Words By Michelle Karaman-Jones
Photos By Sebastian Sergi
There’s something about me you may not know. I avoid crowded cities. I shudder at busy streets. I want as little to do with the hustle of the concrete jungle as possible. I’d just rather be unwinding on sandy beaches with a coconut in hand. But cities can’t always be avoided. In this case two days in Jaipur, the capital city of the Indian state Rajasthan couldn’t be avoided. I know the city has a rich history, but whether I can get a glimpse of its culture and have an adventure in such a short amount of time remains to be seen.
We start with a five hour drive, heading south-west from the nation’s capital, New Delhi, to Jaipur. We’re quickly introduced to a common sight in India. A mass of cows, sometimes in the thousands, are being led by men in milky white dhoti and colourful Pagri (traditional lower-garments and head-pieces) meandering across the thronging highway. Bhatan, a local who has joined us on the trip, points out that once we start seeing these herders it signifies change from New Delhi to Jaipur.
As we get closer to the city we start to see the vibrant saris adorned on the women. Hues of violet, pink and emerald on the women add to the vivid colours of the Pink City (so named for its trademark building colours). These colours add a sea of vitality to the surrounding semi-arid landscape that is truly beautiful.
We are certainly in the land where there is no such as thing as too much colour.
Entering the city, Bhatan tells us that Jaipur was founded on 18 November 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amer after whom the city is named and the city has a population of 3.1 million, making it the tenth most populous city in India.
Once we fight the stampede of people, rickshaws and cows cramping down the dusty lane-ways we drive into one of the most popular market – Bapu Bazaar (located between Sanganer Gate and the New Gate). I had a one look at the glorious stucco buildings that line Jaipur’s wide streets, now I understand understand why this city is nicknamed “The Pink City.”
Bapu Bazaar is where we head to pick up a pair of sandals for my photographer Sebastian, who broke his pair of thongs in the middle of the city. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of garment shops. Before we even say hello to a shopkeeper, they unravel dozens of paired hand-made sandals and begin to display all the different shoes made from camels leather. Sebastian eventually settled on a pair of hand-made camel leather sandals. We were in luck I say.
Jaipur is known for its palaces and food. We spend our two days exploring City Palace, Hawa Mahal and Amber and Jaigarh forts.
Amer Fort (or Amber Forte) is located in Amer, a town just outside of Jaipur. This is a palace built high on a hill. It is a huge palace and has got various levels inside and is known for its artistic Hindu style elements. With its large ramparts and series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks Maota Lake which is the main source of water for the Amer palace. It’s beauty is unique in its own way. It is one of the must visit places in Jaipur. It is a popular destination for movie shooting, royal weddings and other events.
You have the option of walking up, or taking the car or going up by an elephant ride to the gates of the fort.
Thereafter it can take anytime from 1-3 hours to see and experience the fort. We had taken a great guide and apart from the history of the fort he also gave interesting snippets like the movies and TV series that have been shot here. Overall it is a beautiful fort to visit in Jaipur.
The Fort itself is amazing with its many courtyards, marble decor & its intriguing history going back to 16 centuries. All I can say, the maharajas had a very busy life!!!!!
The fort is vast and if it is hot, you will want water, but it is worth the trip. You will feel like a maharaja at least for a few minutes.
While I’d still call myself a beach bum at heart, having two or three days in a heaving city can awaken senses in just the right way. Jaipur’s combination of colour, heat and history offers a mixture that everyone should experience.
For more information visit India Tourism located at Shop 35, Level 1, 133 Castlereagh Street (Accessible from 210 pitt Street Also) Sydney, NSW or contact by phone +61292672466 or incredibleindia.org
Air India flies direct from Sydney to New Delhi. For bookings visit airindia.in