I dunno, I just liked Jaipur from minute 1. Don’t get me wrong, there are still touts who hassle you, but not to the same extent as in Delhi and Varanasi. Jaipur is the capital city of Rajasthan, and is a comparably small city with just over 3 million population with good infrastructure, very clean and somehow more ordered than any other Indian city I have visited. You could definitely feel the calmness of life there and even the traffic was less aggressive. You can read more on Jaipur here, but this post will just give you a glimpse of the few places I visited during my few days there, in addition to the fab cooking class I took from Suman of course.
The first place I visited was the Birla Temple, a Hindu temple built of white marble which was constructed in the late 1980s by a couple of local businessmen. It is a really stunning temple (you’ll remember I had been out off of Hindu temples since Varanasi) but I broke the rule on this one. It’s located high on a hill, you cannot miss it. Fortunately for me, I arrived early enough in the morning to attend the morning blessing which was a spectacle in itself. People arrived in their droves, chanting and singing, making offerings and the holy men sprinkling us with blessed water. Pretty neat experience. No photos allowed inside as it is a place of worship, but this gives you an idea of the opulent temple made of white marble. Ok, problems again with uploading photos, I’ll save them for another post.
I also visited the Albert Museum which I just loved, I spent hours there going through the many paintings, sculptures, textiles and carpets. There was so much to see in just a glorious building . The few photos I have are of the features of the building, decorative walls, breezy courtyards, domed walkways and carved window frames with use of colours only the Indians can put together. I love the bold colours they use, the strong features of all their architecture … there are certainly no shrinking violets when it comes to Indian architects.
The City Palace is also an amazing place to visit. It is expansive, with something to see at every turn. In fact it can be a tad overwhleming but it is worth it to persevere. I visited every exhibit except I gav ethe temple a skip (my bad). Again I just loved the architecture, and how smart they were at catching the cooling breezes in glass-less window frames with wood or stone carved coverings (to stop the pigeons coming in). In fact many of the doorways & entrances each have netting to deter the pigeons. The Palace has many staff all dressed up in Maharaj days in their white with red ceremonial turbans – very dashing. You’ll see a photo of them too once I can post the photos I promise.
I met a French lady at the guesthouse I was staying at, and she recommended two places to visit. First Hawa Mahal otherwise known at the Palace of Winds. When I arrived the door seemed to be locked up despite the website saying it was open that day, so I had to do with taking a photo of the outside of the building. It was built in the late 1700s with beautifully carved windows facing the street so that the royal ladies could check out day to day life outside the palace. It would have been neat to get in there and check out the view, but it was not meant to be that day.
The second place she recommended was the Jantar Mantar, an observatory close by to the City Palace. I am not much of an astronomer so was unsure how much I would get from a visit there ….. I was entranced! Really really interesting stuff, and so amazing at how accurate their instruments are without the aid of technology. Eddy S – you would have loved it! I took some photos of the instruments themselves, along with the write-up, you’ll have a greater chance of being educated if I leave it to the experts to explain. Actually, the ingenuity reminded me of the engineering I saw a few years back in the Cusco region of Peru.
I went early one morning to the stunning Amber Fort (also known as the Amer Fort) which is just a little outside of town. A narrow road leads up to it and then all of a sudden, the fort reveals itself from the red hillside it is built on. Very impressive again, huge amount of detail in the decoration of the fort – the Hall of Mirrors was like a detailed mosaic like application …. it must have taken years to complete. The fort is dead impressive, and filled with many different parts to it, each with it’s own uniqueness. The link will give you lots of info, and photos …. had I been able to post my own photos, I could have at least attempted to explain. The fort also had a steam bath (made of marble of course) and again windows with carved stone covers to allow the cool breezes through. And around the corner what looked like primitive toilets – two slits made in the marble and a deep drop underneath. No one could tell me for sure but if any of you readers have visited Crete, particularly Knossos, you would recognize the slits for what they really are!
In between all these tourist sites, a girl has to cool off somewhere. Lassiwalla is an infamous lassi shop in Jaipur that’s been around for 50 years or so. It was recommended that I go there to try one out. It’s been so successful that 3 more Lassiwalla’s have set up around the original store, so when you arrive, you are faced with having to figure out which store is the original. I was told to look for the building number 312 and that would direct me to the original store. They make all kinds of lassi but my favourite are the salted lassis (I have more of a savoury than a sweet tooth). They serve them in clay pots maybe about 200ml in size and taste delish. A must if you are ever visiting Jaipur.
Another must if you are a textile geek, is the Anokhi Museum. Actually, you don’t have to be a textile geek, if you have any interest in artisanal work at all, I suggest you go there. I spent over 3 hours at the museum itself. The building is stunning, a renovated haveli which basically was once the home of nobility. Hand blocking is a dying art due to the technological advances and it’s being single-handedly resurrected by an English lady names Rachel Bracken-Singh along with her husband. …… There were some beautiful examples of the various types of fabric used to apply the handcarved blocks to provide the design. It was fortunate that one of the block carvers was there doing his thing up on the roof, catching those cool breezes. He showed me a rather complex block he was currently carving and then in less than 8 mins, carved a simple flower block for me using all manual tools to do so. The wood used is teak which I believe to be a hard wood, but it was like putty in his hands. There was also a block printer working away too, so he stepped up to show me how to block print, and I gave it a go on some practice pieces which was pretty neat – I was not too bad! It’s basically layering of colours and designs so you really need to know what your end goal is, before you get started. I have some great photos of this museum and will post them when I next get a decent internet connection, I promise.
I have since left Jaipur and returned to the chaos of Delhi. I was sorry to leave the city, I could have stayed there longer. It is a cultural city and it being monsoon time, there is not much on. I had just missed a play being performed at the local cultural centre – apparently it is half English / half Hindi so I probably would have got much of it – but alas the run was finished. Given there was so much to see and do in Jaipur, I also missed out on seeing a Bollywood movie at the local cinema which I would have liked to experience. May I’ll try to do that here in Delhi now that I am here.
I am off to Agra tomorrow to see the famous Taj Mahal, I cannot visit Delhi and be this close without going to see it, so tomorrow is the day for the day trip there & back …. by train of course. I am getting a dab hand at these train rides here in India 🙂