By Roger Allnut, Special to the Van Nuys News Press
JAIPUR, INDIA — If there is any city in India that sums up all the elements of this amazing country it is Jaipur, the political and commercial centre of the Rajasthan region.
There are magnificent forts and palaces (some now turned into luxury hotels), crowded and colorful bazaars, brightly dressed women, turbaned village elders, bustling traffic all mixed in with the ubiquitous cows, goats, dogs and camels.
For many visitors with only a short time to explore Jaipur is often combined with Agra and Fatephur Sikri on the ‘Golden Triangle’ tour from the capital Delhi. It is often referred to as the ‘Pink City’ reflecting the color of many of the buildings.
Most notable of these is the wonderful Hawa Mahal, a five story confection of pink sandstone, from the top of which you get great views of the city and the passing parade in the jam-packed bazaars below. The Hawa Mahal is located in a long street (Tripolia Bazaar) bordered with colonnaded shops – a good place to escape the strong sunlight.
Jaipur is known for its jewelry, especially gold and silver and other precious stones like rubies and emeralds, but beware of fakes. Necklaces, trinket boxes and earrings are all superbly crafted by artisans whose skill is passed down over generations. Another regular sight is small shops full of colorful material packed with women selecting cloth for their saris – usually accompanied by bored looking husbands and partners.
The vast City Palace Museum has a varied collection including a lethal looking assortment of armory, spears and knives and weapons all beautifully displayed. There are two huge silver urns reputed to be the biggest silver objects in the world. Other highlights include Mughal carpets, musical instruments, miniature paintings and many royal costumes; parts are the huge complex are still the apartments of the rulers of Jaipur.
Close to the City Palace is Jantar Mantar, an observatory from the early 18th century, containing huge, exotic constructions all devoted to time, the zodiac etc. Some instruments are still used to forecast the arrival and intensity of the monsoon and the possible heat of the coming summer. (Continued on page 7)
(Continued from page 1) — However Jaipur’s premier attraction is the Amber Fort about six miles from the city. Perched on top of a hill (actually Amber is pronounced Amer meaning high) the construction started as a citadel dating from 1592 with additional structures added in the 17th century. From the large open area below there is a long path to the entrance but most tourists take the organised elephant ride to reach the fort – although the queue for a ride is usually long it moves very quickly but beware the ‘drivers’ try to con you for extra fees for their services.
The fort has numerous courtyards and passageways leading to a myriad of rooms and from the ramparts are panoramic views of the surrounding countryside including Maota Lake and some temples, havelis (private mansions) and stepwells. Inside there are superb examples of inlaid panels and delicately carved marble reliefs.
There are many other attractions including Moti Doongri Palace, the white marbled Lakshmi Narayan Temple and Jawahar Kala Kendra a ‘design centre’ highlighting local textiles and handicrafts.
Visiting Jaipur — Although there are hotels of international chains such as Holiday Inn, Marriott and Four Posts by Sheraton Jaipur is famous for the number of superb hotels and resorts built in the style of maharajas palaces or forts.
Top of the range include Taj Rambagh Pa;ace (www.tajhotels.com/, Oberoi Rajvillas (www.oberoihotels.com), Royal Heritage Haveli (www.royalheritagehaveli.com) and the Chokhi Dhani Resort (www.chokhidhaniresort.com). Another good choice and less expensive is Shahpura House (www.shahpurahouse.com)
There are hundreds of restaurants in Jaipur serving the whole gamut of cuisines. However try the tasty thali – a selection of dishes – for the best local experience.
The best time to visit Jaipur is from November to March as it becomes very hot in summer. For more information check the Indian tourism site www.incredibleindia.org Jaipur is easily reached by plane from Delhi and is also connected to other popular Rajasthan cities like Jodhpur and Udaipur. However the train from Delhi is also a good means of transport.