The Pink City
04.03.2012 - 06.03.2012 32 °C
The train journey from Jodhpur to Jaipur was the shortest and most straight forward of any so far, taking a little under 6 hours and arriving late in the afternoon. We checked in to our hotel, which was definitely the most well appointed so far with a price to match due to short notice and the Holi festival coming up a few days later. As we were still feeling a little under the weather we had a small Western tea and went to bed early.
On our first full day we headed into the city to see some of the sites. Jaipur is one corner of the so-called Golden Triangle (with Delhi and Agra), due in part to the colour of many of its walls in the old city. They are fading shades of pink, made so by the Maharaja who built the city, Jai Singh. Unfortunately it seems little more than a rough paint job to imitate the red sandstone of the older forts at the other points of the Triangle and now looked quite faded. Our first stop was the City Palace, the centre of the old city and residence of the Maharajas, now mostly filled with museums of various parts of Jaipur's history. The first courtyard and building housed a collection of textiles, Rajasthan's most famous export, and included some of the outfits of the globally successful Jaipur polo team of the 1930s (who apparently went unbeaten in all competitions for several years), and some enormous pjamas for a particularly large Maharaja of the 19th century. In another part of the complex was a workshop for local artists and craftsmen, selling miniature paintings and sculptures, and in another, the obligatory collection of 19th century weaponry, designed to do gruesome things to anyone who resisted rajput rule. Through an ornate archway we found the most decorated of the courtyards with different coloured painted and carved doors each decorated to represent a different season. Here, we saw a crew of stage hands putting together a set for an upcoming Bollywood shoot - the City Palace is regularly used as the backdrop for palatial scenes. At the end of our tour we felt that given the size and location, this palace did not meet the same levels of grandeur as Udaipur and Jodhpur, but also that had we come here first it may have made more of an impression. We negotiated a relatively expensive rickshaw home to enjoy the comfort of our a/c room. That evening we treated ourselves to a visit to the local Pizza Hut. We were pleased with the standard and the prices on the menu but were shocked when the bill came and the extra taxes made it almost as expensive as a pizza back home.
The following day we went back in to the pink city to the most recognisable place in Jaipur, the Hawa Mahel or Palace of the Winds. Built by the Maharaja for his harem, it makes plentiful use of the 'purdah' screens for the women to move around and see the world below without themselves being 'exposed' to the male eye. The palace is a gradually rising series of courtyards, designed to channel the winds of Jaipur upwards to the higher apartments and keep the occupants cool from the heat of the day. The effect was noticeable from the top floors, though after climbing up, the breezes were certainly a needed coolant! The top floors also gave a great view out across the old city, with the City Palace, Jantar Mantar (Observatory) in the foreground and the steep hills with small forts looking down on the city below. After making our way back down, we went to the personal temple of the Maharajas where, as it was the eve of Holi, we saw a complex show of music and dance involving people dressed as gods swirling around, clad in peacock feathers and a good deal of face paint. You have to take your shoes off before going into any temple and unfortunately while we were inside watching the show, Patrick's sandals were taken from the bench where we'd left them. Apparently this is good luck and, luckily, a man who works at the temple offered his shoes to make up for it.
After a quick lunch at our hotel we headed back to the station for the afternoon train to the national capital, Delhi.