Adorned with pink sandstone palaces, majestic forts and verdant green gardens against a scenic backdrop of the Aravalli hills, Jaipur represents the charm of India’s rich past and the sophistication of a flourishing metropolis. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II founded the city in 1727, when he decided to shift his capital from Amer. A renowned architect, astronomer, and avid scientist, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II built his capital with geometric precision and made Jaipur one of the most well planned cities in India. Today, his architectural genius is on display in almost every part of the old city and especially at Jantar Mantar and Amer Fort.
The documented history of Jaipur begins in the early 18th century, when Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II reigned over this part of Rajasthan and was at the peak of his reign. Due to the scarcity of water in his when he decided to shift his capital from Amer to Jaipur. The reason behind his decision was mainly due to the water scarcity faced by the growing population of his subjects.
Like other Rajput rulers before him, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II had strong alliances with the Mughal rulers of Delhi and had aided them in winning many battles. Handsomely rewarded by the Mughals for their bravery, the Kachhwaha Rajputs including Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II had added much to their treasury. This aided him with all the finance required to built a new city from scratch.
As a man of great learning with considerable knowledge of architecture, science, astronomy, and math, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II planned the construction and development of the city with intricate detail. In the mammoth planning exercise, her was assisted by the very talented architect, Vidyadhar Bhattacharya. Between these two talented men and the ancient principles of Indian architecture, Shilpa Shastra to guide them, the city of Jaipur soon began to take shape.
The original layout of the city is rectangular, with nine block divisions: the two central blocks served as residences of the royal family and venue for conducting state affairs, while the remaining seven were divided according to caste. 20-feet tall walls intercepted by 10 gates enclosed the entire city as a defense mechanism from the attacks of any invaders.
The royal blocks featured the City Palace complex with its palace, janana mahals (palaces for the women of court), administrative quarters, and the Jantar Mantar. A keen astronomer, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II designed and commissioned this observatory, which is still acknowledged as one of the largest of its kind in the world.
The public transport system in Jaipur is relatively good and can a good way to tour the city, especially if you wish to experience the its true charm. You can take an adventurous tonga ride or opt for a cycle-rickshaw for short distances. Besides being easier on the pocket, it also allows you to take in the city’s dynamic beauty in leisure. The bustling shops with their vibrant wares, the crowded streets with its mélange of colorful turbans and ghagras weaving in and out of the crowds, and the by-lanes filled with spicy aroma of the local cuisine wafting in the air – experience all these in leisure if you are in Jaipur for more than two days.
Else hop on to an auto-rickshaw and zip around the city, weaving in and out of the traffic and going in and out of various by lanes. Fix the price before you sit and drive off in an auto. Or, insist on seeing the fare chart if you are taking a metered ride to avoid being fleeced! The amount shown on the meter is not the actual amount to be paid and there are some complicated formulae to arrive at the actual fare; drivers usually have their fare charts and the amount in the meter can be translated to the actual amount with the help of the fare chart.
Another alternative, especially for trips to Amer and Jaigarh forts would be to hire a cab or rental taxi. As with the auto rickshaws, fix the price in advance to avoid any unpleasant surprises at the end of the day. Another issue that tourists face is that many drivers of cycle rickshaws, autos and cabs may try to take you shopping at stores and emporiums where they get paid a commission. Usually a firm no is enough to stop such ‘excursions’.
The roads in Jaipur despite being wide can get choked with traffic especially during peak hours, so plan your trips accordingly, or opt to take a walk wherever possible to save time. Walking allows you to enjoy each aspect of Jaipur in leisure, with stops at the intriguing shops and restaurants.
Shopping in Jaipur can be an exhilarating experience. With marketplaces or bazaars as old as the city itself, the old city thrives on the energy and exuberance of the shopkeepers and equally enthusiastic shoppers. Matching the vibrancy of these traditional markets are the new-generation, air-conditioned malls featuring a range of branded goods and other designer products.
Gem stone jewelry, of both precious and semi-precious stones, textiles featuring amazing designs including hand-block-prints, hand embroidered, and tie-and-dye designs, ornate rugs, and a wide range of crafts including blue pottery pieces await shoppers here.
Some of the most popular bazaars in the Old city that are worth a visit include Sireh Deori Bazaar, Johari Bazaar and Baapu Bazaar for textiles and crafts and Gopalji ka Raasta and Haldiyon ka Raasta for jewelry. In the new city, it is the M.I. Road that houses the big showrooms. Tourists can also visit the government-run Rajasthali at Ajmeri Gate, the Rajasthan Cottage Industries at Shilpgram Complex and the Rajasthan Small Scale Cottage Industries in Amer.