Known as the pretty pink city, Jaipur has been a hot destination for many Instagram travellers because of the pretty buildings in pink. Home to a few UNESCO World Heritage sites including Amer Fort and Jantar Mantar, Jaipur is home to many magnificent forts, palaces, temples and museums. Many people ask why is Jaipur the pink city? The history states that in 1876, the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on a tour and since pink denotes the color of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur painted the whole city pink in color to welcome the guests. It was then that Lord Albert exclaimed Jaipur to be a ‘Pink City’, and hence the name.
The moment we entered Jaipur, we expected to see the entire city painted in pink but was told by our driver that only the main tourist street and the surrounding areas where the initial tour for the Prince and Queen was painted pink. The rest of the city remains like any other Indian cities.
The moment you enter the pink area of the city which is considered downtown, the traffic is horrendous. Our car moved like every other 5 mins only and the rest of the time we were just stuck in standstill traffic. You can take the time to admire the buildings along the street as there are different pink buildings in various architecture style. Interestingly, our driver told us besides Jaipur, that there is Jodhpur the Blue City, Udaipur the White City, Jaisalmer the Golden City and Bhabua the green city. Most of the cities are painted in a particular color due to historic reasons but some are painted mainly for tourism.
The first place we visited was the City Palace which was constructed by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in the 1700s. The palace is located right in the center of the whole city and reflects the fusion of Mughal and Rajput architecture. The palace consists of the Chandra Mahal, the Mukut Mahal, the Shri Govind Dev Ji Temple, the Maharani’s Palace, the Mubarak Mahal, and the City Palace Museum.
The beautiful pink and white theme is also seen within the main palace courtyard and you can also see some silverware being displayed at the center of the courtyard
You can find these beautiful Gangajalis silver jars under a decorated pavilion called Diwan-I-Khas. These jars were made for Maharaja Madho Singh to bring water from the Ganges for his trip to England to see the coronation of King Edward VII as he refused to drink water from overseas. These jars are known to made from 14000 silver coins without any slightest soldering and therefore, both of them weigh around 340 kgs. They are registered in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s heaviest silver objects. There are 2 of such jars on display within the palace and an identical jar supposed lies at the bottom of the Red Sea
Pritam Niwas Chowk is the inner courtyard with 4 very beautiful gates. The gates have four themes that display four seasons. All of these four gates contain patterns of peacocks out of which, the northwest gate depicts the autumn season; dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this gate is rich with the decorations. The southwest gate is dedicated to Lord Shiva with flowers and petals, indicating summer. The Northeast gate is painted in green showing spring and is dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The Southwest gate contains flower patterns showing winter, dedicated to Devi, the Goddess
The design of the gates are really intricate and beautiful and is also the most crowded area of the palace as most of the tourists are crowding around the gates for their pictures. To get a human free picture, you have to have lots of patience to wait for the crowd to lessen either before the closing timing or really very early in the day. For portrait pictures, do not be shy and wait in queue as you will realise getting a picture here is the fastest poser first, the next person that gets to the pose in front of the gates gets the right for the next pictures.
The next highlight of the city palace definitely has to be the private rooms of Chandra Mahal which requires an additional entrance fee on its own. It will cost 1000 rupee to see these rooms and another 50 rupees for camera charges and 150 for videography charges. Sri Niwas is a palace of mirrors, Shoba Niwas is decorated in gold and red and staged like the past and lastly, Shuk Niwas is the blue room richly decorated with flower designs in white paint. Judging from the pictures online, I kind of regret not paying the additional fees to see the rooms as the rooms really looked quite impressive and it seems like the key highlight.
The is the ground floor leading to the private rooms and surprisingly they allowed us to do a walkthrough of the ground floor without paying additional fees. The lift to the private rooms was located beyond the room and that is when they need to look at the additional ticket. This is like the main drawing room for entertaining guests and is filled with paintings and lush furniture. There is strictly no photography allowed here and there is a strict fine of 500 rupees tied to it. I was attempting to take a picture at the exit door and was forced to pay the fine even when I offered to delete the picture and since I paid the fine, I also requested to take a proper photo for my blog but was refused. This was taken from the Internet from another traveller who got lucky in sneaking this picture without getting fined.
There is also a restaurant located within the palace grounds and is decorated in opulent style just like the palace and according to some posts, the price is also quite reasonable. For those who are visiting only the exterior courtyards, you will need only 1.5 hours at the most and for those visiting the private rooms, you need another hour to finish the tour. Something to note is that there are guards dressed in ancient styled clothes waiting to take pictures with you but this is not free and they expect a tip to be given.
Entry: Locals 200 rupees and foreigners 700 rupees. Private rooms: Locals 500 rupees and foreigners 1000 rupees.
Operating hours: 9.30 am to 5 pm. Night visits from 7 pm to 10 pm
The next key tourist site is the Hawa Mahal or known as the Palace of the Winds. This palace is located on the same busy street leading to the city palace and is extremely popular as it is very beautiful on pictures.
