mahal: Then there is Zenana Mahal where the royal ladies used to sit and see the daily proceedings of the palace. 

A tourist guide will be of great use because of the lack of information posts there and also the expansive area too discourages you from venturing further. It is always better to take Government Tourist Guides as they are highly trained, well versed with native and some foreign languages including English and they know the official historical facts but they are very formal and professional. But if you want to experience some light informal but informative conversation spiced with various jokes, few glimpses into local dialect, about local lifestyle, regional values and traditions then opt for local travel guide.  October to March is the ideal time to visit this Fort but if rains are not complete then you might think of visiting there in June to September too.

Jaigadh Fort: This massive sturdy fort was built by Sawai Jaisingh II. Because of its massive strength, planned architecture facilitating military activities and adeptly built surveillance points, This Fort could never be conquered. The fort is house to many beautiful and impressive artifacts, weapons and manuscripts of royal era. The unbelievably huge guns, swords, shields, arrows of different shapes and uses, bombs etc. will surely take you back in the journey of time. The atmosphere is so impressively elegant, peaceful and engulfing that one might think that he has again entered that royal era when the elegance and courtly behavior were a prerequisite before entering a king’s place. You will be mesmerized to see the variety of royal artifacts. The main highlight there is the Largest Cannon in the world, JaiVana Jai means Victory and Vana means Arrow. Or in other words an arrow that will surely pierce through the target. This massive cannon was used only once and that too for testing only. The barrel of this cannon  alone weighs close to 50 tones. And there are several legends attached to that. One legend says that even using half of the gunpowder the cannonball took a flight of 35 Kms. Another one says that the sheer noise of blast was so much that the person who ignited the cannon had to immerse into a water pond complete till the ears so as to safeguard himself but even after that his ear burst by the blast. Another legend is that the cannonball fell on the ground in a village  resulting in a massive crater several meters deep.

Nahargarh Fort: This is another beautiful example of massive forts of Jaipur. It was used as a bird’s view point by king of Jaipur and till date you can have a breathtaking panoramic view of the vast expanse of Jaipur city and Mansagar Lake. The fort is also home to Madhvendra Rao’s Palace.

City Palace: The reason why I am giving so ample space to description of this palace is that it acquires the equal massive space of the city too, 1/7th of Jaipur is covered by City Palace! Another reason is the sheer collection of items it houses, the various beautiful buildings residing in the CityPalace Complex and grand beauty that is distinctly different from one building to the other. Or simply because it is my favorite place in Jaipur, So please bear with me! City Palace is an aesthetically built and exquisitely maintained piece of architectural excellence. The palace is divided into several courtyards, gardens and temples and houses innumerable artifacts of the period. The master architects of that period have successfully married the Rajput Architecture with Intricate Mughal Architecture. European Architecture too has affected the architectural excellence of this place. Below are some places of City Palace Complex that are worth mentioning:

Chandra Mahal: A portion of the seven storied centrally located beautiful palace in complex is home to the present Royal Family of Jaipur. It houses the various collections and artifacts depicting the royal social lifestyle of bygone era. Then there is Mubarak Mahal built for Maharaja Man Singh to his guests. Now acting as a museum the Mubarak Mahal contains a large variety of textiles and Royal Attires. The sheer beauty and intricacy with which those attires were made are sure to leave you spellbound.
Then there is Diwan-i-Khas a reception area to welcome special guests to the king. Along with other artifacts, The Palace has 2 Silver Pots at the very entrance. Standing at 5.2 Ft. and weighing 340 Kgs, these grand containers can contain 4000 liters. These huge containers (urns) were made on the order of Mahraja Man SinghII before he was leaving for England. As a religious Hindu He did not want to drink the “English Water”, hence he ordered these two Large Containers to carry GangaJal along with him. Because of their massive size these Silver Urns have found place in Guinness book as the largest silver pots in the World.

Equally captivating is the beautiful Diwan-i-Aam or General Hall. The palace is painted in impressive colors. Blazing Golden Color beautifully compliments the garish Red one.  Situated in Mubarak Mahal Complex, this magnificent palace was used as a hall of Public Audience in its old days. Presently acting as an Art Gallery, Mubarak Mahal is famous for ancient texts, Kashmiri Shawls, and embroidered rugs. Two exquisite occupants of this palace worth mentioning are Hand Written Miniature Bhagwad Gita and the seat of Mahraja that he used during his public audience, Takht-E-Rawal or Golden Throne. 
Maharani Palace as is clear by the name (Mahrani Means The Queen) was the residence of Royal Queens beautifully adorned and equipped with various luxuries in its royal days. Presently it is converted into a weapons museum. Worth mentioning among the weapons some of which date back to 15th century, are Guns that were aptly shaped to work as Walking sticks too, a small portable canon that can be mounted on camel back, and a scissor action dagger that was the most dangerous weapon of all as it was capable to disembowel the enemy when thrust and withdrawn tactfully!

We are always fascinated about the royal vehicle and means of commuting, Bhaggi Khana, aptly named (Bhaggi means vehicle or means of commuting)  contains various Luxurious Palanquins, European Cabs and Royal Carriages. Though the whole collection is worth admiring, Victoria Bhaggi, gifted to Mahraja by Prince of Wales is worth mentioning here. Because of its design it will surely mesmerize you. Ratha and Palaquins of Priests are also captivating. 

