Pretty in Pink

Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
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33
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Trip End Dec 22, 2013


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Where I stayed
Bissau Palace Jaipur
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Saturday, December 22, 2012

Leaving Agra behind we set out for Jaipur with a stop along the just outside of Agra to see Fatehpur Sikri, a ghost city which was the former imperial capital of the great Mughal emperor Akbar, built between 1569 and 1585. There are a couple theories behind the building on this city, one being Akbar's divine enthusiasm for the local Muslim divine Sheikh Salim Chishti or/and two his weariness of crowds and his desire to create a new capital that was an appropriate symbol of imperial power.  It was here that he housed at three wives(Turkish, Hindu and Christian) and over 2,000 concubines.

Our guide for the city was very good and pointed out the fusion of Hindu and Muslim traditions in it’s architecture which translates to the religious and cultural tolerance of Akbar’s reign.  He also gave us quite a bit of detail on Akbar’s three wives and the why’s of why they had the palace’s that they did and explained about how each including Akbar had a summer and winter palace and why.  He also told us about the Parcheesi court.   Akbar was a fanatic about the game and would using slave girls dressed in colourful costumes as live pieces.

It was early evening when we arrived in Jaipur primarily known as the pink city as all the buildings within the walls of the old town are painted dusty-rose (sometimes called terracotta).  Legend is Jai Singh ordered the walls to be painted prior to the arrival of Prince Albert (his friend) and Queen Elizabeth II in 1876. Jaipur is also sometimes known as the amber city as the original old city (Jantar Mantar and the City Palace) has honey coloured painted walls and lastly known as the city of jewels as it is the largest producer of semi-precious jewellery in India.

Arriving at our hotel we were pleasantly surprised at our lovely accommodation, which turns out to be an old royal palace (www.bissaupalace.com).  The only drawback as we discovered during our stay is that you had to traverse through the meat market (killing and cutting up goats and chickens was done right on the street with a wash down of the street done at the end of the day) to reach the hotel. 

Our day in Jaipur was not as busy as Agra but still a full day of sight-seeing via tu-tuk and walking.  Our first stop of the morning was the Hawa Mahal the most recognizable landmark of Jaipur also known as the Palace of Winds.  Early morning is the best time for pictures as the sun shines on it making the building glow orange-pink. It was built in 1799 to enable women of the court to watch street processions while remaining in purdah (meaning behind the curtain – nowadays the veil).  The buildings five story fašade, decked out with hundreds of finely carved honeycomb windows and balconies, makes the building seem far larger than it really it is.

Next stop was a quick five minute walk into the old city to the observatory or known as Jantar Mantar, a large enclosure containing 18 huge stone astrological measuring devices constructed between 1728-1734 at the behest of Jai Singh, who invented many of them himself.   The strange abstract shapes of the instruments make the whole place look like a weird futuristic park. This is one of five identical parks across North India.  Each of the instruments has a corresponding instrument which double checks the calculations of the first instrument. The largest is the 27m high sundial, the Samrat Yantra that calculates the time accurately to 2 seconds.  A small version calculates to within 20 seconds. A more original device, the Jaiprakash Yantra consists of 2 hemispheres laid in the ground each composed of six curving marble slabs with a suspended ring in the centre whose shadow marks the day, time and zodiac symbol – vital for calculating auspicious days for marriage.

