We started our journey towards the Jaipur city. It was still drizzling and there was no trace of sun in the sky. After roaming for hours in the forts, as we approached the city, we realized one thing – Hunger. In the excitement of exploring the majestic forts, we had forgotten that we haven’t eaten for hours! We asked our driver to suggest a place to eat. He led us to a very small restaurant which was looking a bit rundown and I was suspicious if the driver was misleading us. But their food was nothing like rundown - it was heavenly! We heartily ate the ghee-drenched dal-batti-choorma, gatte-ki-subji and missi roti. As a keralite, I always had a prejudice against roti. We mainly eat rice and it is our staple food. For the first time I realized that any food made in authentic way can be delicious. One just needs the right mindset and an open heart to embrace any cuisine. Even though the restaurant looked rundown, the food is quite costly there. Throughout our stay in Jaipur, we visited many restaurants and the case was the same. As Jaipur is a major tourist destination in India, this was not entirely unexpected. 

After the food, our rain-drenched energy came back. From the street in front of the restaurant, we had a good view of the Jaipur city. Even though it is called “the pink city”, I felt that Jaipur has a distinctive brick red color rather than pink. May be the pink color had transformed into brick red as the time passed by. Jaipur city was founded in 1726 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. Jaipur is the first planned city in India. Vidyadhara Bhattacharya was the architect of Jaipur city. He designed the city in nine blocks. Two of the blocks belong to the royals and the rest seven were allotted to the public. The city is well organized and from 1874, it has running water supply. Water used to be brought from the nearby rivers and stored in the huge overhead tanks. Then it used to be distributed in the city through iron pipes. I was wondering about the water supply problem in the modern day’s cities like Delhi and Chennai. Even with the advancement of technology, it is doubtful that if we are getting the same quality of life as our ancestors had. 

When it was founded, Jaipur was not pink in color. In 1876, the Prince of Wales visited Jaipur and the then Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh ordered to paint the entire city in pink as a token of respect towards the Prince. It was indeed a brilliant idea as the unity in color gives a unique beauty to the city and helped Jaipur to promote its tourism. The old Jaipur city looks stunning, but new Jaipur is expanding to the outskirts in an alarming manner. Everywhere you can find the rugged roads and potholes. New buildings are coming up without any concern for order or beauty. Whenever I look at our modern constructions, I wonder- where all our love for beauty gone? We only want to create more space at a cheaper cost so that we can make maximum profit. Are we leaving behind any artistic creations for our future generations to admire, as our ancestors have left for us?

Arial view of Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go
A sky view of Jaipur City Palace. Photo Courtesy: Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum

We started walking towards the city palace. City palace is located right in the middle of the Jaipur old city. The construction of the City Palace was commenced in 1729 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. It was renovated and expanded multiple times by his descendants. Jaipur city palace is a unique combination of ancient architectural techniques described in Silpa Saathra and also the Rajaput, British and Mughal styles. Vidyadhara Bhattacharya was the chief architect of the Jaipur palace. There are three gates leading into the city palace. They are Videndra Pol, Uday Pol and Tripolia Gate. The Tripolia gate is reserved for the use of the royal family. Other two gates are accessible to the public. We entered the city palace through Uday Pol. City palace is a well preserved monument. The employees in the reception and ticket counter are very friendly. They greeted us with a warm smile. One of the receptionists was busy helping an old foreign couple. They seemed to be in severe mental trauma. The conversation was in French; hence we couldn’t understand what the issue was. Later we came to know that they lost their passport somewhere near Agra – one of the worst things that can happen when you are in a foreign country. The receptionist was talking and consoling them in fluent French. We collected our tickets and audio guide from the reception. The audio guide is a great option when one wants to explore places on their own pace. When we hire a tour guide, we should keep up to his speed and most of the tour guides that I have seen are always in a great hurry! 

