Friday, April 13, 2018

Northern Sojourn Day VI: Jaipur - The Pink City

AFTER getting down at Jaipur bus stand, I went to railway station and placed my luggage in clock room. Previous day, I had booked a 'Royal Enfield Classic 350' bike for one-day ride through a website. Bikes were parked at metro station's parking lot. Though metro station was just opposite to railway station, it took a while to find out its parking space. After showing driving license, I took the bike. Unfortunately, metro work was going on across Jaipur city and main roads were very crowded. Nothing compared to Bangalore roads, but it consumed a lot of time and killed any interest in driving through the city. After spending some 30 minutes in Jaipur roads, I left the city for my first destination - Amber Fort.

Jaipur History

Jaipur is the capital and largest city in Rajasthan. Located 240kms from Delhi, Jaipur is part of Golden Triangle tourist circuit whose two other legs are Delhi and Agra. This city was named after her founder Jai Singh II. Construction of Jaipur was planned and started in 1726 based on Vastu shastra and Shilpa Shastra. Vidyadhar Bhattacharya was the chief architect. It took four years to complete construction of roads, palaces and offices. Out of nine blocks, two were reserved for official buildings and palace, rest were available for public.

During the visit of Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) in 1876 king 'Sawai Ram Singh I' painted the city in pink, and thereafter Jaipur is known as Pink City. Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites located here - Jantar Mantar and Amer Fort

Amber Fort

Amber fort (pronounced as Amer fort) is located 11kms from capital Jaipur. Amer town was originally built by Meenas and there were some small structures. Later, Rajputs captured it and built Amber fort and palace on this harsh terrain on top of Aravalli range. Construction was started by Raja Man Singh I in 1592 AD and completed by Mirja Raja Jai Singh. Constructed using red sandstone and marble, this palace also hosts vibrant works in precious stones and glass.

Overseeing Maota lake - primary source of water - Amer fort and palace is divided in to six parts; each with its own entrance and courtyard.

Entrance to this majestic structure is through a gate in the east known as Suraj Pol (Sun gate). Other main areas are, Sila Devi Temple, Ganesh Pol (Ganesh Gate), Suhag Mandir, second courtyard (which houses Divan-i-Aam - Hall of public audience), third courtyard (which also houses Maharaja's private quarters, gardens, Jai mandir, Sheesh mahal, Sukh Nivas - Hall of pleasure), palace of Man Singh I, central courtyard, fourth courtyard (with multiple living rooms for women of royal family).

Amer palace is connected through a subterranean passage to Jaigarh fort situated nearby; hence both are part of same complex. This passage was an escape route for royal family and others during war.

Amber served as capital of Kachwaha Rajputs until the capital was moved to Jaipur.

To Amber

Once I left Jaipur city, roads were less crowded; one can see harsh, shrub covered hills of Aravalli range were close from here. After driving some 11 kms, I reached the fort. I was late; hence there were no parking space left at the bottom or nearby. So, I went ahead and drove through some narrow passages to reach the parking space on top. As I reach closer, four wheelers were blocking the way. However, there were some space – enough or a bike to pass - available on either or both sides four wheelers ahead of me. Problem was, the high gradient of that stone paved road. Driving without stopping was ok, but if stop, then start moving again was difficult. Close to top my bike slid and almost touched the bonnet of a car. Luckily escaped. Someway, I took it forward and safely reached some empty space at top. It was not parking area, nevertheless, it served the purpose.

After buying tickets I went inside. Unlike many forts I visited before, buildings inside were in good shape. It was very much crowded. Indeed, it’s not without a reason Amber fort is named among the best forts in India.
Capturing Amber located in desert like area with harsh climate on top of a hill, with good view of any movement for miles might have been very tough; even for a battle-hardened enemy. By the way, elephant safari is available to reach the top; in case you parked your vehicle at bottom and don't want to walk. After spending some time there I went back to the city.

@Back to Jaipur city

My plan was to spend two days in Jaipur. But due to train delays I lost 1 day at Ludhiana, and 12 hours of not so comfortable sleepless journey made me very much tired. Rather than seeing some places I just wanted to eat and sleep!!! But, Jaipur is far away from my base locations - Bangalore and Kerala. After going all the way here, I won't be doing justice to myself if I simply eat and sleep.

Jal Mahal (Lake Palace)
While coming back, I stopped at Jal Mahal. There were couple of decorated camels walking through road side. There was a small road going through one side of Jal Mahal, I took that one and parked bike at the end. Apart from couple of ladies selling some eatables, two girls taking lot of selfies and numerous monkeys there weren't many people. However, at the side of main road there was a huge crowd to view Jal Mahal.