Our last guided stop of the day was the City Palace, originally built by Jai Singh in the 1720’s and the royal family (the current king is only 15 yrs old) still occupies part of the palace and were in residence the day we visited.   Our tour had us passing though a gateway with ornate elephants into a courtyard and then took a small corridor to the Pritam Niwas howk (Peacock courtyard) which has four painted doorways depicting the four seasons.  This courtyard is also the best place to see the Chandra Mahal ; the residence of the Royal family. Back into the previous courtyard we stepped into the Diwan-i-Khas – an open-sided pavilion where important decisions of state where taken by the maharaja and his advisors.  On display are two silver urns (gangajalis) each 1.5m high and can hold 8182 litres.   They were used to hold the holy water from the Ganges for the palace to use.   On the opposite side of the courtyard is the Sabha Niwas or Diwan-i-Am, showing the pair of thrones the king and advisor would sit on and portraits of the former maharajas on the walls. Next stop within the City Palace was a visit to the Armoury, showing a vast array of beautifully decorated weapons.  Our last stop after a quick shop for some at the artisans shop was the Murbarak Mahal in the center of the main courtyard. Built as a reception hall in 1899 and used by Queen Elizabeth prior to 1949 it now displays a textile collection of the elaborately woven and brocaded fabrics that formerly graced the royal wardrobe.

Leaving the City Palace behind the idea was to wander down some market streets but this quickly fell apart as people were either not interested or wanted to look at different thing or was tired of being hassled by the shop owners with "looking is free". So we quickly split up and went our separate ways.  A few of us being hungry hopped in a tuk-tuk and high-tailed it KFC or McDonald’s. Guilty as charged I was in the tuk tuk going to KFC and don’t regret it one single bit.  I thought I would survive my world travels without eating fast food but it’s not going to be the case; at least in India.  As I said curry for all three meals does get to be a bit much so I’m going to take opportunities for non-curry meals when I can.  I have to say the chicken at KFC here was quite delicious. It was spicier (of course it’s India) and not at all greasy like it is at home.

Wanting some peace and quiet and time to catch up on my blogs I happily spent the rest of the afternoon in the beautiful lobby of our hotel.  That evening the group went to a beautiful restaurant (Peacock Rooftop restaurant in the Pearl Palace) and sat on the rooftop under a tent to keep some of the chill out.  The views of the city were great and although you could still hear all the noise of the city it was a distant and it felt relatively peaceful.  Before departing in the morning we said goodbye to the Aussie girls as they were departing the trip early wanting to skip Delhi due to time constraints to get to Jaislamer for a camel safari.

 A short ride out of town we stopped in Amber to have a tour of the Amber Palace (using the same local guide), which was the capital of the leading Kachchwaha clan from 1037 to 1727 when Jai Singh established his new city at Jaipur. The buildings are less impressive than that of the city palace but the natural setting of this palace makes it just as dramatic.  The palace is perched on a narrow rocky ridge above surrounding countryside and is fortified by natural hills and high ramparts.

We had to take jeeps up to the palace as good old Josh was too big for the streets and it was quite a climb up.  The main visitor’s entrance is through the moon gate and opposite that was the sun gate. In between these two gates on the west side was a steep flight of steps that lead up to the Lion gate which is the entrance to the main palace. While the architectural style is distinctly Rajput, the mirrored mosaics covering the walls of the Diwan-i-Am (Hall ofPublic Audience) proved that Mughal architecture was also represented.  Opposite was the rooms of the Sukh Mahal, made out of marble and were cooled in the summer by channeling water through small conduits careved into the wall; an early and ingenious form of air-conditioning.  Our final stop in the palace was the Sheesh Mahal which housed the private chambers of the maharaja and his queen and subsequent wives.  Each wife had their own chamber with a hidden passage to the maharaja chambers so no one wife would know who was spending the night with the maharaja.  The courtyard in the middle is where the women would meet during the day to discuss, gossip, fight and shop (merchants would come to them as they were not allowed out of the palace).

I liked the city of Jaipur, our first of many stops in the Rajasthan state.  It seemed to be slightly more sophisticated (and cleaner? or maybe it’s just the pink walls giving the illusion of..) and slightly more manageable (except the shopkeepers) then Agra.

My Review Of The Place I Stayed



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Comments

JoJo on

Love the Turban! I had a chance to visit jaipur when i traveled to Rajasthan during 2003... was a beautiful place and i loved it!

Good to knwo tha tyou loved it to!!

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