Jaipur was snap decision I made in the month of November last year that cost me twice the regular airfare (and now that I think of it, could have afforded me a foreign trip to a nearby island). But the ‘Pink City’, as it’s commonly known, was worth every Rupee spent (referring to a time when the Indian currency was not so undervalued). This was essentially a solo-trip (if you discount the fact that I stayed the nights at my cousin’s house), thanks to relatives who’re too busy to take leave from work to be with you, but generous enough to give you the spare car with a driver to show you around. And this setup worked wonderfully as I could pace my entire trip my way and cover almost everything in 4 days.
Jaipur welcomed me at night with winds that were just starting to freeze… winds that would require me to layer-up but not shrivel up (that they do when winter completely sets in). I looked out of the window on my way to my cousin’s place and gazed in wonder at the empty streets (9 PM is when people in my city step out to eat/shop/party) that were narrow but clean. And then I saw that rare vision of a man in a white cotton dhoti-kurta and a multicoloured pagdi (visible from under his helmet) riding a pillion with only a brown khadi gilet to shield him from the cold. I felt overdressed and pretentious in my full-formal office-wear (the downside of leaving for a trip straight from work) and a dark sweater, and my cheeks turned pink (The Pink City was starting to paint me in its own colour) as I remembered packing two leather jackets and assorted scarves (against my father’s advice).
Next morning, I hit the road with a fully loaded camera (and an equally loaded stomach) and clicked away at every other thing that caught my eye. Jaipur is so beautiful, it makes you want to capture everything you see! The roads are adorned with gateways (that appear every 100 meters) that have princely architecture. Every second building is made of red and pink sandstone and it’s easy to see why this city called the “Pink City of India”. My first pink-monument-stop was the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) that rose proudly above the ground like an oversized beehive. We next drove to Jal Mahal (Water Palace) that appears to float on the Man Sagar Lake but what the human eye sees is only the top floor of a 5-storeyed mansion.
It was almost noon when I reached the City Palace complex which used to be the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur. The palatial quarters display the most intricate amalgamation of Rajput, European and Mughal architecture. The palace also functions as a museum and exhibits many ancestral possessions. It takes one good hour to walk through all the facades, courtyards and gardens.
I stopped for a quick lunch at a roadside eatery and glanced through my checklist (I am yet to graduate to the travel-without-a-plan clan) – I had many more interesting places to go. The Albert Hall Museum beckoned me with its Indo-Gothic architecture. This is the oldest museum in all of Rajasthan, and rests at the centre of Ram Niwas Garden. Albert Hall has a fine collection of sculptures, paintings and other artefacts and it’s common to find school-children on excursions walking down the corridors. The area is full of pigeons and their feathers that even the pigeon-netting can’t keep off.
The weather in the afternoon was pleasant as the sun cancelled the effects of the cold. I decided it was a good time to check out the street-bazaars as it was still too early for the shoppers to crowd up the alleys. I headed to Bapu Bazaar and was bedazzled by all the jewellery on display. After about half an hour of making my way through the maze that had scores of shops strung together, and striking what I assumed was a good bargain, I walked out with a German Silver ornament-set in my bag and a broad smile on my lips. “Jantar Mantar chaliye“, I said to my driver.
Jantar Mantar literally means “calculation instrument” in Hindi, and is a paradise for astronomy enthusiasts. Modelled on the Delhi structure with the same name, this observatory figures on the World Heritage List. There are a multitude of instruments that tell you the time, date and even details of your zodiac constellation. The site is very well maintained, but this unfortunately means you cannot climb over the instruments to pose for pictures (this was previously allowed). My last stop for the evening was Birla Temple – a tranquil end to a hectic day. I had travelled largely within Jaipur on my first day, so I would venture out of the city for my second.
Coming up Next >>
- Kanak Vrindavan Garden
- Jaigarh Fort
- Amber Fort and Palace