Fond of exploring architectural marvels? Want to be familiar with palaces and have an insight on the lifestyle of the rulers of the bygone Rajput era? Jaipur – the capital of Rajasthan state, popularly acknowledged as the ‘Pink City’, and ‘Paris of India’ is the perfect choice to plan a short weekend getaway with your family and friends.
Jaipur is one of the most popular tourist place in India as well as in Asia (voted number 7th under must visit places in Asia). Drenched in history and culture, here the past comes alive in magnificent forts and palaces where once the Maharajas lived.
Jaipur was founded on 18th November 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, a Kachawaha Rajput, who ruled from 1699-1744. Initially his capital was Amber (now pronounced as Amer) which was positioned at a distance of 11 km from Jaipur. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II shifted his capital city because of safety reasons as it was likely to be attacked by a Mughal King – Bahadur Shah after the death of Aurangzeb. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, a great astronomer also had good knowledge of Indian Vastu, which is the reason why the architecture of Jaipur apart from being awe-inspiring serves as a perfect role-model for modern contemporary architects because of its technical details and beauty.
The pink color of the city also has a history of its own. In 1876, the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on a tour. Since pink denotes the color of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur decided to paint the whole city pink to welcome his guests. The tradition has been sincerely followed by the residents who are now, by law, compelled to maintain that very same pink color. It is one city that, even after modernization, still clasps to its roots and values.
Jaipur being the cultural hub of India is a strikingly vibrant city. The culture of Jaipur is abundantly reflected through its bustling bazaars famous for it’s Rajasthani jewellery, fabric and shoes possessing a timeless quality that you are sure to be smitten with! This fascinating city with its romantic charm takes you to an epoch of royalty and tradition. Most important structures in the city are the City Palace, Hawa Mahal, Amber Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Nahargarh Fort and Jal Mahal. Apart from the forts, the city is also full of temples such as Birla Temple or Lakshmi Narayan Mandir, Govind Dev Ji temple, Swaminarayan Mandir and Moti Doongri Temple.
The energetic culture of Jaipur is also noticeable in local festivals and fairs of Jaipur like the Gangaur Festival, Kite Festival, and Teej Festival. The colourful clothes and the heavy jewellery of the women folk are true examples of India’s colorful culture. The most popular dances of the city include the Ghoomar dance and the Chari dance, where the dancers dance with a pot on their head and a lighted diya in their hand depicting the modesty that the city inculcates. Rajasthani music when played with traditional instruments like Sarangi, Ektara, Jhalar and Garasiays coupled with Rajasthani dance create a atmosphere for a perfect evening. The culture of the city is also reflected through its cuisine for which Jaipur is famous for – like mangodi, papad, khichdi, buttermilk, sohan halwa and other delicacies.
Thus and thus, Jaipur’s culture is a well blend of tradition and modernization- it shows colors of Rajasthani culture at one hand, and cosmopolitan on other -the culture of Jaipur gives an individual a idea not only about the tradition of Rajasthan, but also of the culture of India as a whole.
In Jaipur, there is unquestionably a lot to see and do, here’s a listing of some prominent tourist spots in and around the city.
- Hawa Mahal
The palace of winds -a fascinating landmark of Rajasthan, was built in the 18th century(1799) by Maharaja Sawai pratap Singh and is indeed the most remarkably designed monument in Jaipur. The 5 storied stunning semi-octagonal monument having 152 windows with over hanging lattice balconies is a fine piece of Rajput architecture. Primarily, the Hawa Mahal was designed for the royal ladies to watch and enjoy the processions and other activities on the street below. Now, it houses a well laid out museum. The display ‘Jaipur past and present’ is the special feature of this newly setup museum. Open from 10:00 a.m. to 04:30 p.m., the monument can be visited by paying a nominal fee of 10 Rs for Indians and 50 Rs. for foreign nationals.
- Amber Fort
Located amidst the picturesque Aravalli Hills, Amber Palace is a not-to-be-missed place in Jaipur. The magnificence of Amber Fort is a fascinating evidence of the grandeur of ancient times. It is a fine blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture. With entry fee of Rs 25 for Indians and Rs. 150 for foreign nationals, the visitors can witness the solemn dignity of Amber Fort’s red sandstone and white marble pavilions, which when reflected in the lake at the foot hill creates a sight to behold! The original palace was built by Raja Man Singh and the additional extensions were built by Maharaja Mirja Raja Jai Singh and Sawai Jai Singh. Travellers can commute without any difficulty as a bus leaves from Hawa Mahal every 30 minutes through a well-laid out road taking the visitors out of the city to witnesses lush green hills and the beautiful water palace-set in the centre of Lake Mansagar . Amber fort is accessible to view from 08:00 a.m. to 05:30 p.m.