This five-storey building in the shape of a crown of Lord Krishna with 953 jharokhas or windows and a beautifully decorated façade resembling a honeycomb of a beehive that gives one a feel of the rich heritage of the Rajputs. The windows that are decorated with a design that reminds you of lace and its purpose was to allow the royal women inside to observe the outside world without being seen, as it was against the law for them to be seen without their face covered. These jharokhas were built in such a manner that air circulates naturally through them creating Venturi effect thus air conditioning the entire structure during the hot summers
Photo Credit: https://www.culturalindia.net/monuments/hawa-mahal.html
Interestingly there is an imperial door from the city palace side leads to the entrance of the Hawa Mahal and this top view cannot be used by visitors. The interior of the mahal is actually quite plain and boring so most tourists do not pay for entry but just take pictures of the beautiful exteriors.
During the night, the mahal is also beautifully lit up and looks more orange compared to the pink hue in the afternoon. One tip while visiting the Hawal mahal is that you can get the best view from some of the restaurants and cafe across the street from the mahal and most tourist will willingly pay for the coffee for the perfect picture.
This next palace is Jal Mahal, a city palace that stands in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, which is surrounded by hills. Jal Mahal is a five-story building that is made of red sandstone and four of its five floors are submerged beneath the surface of the lake. The palace itself is not open to the public, it can be viewed from the lakeshore and from Man Sagar Dam on the eastern side of the lake. You can stroll along the lakeshore which filled with small shops selling souvenirs as well as Indian snacks catering to locals who sit around the lake to relax as well as tourists coming here for photos.
On the way to the next site Amber Fort, you will pass this famous site on many Instagram accounts. This is the Panna Meena ka Kund which is a 16th-century stepwell which was built so the people of Amer could collect water, which was later used at many temples nearby. The women would also come here to collect water for housework and it would also provide a resting place for travellers as the stepwell area is relatively cooler. Panna Meena ka Kund is a square-shaped stepwell, with adjoining stairs on all four sides and a room on the northern wall. It’s believed this room was used for religious ceremonies before weddings or on popular festival dates. There is no entry fee and it is on the way to Amber fort.
The next key attraction to see in Jaipur is the Amber Fort which is located in a town called Amer which is 11 km from Jaipur and takes close to an hour to reach. Traffic gets really bad as it gets later in the day as there is only 1 single lane going towards the fort. The fort overlooks the Maotha Lake and is built in the year 1592. In shades of honey and rose stone, white marble and gilt decor, Amber Fort is more of a palace than a fortress, and the design is a unique mix of Hindu and Muslim styles.
You can also take an elephant ride up to the fort but I would not recommend this as most of these elephants are not treated well for this purpose. Instead, you can get your driver to drop you at the top near the entrance, or walk up the stairs for some exercise.
At the entrance, you will see the big courtyard Jaleb Chowk and you can see the main gate called the sun gate where the elephant drops off the tourists as well as many peddlers selling souvenirs and wares to the tourists. The ticket office is also located within this courtyard.
Once you climb up the stairs to the top where you enter the museums, you will see the Diwan-i-Am, the Hall of Public Audience. It has forty pillars and was built by Mirza Raja Jai Singh between 1631-40. The hall is divided into three parts and has nine bold arches. There is also a raised rectangular stage from where the emperor used to address the audience
From there, you enter through the beautifully painted Ganesh Pol (gate) to the private inner apartments of the fort. Ganesh Pol Gateway is named after the famous Hindu deity Lord Ganesha and the curved gate has been painted with vegetable dyes and still retains its originality. Many tourist flocks to the fort to see the famous ornamented archways and the fine latticework. The Ganesh Pol is a majestic path to the elegant and beautiful royal garden.
The royal garden is called the Diwan-i-Khas, which is laid out in the traditional Mughal style and is in between two magnificent buildings. On the left, the beautiful Jai Mandir, which is also called Sheesh Mahal (palace of mirrors) is situated. The opposite building is the Sukh Mahal (Hall of Pleasure). This place was used by the royal family whenever they felt like they had to rest or spend some quality time alone
The walls of the Sheesh Mahal are covered in a mosaic of shards of mirror and colored Belgian glass in intricate and mind-blowing designs. It’s one of the treasures of Amber Fort and it was built for the Maharani (queen) could see the stars at night. As she was not allowed to sleep in the open, the lit candles at night in the room seems to reflect thousands of stars from the walls and ceiling.
There are many small columns and rooms which can be explored within the fort and all of these rooms or pillars are filled with intricate tiling design or painted walls. Many of these rooms at the top of the fort gives you a wonderful view of the whole town of Amer. It took us close to 2 hours to finish our tour of the fort and we even skipped some areas as it was too crowded and difficult to get proper pictures but I do agree that Amber fort is one of the nicest forts in India and definitely worth the time.
By this time, 24 hours would be coming to an end as you need to factor in traffic for travelling between venues.
On the way from Agra to Jaipur, our driver brought us to this site made popular by a Hollywood movie. Similar to the Panna Meena ka Kund, the Chand Baori is a stepwell situated in the village of Abhaneri. It was built between 800 CE – 900 CE by King Chanda of the Nikumbh dynasty, it is older than Taj Mahal and it seems to be the oldest stepwell in India. Folk tales have it that this massive stepwell, imagine a structure with 3500 steps and 13 stories, was built in just one night and it is also reported that no human has ever been able to use the same set of stairs to get down and then climb back from the stepwell. Today the site remains off the track for most tourists as it is not in the main cities but some people might recognise this stepwell as the backdrop for The Dark Knight Rises where Batman tries to come out of jail. It is worth a visit and definitely more impressive than Panna Meena ka Kund. The entry fee for this is 200 rupees for foreigners and 15 rupee for locals.