Rajasthan is a kind of space-time door where you can dream of being part of a world of boundless wealth away from the daily chaos and near to different and fascinating traditions. Indeed, in this there is much truth and still will happen, for example, to see the camels get tired walking in the sun leaving footprints on the hot sand or storytellers moving from village to village to tell the ancient local glories. If you do not want to miss this atmosphere, you should begin your tour from Jaipur, the pink city.
When you think about Jaipur, you immediately think about those ancient monuments, colourful men in turban, ladies in sari with the delicate scent of jasmine, but the essence of Jaipur is the life trapped between the future and the past, between the modernity and the traditional printing of fabrics made with hand-carved matrices.
Jaipur has a peculiarity that distinguishes it from all other cities, which is known, in fact, for its coloured sandstone buildings. Jaipur was founded in 1668 by the astronomer king Maharaja Jai Singh II and was built according to the rules of the Shilpa Shastra, the ancient Hindu treatise related to architecture and sculpture.
I know that in a travel blog we write about what to see, where to stay and eat, but what I was impressed of Jaipur is its essence, which is not as brutal and grandiose as that of Mumbai, or not too delicate and rural as that of Cochin. There are hundreds of places to see, of course in Jaipur from the museums, the Amer fort, Jaigarh Fort, Albert Hall, Nahargarh fort, Hawamahal, Jantar Mantar and the Jal Mahal, just outside the city. Jaipur is also famous for its beautiful temples such as Govind Devji and Moti Doongari.
We arrive in Jaipur after 3 hours of travel in a Jet Airways flight, before being welcomed by the countless monkeys, who take dip in the water ponds as do humans. Jaipur is a fascinating city, hectic in the Indian sense of the term and the perfect starting point for a trip to Rajasthan. The city is characterized by organized roads and lanes, which is rather unusual for the Indian urbanism of the period.
Jaipur is the capital that is a true paradise for the eyes where you can admire some of the most extraordinary examples of Rajasthani architecture, starting with the symbol of the city, the Hawa Mahal, a richly decorated palace complex with 953 small windows built in 1799 by Maharaja Pratap Singh Sawap.
A short distance from Hawa Mahal is the City Palace, whose genesis lasted about four centuries. It was founded by Sawai Jai Singh II. Around it is surrounded by walls and on them open seven gates, with beautiful cobbled streets around. Despite its wants to evolve and point to the future, it always remains tied to its historically important past and legends of the ancient Rajputs. The Jagarth fort, boasts of the largest cannon in the world.
Another masterpiece and a must visit is the Jantar Mantar, an observatory built in 1728 by Jai Singh, which is a real marvel of science. In India, the astronomy is a cult that has been perfected by the use of science, and right here we get to see measuring instruments used for the study of the stars, when science was still long away.
The impressive thing about this great place is that each instrument is built of stone and as large as a room, from graduated scales, zodiac symbols, sundials, with all that is here has pinpoint accuracy, while living in the sun, the heat and the torrential rain. I'm not passionate about study of science, but this place made me understand many things.
Here even the newspapers are studded with ads of astrologers and magicians, but this place takes you back to the origin, where you can almost see the same stars of the man who invented the sundial.
Just ten kilometers from Jaipur is the legendary Amber Fort, an authentic rajasthani architectural masterpiece. After about half an hour from the centre of Jaipur we arrive there after crossing beautiful valleys which were very green due to the rainy season. From the base you can go on foot or on jeeps, but as the climb is not strenuous, we walk towards it to feel the entire place and the populace.
The neighbouring hills are bordered by ancient palaces and walls and what's particularly nice about this place and makes an impression is to see an ancient palace inhabited by people similar to features and clothing, to those who have lived there. From here we enjoy a spectacular view over the valley.
In between disordered walls, we notice traces of Mughal architecture with stretches in Hindu style. Sheesh Mahal, the hall of mirrors multiply a single lamp into hundreds of beautiful reflections. After exploring the fort, we take a tuk tuk back to the main city centre.
For lovers of shopping, Jaipur is a true paradise, with numerous picturesque bazaars where they sell traditional crafts of Rajasthan. Gradually we take a tour down the old city to Chandpole Bazar and Johri Bazaar through the majestic doors where hide a thousand wonders from spices, textiles, trinkets and the monkeys.
The contrast gives the greatest effect in the difference between the colour of the buildings and those of the clothes of women, which are richly coloured fabrics of high quality. Here, if you love shopping you will certainly not return empty-handed, because the Indian handicraft products are sold at very affordable prices. Everything turns this city into a fairy tale, which is so Indian and so different from the noisy and hectic India we are used to.
From the beginning Jaipur has been an important political and cultural centre, with a fame that still persists from the dreamy fixtures, the luxurious life of the Maharajas and princely kingdoms bordering the Thar desert that tell the truth, of that stretch of India that takes your mind back to a kind of stereotype, which we repeatedly see through television programs. Jaipur is the perfect starting point to discover closely the timeless beauty of Rajasthan.