When you think about Jaipur, you immediately think about those ancient monuments. You visualise colourful men in turban and ladies in sari with the delicate scent of jasmine. But the essence of Jaipur is the life trapped between the future and the past. It is between the modernity and the traditions.
Jaipur has a peculiarity that distinguishes it from all other cities. I know that in a travel blog we write about what to see, where to stay and eat. Jaipur is not as brutal and grandiose as that of Mumbai, or not too delicate and rural as that of Cochin. There is the Amer fort, Jaigarh Fort, Albert Hall, Nahargarh fort, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar. Jal Mahal is outside the city. Jaipur is also famous for its beautiful temples such as Govind Devji and Moti Doongri.
We arrive in Jaipur after 3 hours of travel in a Jet Airways flight.
We see countless monkeys, who take dip in the water ponds as do humans. Jaipur is hectic in the Indian sense of the term and the perfect starting point for a trip to Rajasthan. The city has organized roads and lanes, which is rather unusual for the Indian urbanism of the period.
Here you can admire some of the extraordinary examples of Rajasthani architecture. The symbol of the city is the Hawa Mahal. It is a decorated palace complex with 953 small windows built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh.
A short distance from Hawa Mahal is the City Palace. Around it are walls and on them open seven gates, with beautiful cobbled streets around. It always remains tied to its important past and legends of the ancient Rajputs. The Jaigarh fort, boasts of the largest cannon in the world.
Another masterpiece and a must visit is the Jantar Mantar. It is an observatory built in 1728 by Jai Singh, which is a real marvel of science. 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 of stone and as large as a room. There are scales, zodiac symbols, sundials, with all that is here has pinpoint accuracy. I'm not passionate about study of science, but this place made me understand many things.
This place takes you back to the origin, where you can almost see the same stars of the man who invented the sundial.
After leaving the city and passing the Jal Mahal we only need 10 minutes to stop the tuk-tuk. Ten kilometers from Jaipur is the legendary Amber Fort Palace on a rocky hill. The colossal panorama of the Fortress sheltered by long walls is especially dazzling. The expansive Fort Amber is a typical example of what brave Rajputs were. Amber Fort is an impregnable walled citadel. It also served as a house for the royal family for a century and a half.
The designs dictated by the Maharajas from the 16th to 18th centuries remained in Amber Fort. Sawai Jai Singh II, the astronomer king decided to take his court to the new city of Jaipur. The Palatial Complex has the principles of the architecture of the time. It was on the lines of the Taj Mahal of Agra or the Tomb of Humayun in Delhi.
Amber not only attracts travelers because of its delicate charm. It is possible to enter the main door on the back of an elephant. Riding on an elephant to climb the fort is capable of giving one of the best moments of the trip.
We made our triumphal entrance to the Palace through a huge arched gate. It led to a large courtyard of Jaleb Chowk. A boy after having a few words with the Mahut, ended up capturing my photos, at the expense of a few rupees. They are the problems of traveling alone, that you have to manage as it is to leave in the photo.
In the courtyard, there were enough foreign and Indian tourists. The place where I was at that time is the palace where the Kachhawaha Dynasty resided until 1727. A visit to the Palace, without haste but without pause, can take about two hours. Besides the good thing that Amber has is that the visit is not guided. You can get your way through labyrinthine corridors. They end in vaulted rooms, either through handmade windows or frescoes in the domes.
From Jaleb Chowk, I climb a staircase to a ornate silver door that serves as a gateway to the Shiva Temple. Here silver lions guard a stone idol of Goddess Kali. She was particularly invoked during the reigning clan of the Kachhawaha. From there is the succession of Diwan-i-Aam columns.
No less interesting is the nearby Sattais Katcheri. Here 27 pillars gave shadows to the scribes who wrote down income. And then I faced the most spectacular gate of the palace complex, the Ganesh Pol. You can access a beautiful garden or Charbagh, based on the Mughal style of gardens.
On the left is the Diwan-i-Khas, the Private Audience Hall, Sukh Niwas, Jai Mandir and Jas Mandir. Diwan-i-Khas shows us cases of a rich amalgam of Rajput and Mughal architecture. Here you can appreciate the delicate work of the alabaster joining with marble and glass. The main attractions are the murals of colored crystals representing Radha and Krishna.
The Sheesh Mahal takes advantage of the incrustation of small mirrors. A single candle could light up the whole room. From there I lose myself in the labyrinthine corridors. It led me to tiny rooms overlooking a dying Maota Lake.
Climbing upstairs my exploring soul took me to the zenana, which was the palace for women. The rooms were very small. Many of them were not in a not too good state but the frescoes in their walls and roofs were still many. The zenana appears through arcaded corridors to the Baradari.
From the Zenana, there are magisterial panoramas both to this patio and to the exteriors of Amber. There is even a rocky road that connects Jaigarh, with a watchman in his watchtower. I looked for the exit following the indications of the directions and I went to an area of stalls and craft shops. Amer Fort is not at all the best place to get souvenirs.
The entrance to Shila Mata Temple is through Singh Pol. It houses a black marble idol of Kali, brought from Jessore by Raja Man Singh in the year 1604.
Here we see nine images of the goddess Durga and ten forms of the goddess Saraswati. The mandap of this temple is of white marble, which contrasts with the colors of the idols.
On the way to Jaleb Chowk, I saw my first snake charmers. To the rhythm of hypnotizing flute sounds, they took poisonous reptiles out of the basket.