- Jaigarh Fort
The massive Jaigarh Fort was built in 1726 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh and holds great appeal for military lovers. It accommodates the world’s largest cannon on wheels and is one of the best-preserved military structures of medieval India. The western skyline is dominated by the extensive parkotas (walls), watchtowers and gateways of Jaigarh – which also enclose palaces, gardens, open and covered reservoirs, a granary, an armory, a well planned cannon foundry and temples. One can visit the Jaigarh Fort with a nominal entry fee of 25 Rs for Indians and 200 Rs. for foreign nationals between 10:00 a.m. to 04:30 p.m. Want to catch a glimpse of a better view over the plains? Climb the Diwa Burj watchtower.
- Nahargarh Fort
Built by Jai Singh II, Nahargarh Fort was originally named Sudarshangarh, and was later renamed as Nahargarh or the Abode of Tigers. Rooms in this fort are connected through common corridors and are well furbished with delicate walls and ceiling paintings. The royal families used this fort as a popular destination for their summer excursions and picnics. Jungles around Nahargarh Fort are popular for hunting purposes. Situated 15 kilometers from Jaipur beyond the hills of Jaigarh, much of the original structure of the fort is in ruins but still Nahargarh offers a scenic view of the city below, which can be witnessed from 09:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.(Indians: 10 Rs/ Foreign Nationals: 50 Rs).
- City Palace
Located in the heart of the old city of Jaipur, occupying about one-seventh of the old city area, the City Palace offers a perfect fusion of Mughal and Rajasthani culture. The marvel is divided into a series of courtyards, gardens and buildings and numerous additions that were made by Jai Singh’s successors to keep the amplitude of the Rajputs alive. Constructed during 1729-1732, under the supervision of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II – Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal comprise the major portion of the city palace whereas, Udai Pol, Jaleb Chowk, Tripolia Gate and Virendra Pol pose as the entrances to the palace. Embossed with fine artworks and engravings, every corner of this palace is filled with age-old imprints from the past. Entry fee to visit City Palace is Rs 35 for locals and Rs 150 for foreign nationals.
- Jal Mahal
It was during the Rajput era that India had seen some of the glorious forts and palaces. Jal Mahal or the Water Palace is one of the classic names in the list of Rajputana architecture that redefined beauty and allurement. Located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake, this palace is a fusion of Mughal and Rajput styles of architecture. Built in red sandstone, Jal Mahal is a five-storey building, of which four storeys remain underwater when the lake is filled – this unerringly offers a breathtaking view of the palace and makes it one of the best Jaipur tourist places. Located in the middle of the lake, traditional boats are used to reach the palace. The clear water of the lake and the scenic Aravalli mountain range dotting this palace offer a splendid view of the Jal Mahal. Inviting its guests to experience its magic, the Mahal is open to visit from 06:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. with 50 Rs entry fee for local as well as foreign national.
Jaipur, popularly referred to as the Pink City, is immensely famous for its diversified fairs and festivals it rejoices throughout the year. Every region of Rajasthan has its own form of folk entertainment, songs, traditions, dressing sense, etc. which reflect true Indian diversity. Also, the people of Rajasthan are well known for their warm welcome, delicacies, traditional attires, culture and rituals. Irrespective of caste and creed, people come together and enjoy the festivals and fairs held in the state. In the capital city of Rajasthan, festivals such as Teej, Diwali, Gangaur, Kite Festival, Elephant Festival, Camel Festival, etc. are celebrated with great zeal and joy.
- Kite Festival
Adore kite flying? Don’t miss out the kite festival held on 14th January every year in Jaipur. Without any doubt, it is the best place to be for all kite-lovers as the pink city looks even more colorful when the kites take over the sky. Also referred as Makarr Sankranti, the festival indicates the farmers that the sun is back and the harvest season is approaching .
- Camel Festival
Plan a two day road/rail trip from Jaipur to Bikaner to experience the enticing and bewitching sight of beautifully adorned camels. The Camel Festival organized by the Department of Tourism of the Rajasthan Government in January (Bikaner) every year begins with a colorful procession of ornamented camels against the red sandstone backdrop of the Junagarh Fort. Also held in this festival is a tug-of-war contest, best breed competition, camel dance and acrobatics . The camels display amazing footwork and graceful dance to the directions of their trainers. In the evenings a traditional rendezvous of renowned artistes and folk performers is also conducted.
- Elephant Festival
Play holi in a bizarre way! The elephant festival held on the eve of Holi in Jaipur has several interesting attractions linked with it, like elephant polo and tug-of-war. The festival begins with a procession of elephants, camels, horses and folk dancers where the elephants are adorned with bright colors, saddle cloth and heavy jewellery casting a pleasant sight for its guests. A prize is also given for the most well-decorated elephant in the festival.
