One day in Jaipur
The city of Jaipur is also known as the Pink City. Pink is the color of hospitality. So when the Queen of England came to town in 1876, the Maharaja of Jaipur had the city painted pink to welcome her. The tradition stuck and eventually became law. I have to say that Jaipur was my favorite city on this trip. It seemed to all come together brilliantly. Our city guide here, Vikram, was by far, my favorite guide. The hospitality at the hotel was over the top, and the variety of things to do in the city was fantastic.
Did you know that when the British left India in 1947 there were over 500 different counties or states in India? And that each of those had their own Maharaja or ruler? Sheesh, that’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen. That 500 was reduced to under 30, and Jaipur was one of those. So the palace is still lived in today by royal family, however the current prince is only 16 years old and being educated in England.
The City Palace in Jaipur is built over a huge area with large courtyards leading to the main palace buildings. It was the only palace we visited on our trip that had placed museums in these buildings. It was nice to actually see relics other than just buildings. The textile museum revealed the royal dresses and uniforms. While the armaments museum was full of weapons even my boys would have enjoyed. The highlight is Durbar Hall which houses portraits and a ceremonial space still used by the current Maharaja family.
From the city palace it was easy to head outside to explore Jaipur’s observatory, Jantar Mantar. This medieval observatory has lots of different instruments that use the sun’s shadow and it’s annual progress through the zodiac to predict the future. All of these calculations are still used today to determine a person’s future in India. Indian parents use these calculations to determine if a potential spouse is a good match. After making sure they come from the same caste, of course. Even the day of the wedding is determined by these astrological signs.
I have to say that these insights into Indian culture were easily shared by our Indian guide. He used the example of his own arranged marriage, or those of his cousins. As a Indian Hindu, it was easy to see his passion and belief in these cultural traditions. He was not offended by our fascination by these things, and that made it all the more interesting. Sometimes we asked him so many questions he probably thought we were interrogating him. Although it seems a little antiquated at first, what is the harm in giving the couple and families a little more hope and conviction about a relationship? We could probably all use a little more faith going into such important life decisions. The divorce rate in India is extremely low compared to the rest of the world. Maybe they’re on to something?
Lastly, we visited the Hawa Mahal. It’s also known as the Palace of the Winds, but it is no palace. Many claim it is Jaipur’s most distinctive landmark. It was built in 1799 to enable the ladies of the royal household to watch the processions of the city. Think of it like a movie set. The front is beautifully decorated and looks like a palace building with LOTS of windows of all different sizes. But the back side is bare and only has small platforms, ladders and places to sit in order to get a good view of the city’s main square below. Women were not able to walk the streets alone without obeying laws about strict face cover, especially royal women, so this was the innovative solution.
I’m glad that women are allowed to walk the streets now, because Jaipur is one of the cities where we did a lot of shopping. We decided to call it a day and retire to our fabulous hotel in the late afternoon. Although there was still plenty to see in Jaipur. Next up, the Amber Fort.