On a jaunt to Jaipur...

Pink City

On a jaunt  to Jaipur...
As you land in Jaipur on a sunny day, the first thing that hits you is that it’s, in fact, a Pink City. The sun reflects off the age-old buildings steeped in history, and introduces you to the old-world charm and culture of the famous  city in Rajasthan.

Jaipur is full of colour. The hustle and bustle of it keeps you on your toes as you go around the place, taking in its myriad sights and sounds. The first stop here has to be the City Palace — built by Maharaj Sawai Jai Singh. As you stroll around the palace, you’ll notice that its architecture is unique as it integrates Rajput, Mughal and European styles into one seamless form, based on vasthu shastra. There are four ornate gates at the palace — Udai Pol, Jaleb Chowk, Tripolia Gate and Virendra Pol. Through the Virendra Pol, you can enter the Mubarak Mahal (Welcome Palace), built in the 19th century only to receive guests. A variety of attires that were used by maharajas are on display here.

In the Diwan-I-Am, the art exhibits showcase a collection of artefacts that have been religiously preserved over the centuries. A handwritten copy of the Bhagavad Gita is perhaps one of the most treasured pieces here. A beautiful space in the palace is the Pitam Niwas Chowk, which showcases four gates that represent four seasons — the Lotus Gate represents summer, and is intricately designed with flowers and petals; the Peacock Gate represents autumn, and colourful peacock motifs come to life; the Rose Gate showcases winter with subdued and less colourful flower patterns; the Green Gate represents spring —when plants come to life again — with its green design.

Atop a hill
An important fort in Jaipur is the hill-top Amber Fort. Opt for the elephant ride up the hill as it gives you a glimpse of how maharajas travelled then, and makes you feel like a king/queen! The city of Jaipur lies beneath the fort and the views are splendid. The Nahargarh Fort also overlooks the city. The ideal time to visit it would be just in time for sunset, which,  seen among the ancient buildings, is quite simply breathtaking.

The Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), a pink sandstone building, is synonymous with the city, and was built by Maharaj Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799. What makes it distinctive is the honeycombed architecture that’s five stories tall. Inside, it’s quite narrow, but because of the 953 lattice windows the breeze through them keeps it cool. Sunrise is the best time to experience the palace in all its glory.

The Pink City also has a few museums that are perfect for history lovers. The Albert Hall Museum houses collections of paintings, jewellery, armour, sculptures, garments etc. The Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, dedicated to Rajasthan’s famous blockprinting technique, is the place to visit if you want customised blockprinted souvenir tees and a cup of coffee. Don’t forget to visit Jantar Mantar, the observatory dedicated to astronomy.
The cuisine in Jaipur is as unique as its architecture, and certain delicacies must be relished — like dal bhatti churma (lentils served with a hard bun and sweetened flour), mawa kachori (sweet puff stuffed with mawa), gatte ki sabzi (gram flour dumplings), mangori (fried lentil nuggets), kadhi (gram flour dal), ker sangri (bean and berry curry). The variety of puris, rotis and naans served here include methi puri, besan ki roti and bajre ki roti.

For those with a sweet tooth, Rajasthani cuisine has a quite a few varieties. One of the items eaten typically for breakfast here is jalebi, with kachori. Mishri mawa (sweet milk pudding) and ghewar (a deep-fried, sweet mawa dish) are the other delicacies.

Scope for shopping
If you want to experience Rajasthani food and culture more, head to Chokhi Dhani Resort, a heritage village just outside Jaipur. There are a host of cultural performances in the evening here — some of which you can take part in — and fine cuisine as well. You can even shop here for local handicrafts.

Jaipur is a paradise for shopaholics. The city is home to the world-renowned Amrapali jewels, which have been seen on even Hollywood actors like Penelope Cruz, Jennifer Hudson, Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry and Jennifer Lopez. Another famous Jaipur shopping stop is Anokhi, which sells both Western and Indian outfits, home textiles and accessories in pure cotton, and silks embellished with blockprinting. Johri Bazaar is the local market to visit for great bargains on Indian wear, sarongs and scarves, along with gems and jewellery. Jaipur quilts, cushion covers, bed sheets and covers make for a good buy. And yes, you must bargain.

If you are a nature and animal lover, then get in touch with Elefantastic, which will take you on elephant safaris. The Sariska National Park is about 107 km outside the city, and the best time to visit it would be between October and March. The interesting sight, Chand Baori, a stepwell often seen in Bollywood films, is an hour’s drive from Jaipur, in the Abhaneri village. Tonk, another village outside the city, is known for its old havelis and mosques.

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