JAIPUR, India, May 20, 2016 – With a population of more than 3 million, Jaipur is the capital and largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Founded in 1727, it is remarkable for its impressive fortresses and palaces and its unusually wide streets (111 feet), which are laid out in six orderly sectors.
Like most of India, Jaipur is both confounding and mystical. It is a mixture of overwhelming history that gasps for breath under the weight of its massive sea of humanity.
Despite that, readers of Conde Nast Traveler consistently rate Jaipur among the Top 10 Destinations to visit in Asia. With no less than 10 massive forts and monuments, five temples, three gardens and two UNESCO World Heritage sites, it’s little wonder that Jaipur has earned its ranking.
Jaipur did not just spring up overnight in the 18th century. The city was carefully planned, according to Vastu Shastra, with streets running east to west and north to south. There are three gates facing east, west and north and numerous gates that face south.
The eastern gate is called Sun Pol, the western gate is the Moon Pol and the northern gate faces the ancestral capital of Amber.
In addition to its architectural treasures and monuments, Jaipur has long been a hub for native arts and crafts, which make the city a shopper’s paradise. Major crafts include block printing, stone carving, jewellery, miniature paintings, blue pottery, ivory carving and leather.
Situated roughly 180 miles from New Delhi and Agra, Jaipur is the third point of India’s Golden Triangle. It is known as the “Pink City,” thanks to the color of its distinctive sandstone and the façade of the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds, a sprawling royal residence that faces the main street of the city.
The original purpose of the five-story exterior of the Hawa Mahal was to allow the royal ladies of the harem to observe everyday life in the street below through the honeycomb of 953 small windows. The latticework was designed to allow cool air to waft through the openings and “air condition” the space during the hot Indian summers.
The women of the harem were not allowed to be seen and were strictly required to cover their faces with veils.
Because the front of the Palace of the Winds is little more than a façade, the entrance to the Hawa Mahal is located on a side road near the rear of the building. In case you haven’t already figured it out, a mahal means “palace” in India.
Arguably the two most memorable sites in Jaipur are the Jantar Mantar with its collection of 19 architectural astronomical instruments and the Amber Fort, a massive palace that rests atop the Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles).
Another palace, Jaigarth Fort, located beside the Amber Fort, is connected to its sister by a subterranean escape passage. As such, the complex is regarded as a single structure, giving the impression that the entire hill is dominated by an opulent architectural masterpiece.
Amber Fort is comprised of red sandstone and marble laid out on four levels, each with its own courtyard.
The favorite way to visit the fort is by riding an elephant as it lumbers up the hill. Though motion pictures have a way of making transportation aboard the four-legged behemoths appear to be “exotic,” the sheer size of the animals combined with the swaying of the passenger seat makes the ride anything but comfortable.
India is a country of palaces, but the Jantar Mantar monument is one of a kind in the world. This fabulous collection of amazing astronomical instruments was completed in 1738 and features the world’s largest stone sundial. Built by Rajput King Sawai Jai Singh, the UNESCO World Heritage site incorporates ancient Hindu and Sanskrit texts that create instruments that allow people to observe astronomical positions with the naked eye.
Among the most amazing elements of the collection is the accuracy of the stone sundial with which a trained observer can tell the time within 20 seconds of the actual time.
Like most of the Indian palaces, the astronomical devices are also prodigious in their own way.
Indian temples are usually adorned with sculpted depictions of animals and/or the sexual positions of the Kama Sutra.
Though part of the Golden Triangle, Jaipur may be the least familiar of the trio of destinations when compared to Delhi and Agra with its Taj Mahal. But Jaipur’s vast collection of architectural treasures and its rich, colorful history make it a traveler’s delight.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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