Jaipur-where Heritage blends with Gems 31/01/2014

Mention Jaipur, the Pink city  and what immediately comes to mind is the Hawa Mahal and the  Literature festival  held annually in  Diggi Palace  where authors/poets from  all over the world congregate /participate. But on our recent visit  I realized  the city has much more to offer and  the direct flight from Chennai by Air Costa, introduced  in October 2013 enables one to reach the place in  a little over two hours.

As  we  were emerging from the Sanganeer Airport , the sight of beautiful ladies, all dressed in pink saris resplendent with  Jaipur  gems and jewelery  greeted us and even as we wondered  the reason for their presence, the scene outside  lined with richly decked  horse carriages  was enough to guess  a wedding party was  expected to arrive any moment.

While on our way to the hotel, our cabbie informed us that  a high profile   couple were getting engaged  that evening where a number of film personalities were expected  to attend.  Abhijeet Panwar, our guide was a dashing young man who knew the city like the back of his hand and his ability to communicate in English was excellent. The first on our itinerary was a visit to Amber Fort, a 11 km drive from  the city with a photo stop at the Jaipur 1famous Hawa Mahal, an icon of the Pink city. This five storeyed  stunning semi octagonal  monument built in pink sand stone in 1799 by poet King Sawai Pratap Singh for the royal ladies to  witness  various cultural activities through the windows resembles Lord Krishna’s crown. The view from the front  appeared like an enlarged picture post card  to me.

Alighting at the  car park  for our  visit  to Amber Fort We were tempted to take an elephant  ride when we saw pachyderms   with elderly couples  on their backs plodding up the ramparts road to reach the Amber Palace However when we found  the animal stopped in between the steep climb, it gave us goose pimples but our fears were laid Jaipur 4at rest with  the mahout’s  reassurance that  it was only a ‘toilet stop’ the elephant  chose to take  and  we were in safe  hands and had no reason to doubt his ability or that of his faithful  elephant.

We breathed a sigh of relief when the honey coloured Amber palace came into view. It  rambles over a rugged hill reflecting in the Maota lake below. On the highest ridge overlooking the valley we could have a distant  view of  Jaigarh Fort which was built  400 metres above with an express purpose of  strengthening  the defence  of Amber. Our tour of the palace  started with the Dil-e-Aaram Garden which is laid out in the traditional Moghul style .The complex of halls, palaces pavilions gardens and temples was built by Raja Man Singh, the Rajput commander of Akbar’s army, Mirza Raja Jai Singh and Sawai Jai Singh ,over a period of   about two centuries. The  Diwan-I-Aam (hall of Public Audience) has latticed galleries and double row of columns each having a capital in the shape of elephants on the top. The  king would sit in the centre on a charpoy and  regularly give audience to the public. From here we took the flight of stairs which directly lead to the Shila Mata temple which had  huge doors made of silver. It is said the Maharaja Man Singh prayed to the goddess for victory during a particular battle .The goddess is believed to have come in his dream and said if he won the battle, he should retrieve her image which was  lying at the bottom of the sea and  the Maharaja fulfilled her wish after winning the battle.(the image of the patron goddess was brought from Jessore by Raja Man Singh to be installed here, informed our guide. ) To the south of  Hall of public audience is an imposing gateway, The Ganesh Pole which has a beautiful carved statue of Lord Ganesha. On top of the  gate is Suhag Mandir its windows have  marble grills, from where the ladies of the royal family used to watch proceedings at the Diwan-I-Aam.

Jaipur 3The Diwan-I-Khas or Hall of Private Audience is decorated with beautiful mirror work with intricate carvings on the walls and ceiling. We found it also had miniature murals made of coloured glass (this reminded us of the stained glass windows of cathedrals in Europe we had seen) depicting Radha and Krishna. The Sukh Nivas or the Hall of Pleasure is right opposite this ,its special feature is the airconditioning effect created by the cool breeze blowing across the channels of waters , informed Abhijeet. Adjacent to Sukh Nivas is the Jai Mandir or the Hall of Victory which displays a superb blend of Hindu Muslim architecture.The piece de resistance here is the Sheesh Mahal or the Hall of Mirrors completely encrusted with minute mirrors of various colours. On close observation we found the dezign in each window is different. When you light a candle inside this Mahal and close the doors and windows, you feel stars are twinkling in the sky, we were told.

From here we proceeded to the CityPalace which again has a rare combination of Moghul and Rajasthani architecture. Though my legs were protesting and refusing to cooperate  after nearly a three hour tour of the Amber Palace, I decided not to miss the opportunity of  seeing this another Gem of Jaipur  depicting the pomp and splendour of  the bygone era still in evidence with  exhibits and interior dezigns coupled with richly decorated doors and gateways guarded by sentinels   decked  in full royal livery. A visit to  Maharaja Madho Singh 11 museum  is a must for a tourist  to see  the array of  royal costumes, shawls, embroidery work, Benaras silk saris, kamarbands, musical instruments like the giant sized tanbura and a set of clothes of Sawai Madho Singh 1  who was just over seven feet tall and four feet wide weighing 250 kilo grams like a goliath. It was amusing to look at  the abnormal width of his  pyjamas displayed among his other  costumes worn when he was a child.

Outside the   Hall of Private Audience  situated  nearby are two silver urns known as Gangajalis which were used by Sawai  Madho Singh to carry pure ganga jal with him during his trip to England  in 1902 to attend the coronation of King Edward 7. Each urn has  a capacity of 8,182 litres, weighs  about 345 kilo grams with a height of  five feet three inches and a circumference of 14 feet, 10 inches. They are  listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the biggest silver vessels in the world.

On our return we had another photo stop  at the  Jal Mahal palace  considered anJaipur 2 architectural beauty built in the Rajput and Moghul styles of architecture (common in Rajasthan) providing a picturesque view of the lake. The palace, built in red sandstone is a five storied building out of which four floors remain under water when the lake is full and the top floor is exposed. We could only have a distant view  of  its grandeur.

A visit  to Jaipur is not complete without shopping for gems the city is famous for and the best place to pick them up is from whole sale shops rather than from retail outlets.

n.meera raghavendra rao

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2 thoughts on “Jaipur-where Heritage blends with Gems 31/01/2014

  1. V.N.K.Kumar

    This is like a travelogue of Jaipur. Reminded me of the nostalgic times I had, when I used to frequent it in my youth. Thanks for writing it.

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