The religious disposition of Jaipur Rulers is clearly seen in the form of huge temple called Govind Deo Ji Temple. Dedicated to Lord Krishna the God of the universe who is admired as the god of love, this temple  The temple holds a great importance and respect in the hearts of Krishna Devotees. It is one among the prominent Krishna temples in India like vrindavan.  The legend says that the features of the deity exactly match that of Krishna’s incarnation on earth.

Moti Dungri Temple: Moti Dungri literally means Pearl Hill, Moti means pearl and dungri means hill. This temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesha the foremost Hindu God noted for his benevolence and auspiciousness. The temple holds a very important religious place in Jaipur and before any new or auspicious work where you want to have a successful future like marriage, buying new vehicle even before examination people do visit this temple for offering prayers. Even the legend says that at the time of planning Jaipur Moti Doongri was the first place to be built to protect the new city.

Laxmi Narayan Temple or Birla Temple: Built in a contemporarily manner this relatively new temple is completely made with white marbles. The intricate carvings adorn the whole temple especially the roofs. A lush green garden in the compound of the temple is also highly recommendable for picnics. It also houses some handicrafts and book shop and just outside the temple you can see a host of vendors selling mouthwatering street foods and ice creams.

Jain Mandir is also a very good example of architectural Excellency and divine atmosphere. The temple that is said to be a house of miracles, is situated 15-16 kms fro jaipur in Shivdaspura. You can see a very exquisite and beautiful idol of God PadamPrabhu (6th tirthankar of jains) sitting in a lotus posture. The idol made with pure white stone is very captivating
Galtaji is a Hindu Pilgrimage at 10 Kms from Jaipur. Constructed in Pink Stone the temple of Galtajii is the main temple here.  It is Adorned by number of pavilions with round roofs. The walls are well adorned with beautiful and intricate carvings. The natural reservoirs and springs in the surrounding area are considered very holy.

Galwa Baagh and Surya Mandir: Like by both Local and foreign tourists this place is full of monkeys. These monkeys are so used to the human beings that they feel quite comfortable in their company. Even they ask for eatables with their hands stretched giving it a hilarious look. The tourists can visit the monkey temple down and climb up to visit sun temple. Other such animals can also be found here like goats, etc. Don’t forget to buy the monkey food to enjoy feeding monkeys.

Jantar Mantar: As is clear by the name (Literally meaning magical spell) this place is sure to spellbound you at the very first sight. The great Maharaja of Jaipur Sawai JaiSingh who had a great interest in  astrology is credited with building of this monument. The monument houses geometrical structures that were used for various astrological predictions and observances like predicting eclipses, observe he planetary positions etc

Hawa Mahal is another great monument of Jaipur. It was made to allow the royal ladies to have a glimpse of daily life without being seen. The palace is facilitated with many windows (950 to be precise) to allow free passage for air and thus the name Hawa Mahal.

Anokhi Museum for Hand  Printing: It houses the exotic variety of Hand Block Printing Textile. A must buy for those who want to have some tangible memories from Jaipur

Birla Planetarium: If the space, stars and planets fascinates you, then Birla Planetarium is The Place for you. Here you can get much information about the universe, space, planets and stars in entertaining audio-visual methods.

Kanak vrindavan: Activities: Apart from and along with the sight seeing there are a host of other recreational activities that one can indulge himself in:

Shopping: Jaipur is also a favorite shopping hub for buying various genuine items at very reasonable prices. There are various markets categorized by particular sectors like Books, Handicrafts, Textiles, Footwear, Gold, Silver, and other such items. A word of caution though, hone your bargaining skills.
Eating: Jaipur is famous for its mouthwatering spicy dishes and sweets. The main regional dish is Dal Bhati Churma Chapati that is very exquisite dish served as main meal. Jaipur sweets are also world famous for their taste.  If you do not like spicy food better you should mention it at hotels/restaurants to avoid yourself from a running stomach! Vegetarian food is predominant here. Generous use of oil and butter makes the regional food quite heavy. So if you are eating Rajasthani food for first time do request them to prepare a light food without much spices or oil.

Street Life: The populace is very much interested in interacting with foreigners so make sure you should befriend the local populace here. You can start from your hotel manager/receptionist or guide and make as much friends as possible. The people here are very friendly even they will treat you as their own family member once acquainted. They also find it a matter of pride to invite foreigner to various functions of their house. Thus you can also have a glimpse of contemporary lifestyle of the city.
Amber Fort Light and Sound Show: Light and Sound Show at Amber Fort will definitely leave you spell bound with a crisp script of Gulzar, dominating voice of Amitabh Bachchan and a very impressive history of Rajasthan Kings along with the culture.
Raj Mandir Theatre: This is an exquisite cinema hall where you can experience the sheer joy of various cinefans. Pushing, shoveling, shouting , chaos will surely impress you only if you are not chicken hearted. There is an exquisite experience of movie watching if you watch at RajMandir Cinema.
Learning Indian Music: Nad Sadhana provides you a platform to learn Indian music both vocal and instrumental.

After reading so many pages with the details about Jaipur, I am sure now you are ready to pack your baggage, book a ticket and come to Jaipur this very Week. Just come and explore for yourself. You will always find this city with opened arms ready to embrace you with full affection.

© Jiten Bhoi November 2012

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