Also known as the “pink city” and built in the 18th century, the City of Jaipur is famous for it’s houses built with pink sandstone for stretches, renowned globally for its pink coloured sandstones, the capital city of Rajasthan combines all the allure of its ancient history with all the advantages of a metropolis that it has to boast of. The bustling modern city is among the three corners of the Golden triangle including Delhi and Agra.
Highly infamous for its sultry summers that make the temperatures rise to even 45°C at just 10 in the morning, Jaipur couldn’t stop me from exploring it. Being a budget traveler, my key intentions were to make most out of a day trip with as little money as possible. I travelled to Jaipur from New Delhi by bus, two way tickets costed Rs 540. From the spot at which the bus dropped the fellow passengers, Hawa Mahal was a 2km walk. I chose to walk down to the same at 8am temperatures hitting 38°C already and took some cliche photographs of the backside.
1. HAWA MAHAL : Literally – “the Palace of Winds”, the Hawa Mahal was built in the late 1700s by the poet king Sawai Pratap Singh as a summer retreat his family which also served as a place where the ladies of the royal household could observe everyday life without being seen. This massive five-storey structure is a blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture, and the exterior, with its small latticed windows (called jharokhas), resemble the crown of Lord Krishna. The windows also serve as an air-conditioner blowing cool air throughout the palace, making it the perfect retreat during summers. Built from pink sandstone, the Hawa Mahal is Jaipur’s iconic landmark and visitors can view its complete magnificence from outside, from across the road. However, it is also possible to climb right up to the top for a wonderful view from the windows. Today, it is maintained by the Archaeological Department of the Government of Rajasthan and also houses an archaeological museum in the courtyard.
2. JAIGARH FORT : One really good thing about Jaipur is Ola autos are really cheap as are ola shares and the like. If you do not want to take local buses, you can opt for these. However, the local autos will almost loot you by asking for Rs 100 for a walkable 2 km. Well, the logic goes that the tourist will go in the auto to the destined location, ask the person to wait and even come back. However, shared e rickshaws are cheap as well. I headed to Jaigarh fort which is a steep 15kms from the main city. The road diverges where on one side there’s Jaigarh fort and Nahargarh fort on the other. It was built sometime in the early 18th century amidst the arid, rocky and thorn-scrub covered hills. Despite its ancient construction, it still retains most of its imposing citadel appearance. You can see the world’s largest cannon – Jaiban, at the fort. I would suggest that you take a guide if you’re a first timer because it’s almost like a maze inside because of the plethora of hidden routes which were functional during the king’s rule. However, if you’re confident enough(like me) and want to save Rs 200,(like all of us) don’t take a guide. Download an audiobook instead! The fort is highly fortified with thick walls of red sandstone and spread over a layout plan with a length of 3 kilometres and also flaunts an impressive square garden within it. The palaces have court rooms and halls with screened windows.
A central watch tower on a raised ground provides excellent vistas of the surrounding landscape. The Aram Mandir and the garden within its courtyard, on the northern side of the fort complex, has a triple arched entrance “The Awani Darwaza” which was refurbished in recent times to get fine views of the Sagar Lake (an artificial lake); water from this lake used to be transported to the fort in pouches loaded on elephant backs and also by humans carrying water pots.
The triple arch gateway with fortification walls above it is painted red and yellow. It is oriented in an east–west direction and faces west. The architectural features are of Indo-Persian style and plastered with lime mortar. There are two temples within the fort precincts, one is the Ram Harihar temple of the 10th century and the other one is the temple of 12th century vintage.
Most of the fort is now no longer open for tourists.
3. BIRLA PLANETARIUM : In my opinion, this is one of the best lookout spots in Jaipur, especially for the students and tourists having an interest in science and astrology. (Even if not, the air conditioning inside is great) Being a part of Birla Institute of Scientific Research, it conducts many sky shows and audio-visual educational programs every day. Among the main activities, Birla Planetarium has designed different astronomical projects and conducts many seminars on celestial mechanics, space science, astrophysics and also about the history of astronomy, famous astronomers, stars, planets. It also train youngs about night sky mysteries, the evolution of earth and universe, planets and their details. A show ticket of 45 minutes will cost you Rs 60.
4. AMBER PALACE FORT : I found the Amer/Amber palace fort to be the most mesmerizing. This magnificent fort comprises an extensive palace complex, built from pale yellow and pink sandstone, and white marble, and is divided into four main sections, each with its own courtyard. It is possible to visit the fortress on elephant-back, but animal welfare groups have criticised the keeping of elephants at Amber because of reports of abuse, and because carrying passengers can cause lasting injuries to the animals. So you can climb up the steps of take a jeep that will cost you Rs 450 per person.
However when you arrive, you will enter Amber Fort through the Sun gate or Suraj pol, which leads to the main courtyard, where returning armies would display their war booty to the populace – women could view this area from the veiled windows of the palace. On the opposite side, you’ll see the Moon gate or Chand pol.
Then come the Sheesh Mahal and the Diwan-e-aam which are the palace of mirrors and the common court. The former has been put under reconstruction while the latter served as a people’s court during the rule of the emperor. Note that there is no entry fee for Amber palace fort but you’ll be charged Rs 100 to enter the Sheesh Mahal, most of which is not for the tourists.
This magnanimous structure is worth every step you climb in this summer heat!
5. NAHARGARH FORT : Another splendid proof of the wealth that our country had, this is the place you should ideally enjoy the sunset from as it majestically stands on the edge of the Aravalli range, overlooking the Pink city. Along with Amber Palace fort and Jaigarh fort, Nahargarh once formed a strong defense ring for the city. The fort was originally named Sudarshangarh, but it became known as Nahargarh, which means ‘abode of tigers‘. The popular belief is that Nahar here stands for Nahar Singh Bhomia,whose spirit haunted the place and obstructed construction of the fort. Nahar’s spirit was pacified by building a temple in his memory within the fort, which thus became known by his name. Now that the bollywood movie has been shot in the premises of the fort, there’s another tag you can put on it.
6. ALBERT HALL MUSEUM :
Maharaja Ram Singh initially wanted this building to be a town hall, but his successor, Madho Singh II, decided it should be a museum for the art of Jaipur and included as part of the new Ram Nivas Garden. The museum has a rich collection of artifacts including paintings, carpets, ivory, stone, metal sculptures, and works in crystal.