- Gangaur Fair
Gangaur is one of the most vivid festivals of the state which celebrates the union of lord Shiva and goddess Parvati. A colorful procession is taken out from Zanana Deodhi of the City Palace, passing through Tripolia Bazar, Gangauri Bazar, Chaugan and converging near Talkatora. Images of Isar & Gauri are carved out of clay for the festival. In some families, permanent wooden images are painted afresh every year by reputed painters called Matherans. Some ladies also indulge in decorating their hands and feet by drawing design with Mehendi (myrtle Paste). The Gangaur festival is thus celebrated with utmost enthusiasm and warmth by the people residing in the city.
- Teej Festival
Teej customs and rituals make Jaipur more interesting and colorful. Celebrated in and around Rajasthan this festival of swings, adorned with flowers welcomes monsoon. Women dressed in green sing songs and pray to Lord Shiva and Parvati to bless them with a happy and long married life. The importance of Teej is mainly to celebrate the victory of a wife’s love and devotion towards her husband – an important factor in Hinduism – symbolized by the union of Shiva and Parvati.
Dusshera is celebrated all over the country in different ways by honoring the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana- the triumph of good over evil! Jaipur celebrates Dusshera by enacting Ramlila – the tale of Rama and Sita, and the battle fought between Lord Rama and Ravana . On the tenth day of the festival, huge effigies of the ten-headed Ravana and his brother Kumbakaran, stuffed with thousands of fire crackers, are set afire announcing the eradication of evil.
- Raksha bandhan
Raksha Bandhan is the celebration of the bond shared between a brother and a sister. On this auspicious day, brothers promise their sisters to protect them from all harms and troubles and the sisters in return, prays to protect her brother from all sort of evils. This festival falls on the Shravan Purnima which falls generally in the month of August.
- Pushkar Fair
The most identifiable of all the fairs celebrated in the state of Jaipur is the Pushkar fair that is held in November in Pushkar (Ajmer). Also referred as the world’s largest camel fair, the occasion displays traders from various cities striking deals to buy camels and horses. People celebrating this festival are also seen entertaining each other with songs and dances, and cooking meals over camp fires. The festival attracts a number of onlookers by conducting the very famous camel, horse and donkey races.
- Jaipur is one of the best tourist destinations in northern India and unlike many other tourist destinations Jaipur is a city that requires planning before visiting.
- The currency in Jaipur is the Indian rupee (INR) therefore, make sure that you carry Indian rupee with you else the airport is home to a 24-hour money change office.
- Be familiar with the language spoken so that you avoid any sort of hustle-bustle while roaming in the city. People in Jaipur converse in Rajasthani, Marwari, Hindi and English. Phone/calling code of jaipur is +91 141.
- Apart from famous palaces,forts,temples and gardens, Jaipur is also known for other places which are worth a visit like the Jaipur zoo, Jawahar Kala Kendra, Raj Mandir Cinema, Rajasthan Assembly building and Ramgarh Lake.
- Travelling in the city of Jaipur can be best done by an auto or a rickshaw which may cost you around 300 Rupees or more depending on your haggling skills. Also, make sure that you arrange for a knowledgeable guide who will provide a suggested one day itinerary of Jaipur which is designed specially for visitors who only have a very short amount of time to discover the city.
- The best season to visit Jaipur is during the winter months when the weather is at its coolest and driest.The worst season to visit Jaipur is in the intensely hot months of April, May and June.
- Never miss the opportunity of watching the sunset over Jaipur from the Sun Temple. The location of the temple provides panoramic views of Jaipur and on a clear day the city is bathed in golden by the setting sun.
- Manage your time effectively. Be aware of how consuming each destination would be in terms of time. For instance, a ride on an elephant – the most luxurious method to enter the Amer fort would take 20 minutes followed by another 20 to 25 minutes exploring the fort, photographing the Jal Mahal in Lake Man Sagar would take half an hour, short hike up to the sun temple and watching the sunset from the vantage point will take about 45 to 60 minutes. Whence, it is important for you to have knowledge about the place to get better at estimating time for tasks.
- Be very cautious of food sold on the street. Jaipur tap water is not safe to drink and should be avoided by all visitors, drinking water should always come from bottled water. When purchasing bottle water always ensure that the seal has not been tampered with and that you open the bottle. There are stealthy trades of selling plastic bottles refilled with undrinkable tap water and some unscrupulous shops continue this trade.
- Please be careful in moving alone.Do keep a distance from strangers even if it’s your taxi driver or guide . Going alone in night is a big no no! Make sure that there is some reliable company in case you have to move out at night
- If you have planned a stay for a longer period you can opt for the Golden Triangle trip which includes visiting Delhi and Agra via Jaipur,or even better make a selection for cities that are near Jaipur like Jodhpur and Udaipur. To know more about places to visit in Delhi and Agra, you can refer to AGRA – AN ENCHANTING AFFAIR OF THE HEART ! and ‘NEW’ DELHI AND A BIT OF THE OLD.
Wishing you a safe and happy trip!