Today we said goodbye to Ranthambore and headed off to Jaipur. While the distance was only about 190 km, it was a 4 hour drive because of a)highway construction (crazy zigzagging on and off the roadway) b) the fact that we had to drive through a number of small towns and c) the sacred cows are found on the roads anywhere and everywhere…yes even the highway!
Going through the towns you could see everyone getting ready for the biggest festival celebration today, the Festival of Lights. Here we see trucks loaded with veg, and the market stalls selling produce for feasting today.
We also see below, a table filled with marigold necklaces that people were buying to blest their homes, cars, bikes, whatever. We also saw mounds of sugar cane, purchased to feed the sacred elephant as well as special bundles of grass brought in that could be purchased and fed to the wandering cows. Everybody gets blessing and good food on Diwali Festival of Lights!
Our countryside driving was over as we approached the Amber Fort, just outside of Jaipur. This was the original capital and a huge fort was constructed included a wall fortification that is over 3.5 KM long that surrounds the palace and fort. We stopped to take photos of the fort from a distance to get a feel for the truly massive size and scale of this project.
While outside the fort we saw a man playing a flute and mesmerizing a cobra. He asked if I wanted to touch it, and I said NO THANKS!!!
The Raj was a fan of riding elephants, so all the gates accommodated the height of an elephant. Here you see tourists going for an elephant ride exiting the Sun Gate of the palace. In the background, you can just make out part of the wall defence system.
The palace was constructed on multiple levels, with the entrance off the Moon Gate or Sun Gate to the Public square. From the public square we then headed up to the next level which was the start of the main palace. The entrance was a magnificent gate that had once been ornately decorated with frescos.
Once inside the palace, this first level held the Hall of Public Audiences.
From here we got a beautiful view of the Amber city below.
And of the Main Courtyard where returning armies would display their booty to the populace!
The maharajah’s apartments are located on the third level which is entered by way of the Ganesh Gate, decorated beautifully with frescoes arches which are much better preserved than the fort gate as they mixed gemstone dust into the pigments to make them last. Look above the gate to the sandstone carved screening where the Raj’s wives would look out as the Raj returned from battle, throwing rose petals out the small window in the centre.
On this level we saw the Hall of Victory noted for its inlaid mirrored panels and ceiling. It is said that the light of one candle could illuminate the entire hall making it sparkle like diamonds. A truly amazing example of the artistry of this period.
Turning from the hall, we could see the beautiful private garden of the Raj and his family.
The next level held the sleeping “palaces for each of the Raj’s 12 wives as well as his bed chamber. Throughout the palace there were amazing feats of engineering – cooling water walls for the summer heat, marble jacuzzi like baths, warming tanks of water to ensure both the baths were the right temperature as well as provide some heating in the cooler months. A true heritage sight indeed!
When we left the Amber fort we made a quick stop to view the Water Palace. This building was established providing 3 underground floors for the treasury which was topped by enough earth to create a central garden sustaining trees. No one would ever guess that it housed the Raj’s money!
Our next stop was to one of the block printing shop famous in Jaipur. Here we see a printer busy creating a multicoloured fabric all by hand!
From here we entered the old city, which was the first “planned city” created by Raj Jai Singh II. All main streets were to be 108’ across while cross streets were 54’. Pretty enlighten for 1727 when construction began! In 1876 the reigning Raj had the entire city painted pink in honour of the visit by the Prince of Wales. Today, all residents are compelled by law to maintain the pink colour of their buildings.
Our next stop was at a fascinating hand block printing shop. Printing and gem cutting were skills brought into the new city by Raj Singh II. He felt that the way to occupy his citizens was to give them jobs, and so created these trades for this city. To this day, Jaipur is known as the gem city around the world.
In this shop fabrics were hand printed with one to 5 or more colours. They reminded me very much of some of the Liberty prints, and the shopkeeper told me that they indeed do printing for Liberty’s! It was fascinating to watch the fabric come to life!
From there we visited the City Palace, where the current royal family live. We saw a number of beautiful outfits made for the various Raj’s as well as a pashmina carpet that was almost 400 years old and still looked new! Such wonderful history, so rich in artisanal gifts.
Jai Singh II not only built Jaipur, but he also established the Astrological Park, devoted to structures that advanced there knowledge of time and celestial movement. Pretty amazing to have a sundial that is accurate to 2 seconds!
On the way back to our hotel we made a quick stop to see the wind palace. A facade made from sandstone gave privacy yet comfortable temperatures!
We made it back to our hotel ready for a nap! What a day, and the celebrations for Diwali were just starting! Dan and I decided to dine on the rooftop of our hotel and saw the random fireworks display that mark this night with the Festival of Lights. People from all over this 4 M plus city had their own fireworks and let them off randomly around the city. They started around 6:30, and we left the rooftop at 9:30 and they are still going. Imagine everything I said about the chaotic order that is the Indian way of driving, and giving all those drivers fireworks! Sure puts on a great show though! ( a few went sideways inbetween buildings…maybe that’s what the fire trucks were answering!)
Well, it’s been a long day, so I’d better get this out. Tomorrow we fly back to Delhi where we’ll take some time seeing this city before heading off to Nepal the next day. Until then!