What to see in Jaipur
India | Rajasthan
Jaipur was founded in 1728 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II and is known as the "pink city" for the color of the houses in the oldest district. The city offers numerous attractions, such as the massive Amber Fort, the Palace of Winds, the City Palace and an intriguing ancient astronomical observatory.
JAIPUR - THINGS TO SEE AND GENERAL INFO
With over 3 million inhabitants, Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan and also the largest and most populous city of this federal state of India. The city has an airport that offers several flights a day to Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and other major hubs in India, reason for which Jaipur is often the starting or ending point of most trips in Rajasthan (for those who instead prefer to visit also Delhi, Jaipur is about 6 hours drive from this city and, with a convenient detour, it is possible to visit also Agra with its famous Taj Mahal). Alternatively, Jaipur is also served by many long-distance trains that connect the city to various destinations in Rajasthan and in the rest of India.
Jaipur was founded in 1727 as best solution to move the capital from ancient Amber, 11 kilometers (7 miles) away, in response to growing number of inhabitants and scarcity of water. During the second half of the 19th century, the houses in the oldest districts of Jaipur were painted in pink to welcome King Edward VII of England, and since then many houses have kept this traditional color, reason for which Jaipur is known as the"pink city". Nowadays Jaipur is an important tourist destination in Rajasthan and in whole India, because of intriguing history, fascinating museums and colossal monuments.
The main attractions in Jaipur not to be missed are:
- Amber Fort. From the top of a hill, the Amber Fort dominates the ancient town of the same name, protected by ramparts and massive walls developing around all the surrounding hills. The complex houses sumptuous palaces, ancient residence for maharajas and court women, as well as museums and temples. It is located 11 kilometers (7 miles) from Jaipur city and can be easily reached by taxi or tuk tuk.
- Nahargarh Fort The Nahargarh Fort, or Tiger Fort, was the hunting residence of maharajas and houses palaces with apartments painted in bright colors and decorated by mirrors and floral patterns. From the upper terraces and roofs, the view over Jaipur is unforgettable.
- Jaigarh Fort Not far from Amber Fort, the Jaigarh Fort dates back to 1600 and its function was mainly for defense and not as a residence for royal families. It's particularly interesting mainly because of the panoramic position on top of a hill, and for the walkways among massive ramparts with winding passages.
- Palace of Winds. The Hawa Mahal, commonly known as Winds Palace, dates back to 1799 and has a curious Baroque facade with infinite windows closed by latticework screens, which allowed to see from inside to outside, but not vice-versa. We will talk later about the reason for this...
- City Palace. The Jaipur Palace, or City Palace, dates back to 1729, but has seen expansion and restoration works during the followings centuries. It has been a residence for Maharajas of Jaipur, and is also home to current royal family. The huge complex houses several palaces, temples, museums and art galleries.
- Old astronomical observatory. The Jantar Mantar is a spectacular and intriguing ancient astronomical observatory built between 1728 and 1734, which houses colossal sundials among the largest in the world, and various structures once used to study the inclination of the sun and to obtain useful information for the compilation of horoscopes. This is probably one of the most amazing tourist attraction of whole India.
- Old districts. In the historical center of Jaipur there are several bazaars among traditional houses and palaces painted in dark pink. The city is particularly known for handmade fabrics and, if you like such kind of souvenirs, Jaipur is the ideal place in Rajasthan to buy them.
How long time is necessary to visit Jaipur? To visit Jaipur, tourists usually need at least a full day if accompanied by guide, car and driver. For independent travelers or for who wish to visit all the three forts (Amber + Nahargarh + Jaigarh) and more museums, two full days may be the best choice. Jaipur is a very popular destination in India and the most visited location in Rajasthan: visitors wishing to enjoy the monuments with fewer crowd, should avoid weekends, public holidays and plan the visits earlier in the morning when "bus" tourists are still having their breakfast. The distances in Jaipur are quite long: if traveling in India with a car and driver, this is not a problem; instead for solo travelers, taxi and tuk tuk may be the best solution (they are cheap and readily available everywhere).
What is the best time to go to Jaipur? The best time to visit Jaipur is from October to March, as for whole northern India and Rajasthan, because this time of year has much drier and cooler weather.
But now let's see some photos of Jaipur taken during our trip in India.
Our sample tour itinerary in Jaipur begins with an excursion to Amber Fort
, located 11 kilometers (7 miles) from the city.
The climb to Amber Fort
, which is located at the top of a hill, can be done on an elephant's back, an option no longer advised due to the conditions in which the animals are kept. Personally, I chose to arrive by car almost to the ticket office, before continuing for a few minutes on foot (we are no longer in the 19th century and has no much sense to use an elephant).
At the top of a staircase, the Singh Pol
(Lion's Gate) leads into the Amber fortress
. Visitors will immediately notice numerous beautiful frescoes, still original and well preserved, which decorate this portal.
Visitors will then get into a large courtyard surrounded by buildings and massive portals. The construction of Amber Fort
began towards the end of the 16th century, but during the following century, the complex saw further expansion works.
The fortress is protected by massive walls
extending for 18 kilometers (11.5 miles) all around, while downhill visitors can enjoy a panoramic view onto ancient Amber city
. This was the old capital of the region, before the city collapsed in the eighteenth century, due to excessive number of inhabitants and lack of water, reasons for which Jaipur was finally founded a short distance away.
Proceeding from a courtyard to the next one, as in a kind of Chinese boxes, visitors arrive in front of the sumptuous Ganesh Pol
, another massive portal that shows a beautiful fresco of Ganesha, the elephant God. On Ganesh Pol, we also find the traditional perforated stone windows (latticework) and numerous other frescoes with predominant floral patterns.
