Jaipur is one of the prettiest and busiest cities in India and when my student Malvika told me she was getting married there and that I had to come - I agreed in a jiffy. Rhea and I had spent a couple of days in Jaipur, enroute to a Rock Art Society of India's Conference at Kotputli in the late 90's (during the early days of our courtship) and we were delighted to be going back.
Malvika's dad had absolutely laid out the red carpet and we were whisked to Jaipur in a completely booked AI flight and put up at the ITC Sheraton Rajputana. It was the very lap of luxury and to top it off we were informed that the evenings function, the Sangeet. was in our very hotel. So we had a quick and amazing lunch at a Rajasthani Heritage Restaurant (I think it was the Ratan Haveli) where the Mehendi was in progress and where we had such an amazing Rajasthani meal that we forgot to take a single picture! Anyhow we dressed up for the vening function and I just had to take a picture of Rhea.
The next morning we had half the day to ourselves and a chauffeur driven car to drive us around so we set off for a Jaipur darshan tour to take in the sites and see the City Palace which we had missed the last time around. As we were walking the corridors of the Rajputana we looked outside the windows and saw a host of wild peacocks and peahens busily strutting on the outer wall of the property.
From that memorable sight we moved on to take in the city. Our first destination on the way to the City Palace were the Moti Dungri and the Birla Mandir. The Moti Dungri is a small fortified palace modeled on a Scottish castle by Sawai Man Singh. It was later the abode of Maharani Gayatridevi and her son.
The Birla Mandir also called the Laxmi Narayana Temple is one of three almost identical temples (the others are at Delhi and Calcutta) built by the Birla family.
It was a gorgeous winter morning and the blue skies were filled with small puffs of cloud.
We then swept through the bazaars of Jaipur on our way to the Hawa Mahal and the City Palace.
The Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) is the most famous icon of Jaipur. It is not really a palace but a set of multi-tiered verandas/jharokhas (windows) that were used by the palace ladies to look upon the bazaars and which were very well ventilated, especially in the Rajasthani summers. It is a unique building and we were happy to see it extremely well maintained. The last time we were here the paint was flaking and the insides smelled like a urinal.
The City Palace, which lies in a majestic large quarter behind the Hawa Mahal, was and is the abode of the erstwhile ruling family of Jaipur and was built by Maharana Sawai Jai Singh II who ruled from 1699–1744. The palace proudly flies the flag of the erstwhile state of Jaipur with a smaller pennant that flies above it whenever the royal family is in residence (see below - if you can). I was impressed with the Palace and was further impressed to find that the tour had small electric golfcarts available and that they were free for handicapped persons.
We had an unforgettable tour and we visited the beautiful inner palace (clad in marble with exquisite carvings) which housed a collection of garments worn by the Jaipur Royalty of yesteryear. Sadly photography was banned everywhere within the City Palace museums.
Details of the Balcony.
Details of the verandah.
We had barely finished exclaiming when our golfcart driver took us to the next building where we saw the most comprehensive collection of arms both blades/projectiles and guns handheld and otherwise.
The entire complex is run by the royal family and their liveried retainers like the gent in the picture below.
Two happy but gobsmacked tourists!
As we exited we saw a small doorway with a sign saying, 'The Palace Cafe', as you may have guessed we had to go. It was a beautifully laid out coffee shop with an extensive menu (but we had other plans for lunch) and we quickly ordered a coffee for Rhea and a Cold Coffee for me .... they were both very good.
But what had us rivetted .....
... was a little tyke in traditional Rajasthani gear singing and dancing among the tables to entertain the guests.
More on Jaipur in Part II.
(The Sheraton Lunch, The Wedding and The Day After)