I was never a history buff. Yet during my schooling and preparations of Civil services, I was continuously bombarded with historical facts and figures. King 'X' had 'y' number of queens. Name them and their respective sons. 1st battle of 'ABC', 2nd battle of 'ABC', and so on, with their respective number of soldiers, victors and vanquished, a pinch of treachery here, a bit of connivance there... It was like being strapped into a straitjacket, iron chains around the ankles, falling into the unfathomable depths of oceans. And I never possessed the finesse and dexterity of Harry Houdini , or for that matter, Hardeen. Hence deeper and deeper I went every time I had such an encounter.
Medieval history particularly meant troubled waters for me. So many battles, rulers with similar names and matching contributions in the field of battle, art and administration. The distinction blurred. Specifically the Rajput clans. I hope I am able to strike a chord with at least some of you. Otherwise I would be left alone to my hence proved ignorance and imbecility.
And so I could not be blamed if I went into a reverie, lost in nostalgic memories of all those dull classrooms and boring books, as I entered the Jaipur of Sawai Jai Singh II (score!) What particularly impressed me were the beautifully maintained roads, interwoven in a grid pattern making it easy to commute and remember the way around and the state of cleanliness.
And the CLEAR BLUE SKY! This was probably the most distinguishing feature of Jaipur for me. It was so pleasantly different from Delhi.
ACCOMMODATION in Jaipur: Since we stayed in three different places during our stay, I think I am permitted to speak out my mind.
Tip: Stay in the Malviya Nagar or Himmat Nagar area. The benefit is you are away from the rush of the tourists thronging the area around Pink City. Travelling from Delhi, you could bypass the city by following the NH-8 bypass which would help you reach here comfortably. And if you want to go to Ajmer, you could always take the NH-8 and be there in two hours.
The Albert Hall Museum: This is probably the most beautiful and multi-cultural attraction of the city of Jaipur. With the foundation stone of the the Hall laid during the visit of Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, it was Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II who approved the use as a museum. The exhibits ranged from an Egyptian Mummy (what??) to beautiful illustrations of Panchtantra; musical instruments to arms and armours; blue pottery to exquisite carpets; and so on.
- If you are planning to visit all the attractions in Jaipur like Hawa Mahal, Amer Fort etc, you could opt for the composite tickets being sold here. It would save you lots of trouble.
- The courtyards and the gate opposite to the main entry are good spots for clicking away!
- Take an audio guide with you if you are on a quest here. You could take the audio guide either at the ticket counter or inside the museum also.
Amer Fort: Listed in the World Heritage Sites in 2013, the Amer Fort attracts the maximum number of domestic and international tourists every year. The Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Aam, Sheesh Mahal and Ganesh Pol are some of the best attractions of this fort. If you have seen Jodha Akbar the movie, starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai, you would remember the sword fight sequence between them and the shot where Jodha cooks for Akbar in a kadhai (big utensil). They were shot here. Although we had expected to ride an elephant to the fort, it was so crowded that we found it difficult even to navigate on foot.
- Start early for Amer Fort, around 7 from your hotel. The rush increases by the afternoon. Cover Nahargarh Fort and Jaigarh Fort while returning from Amer Fort.
- Take a govt. guide with you, specially if there is a lot of rush. He will save you the effort and time of standing in queue for ticket. Standard rate prevailing at our time was Rs. 300.
- Try the restaurants on the other side of the entry/exit gate of the fort for Rajasthani daal, baati choorma.
Chokhi Dhani (Rajasthan in a nutshell): Located on Tonk Road on the other side of the city, Chokhi Dhani could be called an attempted microcosm of all that Rajasthan is. It brings together the food, fairs, folk dance, puppetry, music and the entire gamut of history and culture of Rajasthan.
- Park your car on the other side of the road in the free parking area if you have a driver.
- There is no entry fee but coupons for thalis need to be purchased and shown at the entry.
- Look out for free helpings of rabri etc.
- Since it is located on the other side of the city, and not many attractions at Jaipur are open at night, try coming here after sunset.
- Come here on an empty stomach. You'll need it.
- Since they serve dinner in groups make sure you read the time written on your receipt correctly, and adhere to it, to avoid standing at the back of a long serpentine queue.
City Palace: Located right next to the Hawa Mahal, it was another icon initiated by Sawai Jai Singh II. It boasts of a museum (with night visiting hours also), an armoury, a Sabha Niwas (Darbar Hall), a Textile Gallery and much more. What I particularly liked was that a decorated Christmas tree was standing proudly in the center, a stark example of India's composite culture and religious tolerance.
- The market outside boasts of some amazing jaipuriya quilts.
- Don't click pictures in the armory. Prohibition signs abound. Yet I was almost fined.
- You could visit the museum at night and also enjoy the light show.
The local bazaars (markets): No visit to Rajasthan is complete if you haven't strolled through all the markets to your heart's content. Probably a paradise for the girls and women. Bangles of bapu bazaar, jaipuriya quilts of johari bazaar, chinaware in loha Mandi behind tripolia bazaar are local legends.
Jaigarh Fort & Nahargarh Fort: Both these forts are located near the Amer Fort. While Jaigarh Fort houses the biggest cannon of the world, the uneventful baoli (water harvesting tanks) situated at Nahargarh Fort is pretty picturesque. The shooting of a famous scene from Rand De Basanti was done here.
Hawa Mahal: Located in the heart of Pink City, the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) is famous for its jharokhas (windows). Built of red and pink sandstone, it was meant to be used by Rajput royal ladies to observe the happenings in the street without being observed by prying eyes.
Some random clicks:
Did reading this post make you want to visit Jaipur?? I would love to hear from you.
Happy travels! :)