The latticework windows
are composed of a single sandstone slab perforated with amazing skills, and allowed women to watch what was going outside, without being seen. This offered women the chance to have a glimpse onto outside world, since no public activity was allowed to them.
The corridor leading from Ganesh Pol to the royal apartments, has a ceiling decorated with a beautiful fresco painted by gold leaf
The courtyard of the royal apartments, on the other hand, has a beautiful garden
whose hedges and central fountain reflect the geometric patterns usually used for latticework windows and for other architectural elements.
The Sheesh Mahal
) is an incredible building decorated by glass, precious stones and reflective surfaces. It was reserved for Maharaja and his wife. Rumors say that the wife of Maharaja asked her husband a palace where she could see the starry sky at any time of the year, even during the wet monsoon, so the idea of the Maharaja was to fill ceiling and walls with shimmering decorations, just to simulate bright stars. But the wife, still not happy about the result, expressed the desire to see the moon as well, so her husband replied: "you are my moon, but if you want, I will take a second wife that will be my moon too, so when you look at her, you will see the moon as well".
Another photo of the spectacular Sheesh Mahal
, the Palace of Mirrors
inside Amber Fort
Through a staircase, visitors may access the roof from where there is a beautiful view onto nearby Jaigarh Fort
The private audience room
and the relaxation area, with walls covered by finely carved white marble and numerous niches.
The air conditioning system
comes from the traditional architecture of ancient Persia, where the air collected through a vertical tower was conveyed directly over a tank of water.
As in other fortress-buildings visited in India, the corridors
in Amber Fort are narrow and winding, to confuse the enemies, slow them down and prevent mass attack.
Finally, visitors arrive in the oldest part of Amber Fort: the Zenana, reserved to women.
In the center of the courtyard there is a pavilion, while on the sides there are the women's rooms: on the ground floor those for princesses and on the upper floor those for concubines.
Under the cornices of the rooms reserved to concubines, there are frescoes
in excellent condition, some with erotic images
The tour in Jaipur continues with a glance on the Jal Mahal
, a palace built on water in the middle of Lake Man Sagar
, not far from Jaipur city center. The structure dates back to the eighteenth century and was used by the Maharajas as a temporary residence during duck hunting season.
The historical center of the city shows the buildings with the traditional color of the facade, which gives to Jaipur the name of "pink city
". This color was chosen in the nineteenth century to welcome King Edward VII of England on the occasion of his visit and, since then, the color was never changed back.
The Hawa Mahal
, commonly known as Palace of Winds
, is located in Jaipur and shows a bizarre Baroque style. Its construction dates back to 1799 and was ordered by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Jai Singh II, founder of Jaipur. The facade is covered by lot of miniature windows from where court women could watch, without being seen, the royal parades and the daily life that took place in the outside world precluded to them.
A unique location of its kind that should not be missed during any tour in Jaipur, is the spectacular Jantar Mantar
. It is an astronomical observatory
built between 1728 and 1734 by a Maharaja expert in astronomy, to study the path of the sun and predict the position of the stars, through colossal concrete and marble structures. This is one of the most amazing tourist attraction in Rajasthan
and in whole India.
In the ancient Jaipur astronomical observatory
, there are numerous sundials
, this is one of the oldest and, thanks to its size, has an excellent precision. The shadow is projected onto a graduated marble slab, letting to calculate current time.
However the Maharaja was still not happy about the accuracy of the first sundial, so he ordered the construction of Samrat Yantra
, a colossal sundial
, the largest in the world mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records
. Its 30 meters (98 feet) tall dial, casts the shadow onto huge graduated marble slabs, offering a precision so far unmatched.
These odd structures that look like coming from some Star Wars movie, are known as Jai Prakash Yantra and are underground hemispheres composed of curved marble slabs: the shadow of a ring suspended in the center through ropes, was used to indicate current time, path of the sun in the sky and other valuable information for the computation of horoscopes.
A section of Jaipur astronomical observatory
, or Jantar Mantar
, houses other instruments for checking the position of the stars and to calculate horoscopes according.
With this colossal instrument, on the other hand, it was possible to calculate the inclination of the sun with great precision, through a shadow cast by a pole onto graduated marble slabs.
The tour in Jaipur continues by visiting the City Palace
, also known as Jaipur Palace
, built in 1729 and subsequently expanded. The City Palace was the main residence for Maharajas of Jaipur and one wing of the structure, usually closed to the public, still houses the current royal family. The complex has various palaces showing interesting architecture and beautiful decorations. There are also small themed museums, such as a collection of weapons belonged to the sovereigns and a vast collection of vintage fabrics and musical instruments.
The private audience hall
in the City Palace is a pavilion located in the center of the main courtyard and was built using red sandstone and white marble.
An enormous silver jar
, known as gangajali
, contained the sacred water of the Ganges which apparently served Maharaja Madho Singh II as a personal water supply for his trip to England, as he did not trust the purity of water in Europe. The jar weighs 345 kilos (760 lbs) and can hold 9000 liters (2377 gal) of water. The museum houses 2 jars.
The Pritam Niwas Chowk
, which is accessed from the main courtyard of the City Palace, is known as the courtyard of peacock
, for the portals decorated by frescoes showing the bird symbol of Rajasthan. From this point visitors can see the sumptuous Chandra Mahal
, the palace residence of current royal family, closed to the public.
Also part of the City Palace complex is the Mubarak Mahal
, or welcome palace, dating back to the end of the 19th century. It currently houses the textiles museum where photography is prohibited.