While evoking visions of royalty and romance, Jaipur is blessed with an intrinsic sense of style and panache that effortlessly entices all who enter her inviting land.
BY ANITA RAO KASHI
Among all the epithets that many Indian cities have earned for themselves, Jaipur probably has the prettiest and most endearing
one—the Pink City—in recognition of its iconic pink stucco buildings casting a rosy hue over the landscape. Redolent with royalty, heritage, and enchantment, Rajasthan’s capital is, possibly, the ultimate city for romance and adventure. Not surprisingly, it expresses a distinctive flamboyance in its many offerings—historical treasures, bustling shopping scene, delectable cuisine, and even forest trails—sure to attract all visitors.
Jaipur is an antiquity lover’s dream come true! The historic centre, packed with centuries-old heritage monuments, is awe-inspiring.
The grand 18th-century City Palace, a sprawling complex, exhibits
a dazzling amalgamation of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles
in its many gardens and edifices. The intricately carved Mubarak Mahal, now converted into a textile museum, and the charming Chandra Mahal, a seven-storey mansion, are exceptional in their
grace and opulence. One can easily spend half a day just exploring
the many structural masterpieces here.
Just around the corner from this grand palace is the world renowned, terracotta-hued Hawa Mahal (Palace of Breeze), made of red sandstone and featuring 953 windows! Also nearby is Jantar Mantar,
a remarkable astronomical observatory built in the 18th century to measure time, predict eclipses, and track planetary positions. It also hosts the world’s largest sundial, along with several geometric instruments used to determine celestial coordinate systems. It’s a
truly remarkable sight. The architectural treasures of a princely state like Rajasthan, but of course, include many forts, as well. Jaipur alone has two.
Towards the north of the city is Nahargarh Fort, built in the mid 18th century and part of the region’s defence system. While comparatively small, it offers spectacular panoramic views of Man Sagar Lake and the city. More rewarding and impressive, however, is the majestic Amer or Amber Fort. Located at the top of a hill and overlooking Maota Lake, this massive, red-sandstone and marble edifice showcases a mix of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles with its large ramparts, wide cobbled paths, mammoth gates, and beautiful gardens. The fort is spread across four levels, each of which has a spacious courtyard, exquisite pillars and arches, beautiful sculptures, lavish carvings and jaali work, frescoes, and murals.
The glittering mirrors and colourful glass mosaics of Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace) are a sight to behold! Set in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, the serenely picturesque Jal Mahal (Water Palace) is, arguably, one of the most beautiful palaces in the world.
It’s a well-known fact that Jaipur is home to a profusion of distinctive tastes, clothing styles, accessories, and cuisines that seem to tempt all that enter her welcoming environs. A shopper’s paradise, the old city, especially, has a warren of vibrantly colourful streets selling a wide range of items, such as handicrafts, antiques, jewellery, semi-precious and precious gems, pottery, carpets, textiles, metalwork, leatherware, and more. In addition to the all-in-one bazaars, Jaipur, as with most cities with a rich past, has age-old markets known for specific products. These seem to line the walls of every shop in that neighbourhood in a colourful extravaganza.
For instance, the famous Johari Bazaar is renowned for its traditional jewellery; Tripolia Bazaar is the main centre for glass and lac bangles, as well as silver jewellery; Nehru Bazaar features stunning mojaries and jutis (types of shoes); Chandpole Bazaar boasts an amazing selection of handicrafts and puppets; while Amer Road showcases elegant blue pottery. Of course, there are several modern retail options, too. The upscale C-Scheme district, which houses an array of boutiques and premium stores such as Nila House, Suvasa, and RASA, is certain to satiate the most discerning fashion appetite.
Speaking of appetites, there’s no doubting the excellence and abundance of versatile flavours on offer in this equally versatile city. The immensely popular Lakshmi Misthan Bhandar in Johari Bazaar is known for its snacks and sweets, as well as its special Rajasthani fare and famous dal baati churma (a spicy lentils dish with wheat rolls). Must-trys here include gatte ki sabzi (gravy-based gram-flour dish), bajra roti, khichri (a rice and lentils dish) and the thali. Rawat Kachori, close to the bus stand, is famed for its lip-smacking onion kachoris.
For the best laal maas (spicy mutton gravy) in town, there’s no place better than the Handi Restaurant. Although the spice factor of the dish is quite high! The lavish Rajasthani thali at Surya Mahal at the Oberoi Rajvilas is an experience in itself. As are the other local dishes on offer here, such as mirch ki kadhi (a green chilli gravy), Jodhpuri laal maas, shikar gosht (mutton dishes), and junglee murgi (a chicken dish).
Jaipur can at once enthral and overwhelm. However, due to intelligent city planning and natural settings, there are many quiet nooks and peaceful spaces, as well. Central Park is one such place. While it has nothing in common with the one in New York, Jaipur’s version is centrally located and sprawling, nevertheless. It has jogging and walking tracks, a musical fountain, and an assortment of statues that make for interesting conversation starters. The pretty Sisodia Rani Bagh, where the eye is drawn to the magnificent palace in the centre, and the surrounding multi-level gardens, fountains, and pavilions, has been aesthetically designed to create a pleasantly peaceful ambience.
The outskirts of the city are blessed with forested areas, rich in wildlife and dotted with ancient structures. Among these, the mighty Nahargarh Fort and the ruins of the Achrol Fort overlook the verdant Aravalli Range. Nearby, Jhalana Wildlife Sanctuary, known for its leopards, is a paradisiacal jungle escape, home to peacocks, deer, and other wild fauna. A vision in pinks, greens, blues and many other hues, Jaipur is truly mesmerising from every angle
Vistara has daily direct flights between Jaipur and Mumbai.