We noticed that there was a woman running up the stairs and kissing each step. Another older woman was behind her touching her heels every few seconds. I had no idea what that matter was, but it seemed like a promise to someone or an act of religious devotion. The guide of a group of tourists commented that she was one of the courtesans of the Maharaja of Jaipur. But I am afraid it was a story to draw the attention of the people who went with him. Although who knows!
At the door we saw many gray and white languor monkeys, with the long tails who rushed up to the trees. It was to see a stick up in his hands and come out in terror in a safe place.
Everywhere, they are fragments and bits of Amber's rich past. Among the many temples is the Jagat Shiromani Temple, dedicated to Krishna. It has some sculptures and paintings and the famous black stone Krishna. It is also famous for its carved marble entrance door guarded by stone elephants.
Across the road is a Jain Temple. Nearby is the ancient Narsingh Ji Temple, Ambikeshwar Temple and Lakshmi Narayan Temple. The latter has a Shiva Lingam installed by Raja Kakil, the first Kachhawaha, who ruled from Amber. It is also said that Amber takes his name from this temple.
A marvel of design is the seventeenth century adorned for Panna Mian ki Baoli. Panna Mian is a water tank surrounded on three sides by interlaced steps. It also has corner octagonal kiosks and a two-story terrace. The unique and picturesque mosque in the area is here called Jami Masjid built by Mal Bihar in honor of Akbar. After all, the Mughal king would need somewhere to pray if he was going to visit his Rajput friends.
We climbed back on the Rickshaw to go to Jaigarh. We enjoy the best views of both Jaipur City on one side and Amber on the other from top. A narrow and sinuous road goes up to the top of the Eagle Hill. The Cheel ka teela protects the palace in which we had been minutes before.
Jaigarh has a structure with reddish turrets are mega-defensive constructions. Its mission was to ensure the safeguarding of the Amber Palace on one side and the city of Jaipur on the other. It would be safe to say that it was never assaulted and much less invaded, thanks to which it is in perfect condition. It does not have ornamentation or represent the luxuries of the court of the Maharaja.
For luxuries was the City Palace and the Jal Mahal floating on the lake. The Hawa Mahal was to hide the concubines behind the convoluted latticework.
In Jaigarh there is a military object that is in the Guinness Book of Records. It has the largest cannon with wheels in the world, the Jaya Vana. Fused in 1726 and no less than 50 tons in weight, it was never used. Although there are stories that the first time it fired, the ball traveled 35 kilometers away. I also visit a couple of temples and an interesting Puppet Theater. Although the most admirable are the views that reach Jaipur and Amber in equal parts.
After exploring the fort, we take a tuk tuk back to the main city centre.
Here are two large and interesting cenotaph complexes of the Kachhwaha Dynasty. First I went to the Maharani ki Chhatri located on the road to Amber. It is very close to the Ramgarh junction and two minutes from the Jal Mahal.
After climbing a few stairs and crossing the main door came a wide esplanade of dry land. The marble cenotaphs emerged to which the sunlight provide changing colors. The ensemble of cenotaphs was an overwhelming beauty radiated by the light of marble. This no doubt is more noticeable at dusk, and is away from the mundane noise a few meters beyond. I was the only person who was walking in that place at that moment. If the Cenotaphs of the Maharanis seem splendid, those of the Maharajas were sublime. Wrapped in the surrounding hills, they are more elaborate and in a better state.
Amongst all the tombs the one of Jai Singh II stands out. Purity gives us a confrontation between virtuosity and the harmony of the elements. If the mission of a cenotaph is to honor the deceased, it surpass here by the altars of art and perfection.
We left to eat at a restaurant with a vegetarian menu. I tried the Biryani Rice. Luckily I told the waiter not to go overboard with the spices.
We start for the area of Galtaji, where is the fabulous and striking Temple of the Monkeys. I learned of this place thanks to a small reference that appeared in the Rajasthan travel guide. It spoke of the existence of a Temple dedicated to the Sun God and is also known as Monkey Temple.
There are many temples and sanctuaries in Galtaji. One of the monkeys is only one, dedicated to the Surya and the Hanuman, represented with monkey face.
To the east of the red city, we leave for Surajpole. We took a road that passed by the market. It was not long afterwards that we abandon the traffic and started up a zigzag road that went into a dry, stony hill. Halfway down we stopped for a couple of minutes to throw the first bananas to some monkeys playing there. All they did was to take them and flee with their prize to safety.
The Sun Temple is a complex composed of several buildings that was much larger than I imagined. The first sacred pond has a beautiful facade caught between scratches at the bottom. In that Kund, I was able to enjoy the presence of several monkeys that did not stop a second of playing. The acrobatics and feigned fights made me have a great time.
The Monkey Temple brought to mind scenes from the Jungle Book. It was a confirmation that a site that seems so unreal can exist and be open to anyone who wants to go there.
For lovers of shopping, Jaipur is a true paradise, with picturesque bazaars. We take a tour down the old city to Chandpole Bazar and Johri Bazaar through the majestic doors. Here hide a thousand wonders from spices, textiles, trinkets and the monkeys.
If you love shopping you will not return empty-handed. because Everything turns this city into a fairy tale. It is so Indian and so different from the noisy and hectic India.
From the beginning Jaipur has been an important political and cultural centre. The fame still persists from the kingdoms bordering the Thar desert. It tells the truth, of that stretch of India that takes your mind back to a kind of stereotype. Jaipur is the perfect starting point to discover the timeless beauty of Rajasthan.