After spending sometime there, I resumed my journey to city centre. Next couple of hours I roamed around the city without any destination in mind. During these rounds I saw Hawa Mahal and parts of City Palace. However, I didn't go inside. By this time, I was hungry and started looking for some restaurant. After searching for a while in internet, I finally identified one, and drove towards that using google maps. Even after reaching the destination in maps, I didn't see that restaurant. This happened couple of times before as well. Even in Amritsar, google maps said, I arrived at destination. However, there was nothing at that place. Well, there was a nice street food vendor nearby. Food was good. By the way, I always like good street food.

Finally, it was time for me to go to railway station. I went to a nearby pump and filled the tank and returned it at Jaipur metro station's parking lot. From there, I started walking towards railway station. Unlike, all other places while leaving Jaipur I felt very sad. The journey was nothing like what I planned. Instead of two days, I could spend only a day here. Public works going across the road killed lot of time. In fact, I missed so many places, in fact the only place I saw properly was Amber Palace (there also I didn't try that underground path to Jaigarh Fort. Well, the journey is not complete, I need to come to Jaipur again...

To Udaipur

Finally, I boarded the train to Udaipur.


Other main places to visit in Jaipur are,

1. City Palace

City Palace Complex, located in northeast part of grid-patterned Jaipur, was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. This is a mix of Mughal and Rajput architecture. Palace is still home to
the last ruling royal family which lives in a private section of this palace. The City Palace Complex includes Mubarak Mahal (the palace of reception) and Maharani’s Palace (the palace of queen). Mubarak Mahal now houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum. The Chandra Mahal palace now houses a museum, but the greatest part of it is still a royal residence.

2. Albert Hall Museum (Central museum)

Inspiration from 'Victoria and Albert Museum' in London Albert Hal is located in the centre of Ram Niwas Garden. Museum displays wide range of metal objects, wood crafts, carpets, stone and metal sculptures, arms and weapons, natural stones and ivory items. Alber Hall also has a good collection of miniatures from Bundi, Kota, Kishangarh, Udaipur and Jaipur schools of art.

3.  Nahargarh (abode of tigers) Fort

Constructed during the reign of Jai Singh in 1734, Nahargarh fort is located on ridge of Aravalli Hills. Fort was later expanded in 1868. This fort also have a palace - Madhavendra Bhawan - built by Sawai Madho Singh; which act as a summer destination for members of royal family. Palace has 12 matching rooms for queens and a suite for king. All connected by corridors decorated with murals.

4. Jaigarh Fort
Located about 15kms from Jaipur, Jaigarh Fort was built by Sawai Jai Singh II in early 18th century. This fort is situated amidst an arid, dry, rocky and scrub covered hills of Aravalli. Visitors can see world’s largest cannon – Jaiban here.

5. Digamber Jain Mandir

Built using red sandstone, this ancient temple is in Sanganer, 14 km from city. Principal idol in Sanghiji Temple is Lord Adinath in Padmasan (lotus position). The 7-storied temple has sky high 'shikharas' (spires) and its inner sanctum is a stone shrine with eight sky-high shikharas.

7. Gaitore (Memorial of Kings)

Tombs of former maharajas of Jaipur are located in Gaitore, which is located close to Jaipur-Amer road. Chhatris (cenotaphs) are made using white marble. Crematorium is located in the middle of yellow sandstone hills. Depends on status and power of ruler, decor his chattri varies. The most elegant chattri at Gaitor is that of Maharaja Jai Singh with 20 carved pillars.

8. Janthat Mantar (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Considered to be the largest of five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, Janthar Manthar contains sixteen geometric devices, designed to measure time, track celestial bodies and observe the orbits of planets around the sun. It also houses the Interpretation Centre that helps tourists to understand about the working principles & chronology of the observatory.

7. Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds)

Hawa Mahal was built by poet king Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 using pink sandstone. It was a summer retreat for him and family. Hawa Mahal also served as a place from where ladies of royal family could observe everyday life without being seen themselves. This unique five floor structure is a fusion of Hindu and Islamic architecture, and the exterior, with its small latticed windows (called jharokhas), resembles the crown of Lord Krishna. The windows also serve as an air-conditioner, blowing cool air throughout the palace; which make it suitable for summers. Built from pink sandstone, Hawa Mahal is Jaipur’s iconic landmark and visitors can view its complete magnificence from outside, from across the road. However, it is also possible to climb right up to the top for a wonderful view from the windows. Today, Mahal is maintained by Archaeological Department of Rajasthan Government. An archaeological museum is also there in the courtyard.

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