Our city palace tour started at the “Mubarak Mahal (Welcome Palace)”. It is a two storied bungalow built in 1900 to serve as a reception for the royal guests. Maharaja Sawai Madhao Singh is the founder of Mubarak Mahal. The chief architects of Mubarak Mahal are Lala Indra Sahai and Lala Chimal Lal along with Swinton S Jacob from the Jaipur PWD department. We entered the textile gallery that is operating in the ground floor of Mubarak Mahal.  Grand ceremonial cloths of Kings and Queens are well preserved in this textile gallery. They are made out of premium quality silk and cotton and adorned with Rajasthan’s native block printed designs.  Each piece of cloth on display might cost lakhs of rupees in antique market. They glitter even after hundreds of years of their making.
Mubarak Mahal Indo- British fusion architecture Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go
Mubarak Mahal

After having a quick look at the textile museum, we entered the interiors of the palace through a huge gate. This grand entrance is known as Rajendra Pol. Rajendra Pol is guarded by statues of Airavatas (The white elephant) holding lotus flowers in their trunk. They are symbols of royalty and prosperity. We saw a few traditionally dressed door keepers in front of Rajendra Pol, which reminded the days of the kings. 

Intricately carved marble gate  Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go
Rajendra Pol

Marble elephant with Lotus - Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go
Elephant with lotus flower guarding Rajendra Pol

Passing through the Rajendra Pol, we reached another courtyard. This is the central courtyard of the Jaipur city palace. This courtyard houses a structure known as “Sarvato Badra(Hall of private audience). Sarvato Badra  is a platform with huge pillars and served as a meeting place of the king and nobles. Chandra Mahal – the royal residence is located around this central courtyard.  The flag of Jaipur King is hoisted on top of the Chandra Mahal. The flag consists of a big one and a quarter one. There is an interesting history behind these flags. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb bestowed the title of “Sawai” upon the young prince of Jaipur, Jai Singh while attending his marriage ceremony. “Sawai” mean one and a quarter. This title might indicate that the king is much more than a single person represents. Later on, all the descendants of Jai Singh prefixed the title Sawai with their names. The Jaipur royal flag also carries this title as it is made up of a big (one) and a small (quarter) one. There is another interesting fact about the Jaipur royal flag. Both the King and Queen have separate flags. Usually, the flag of King would be hoisted on the Chandra Mahal. When the king is not present in the palace, the Queen’s flag will be hoisted. I couldn’t quite understand the intention of this. But I do believe that there would be some interesting historical reasons behind it. 

Flag of Jaipur King  Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go
The one and quarter flag on top of Chandra Mahal. Photo Courtesy: Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum

On one side of the Sarvato Bhadra chowk, there is an armory on display called the “Silekh Khana”. In Persian, “Silekh” means armor. The Silekh Khana in the city palace is India’s largest old weapons museum. Probably due to the security reasons, it is prohibited to click photos inside the Silekh Khana. The first sight as we stepped into the Silekh Ghana itself was terrifying. Fierce weapons like guns and swords are arranged to make a “WELCOME” sign! However, it was a befitting welcome to the museum as it contains some of the most ferocious arms and ammunitions available anywhere in India. First we entered into the guns section. There are hundreds of guns in different sizes and shapes. I have never in my life, seen such a large collection of guns. Next we entered the section for swords and knives. If guns where in hundreds, swords are in thousands. Most of the swords are fitted with beautiful hilts carved in ivory, jade, silver and crystal. There are some very special swords displayed in the museum. They are the personal gifts from Shah-Jahan and Jahangir to the Jaipur King. They are decorated with precious stones. These swords might still be carrying the finger prints of the great Mughal Emperors! There are many weapons, which also serves the purpose of terrorizing the enemy even at the sight of it. There are some weapons designed to not only injure the enemy, but also inflict severe pain. I felt uneasy as I stood there and thought about the blood that spilt by these weapons and the tears that followed. Every war actually ends in these two. There was an  equipment which I personally liked. I found it hilarious. It is a back-scratcher. For those who did not get the idea, back scratcher is a metal hand fitted on a long rod. Whenever the king is in the war attire, he may not be able to move his hands easily; the back scratching equipment would save the day in those cases! 

Other than the weapons, there are other items in Silekh Khana like beautifully carved armors, gun powder cases made out of Rhino’s horns. It is really impressive that every item is numbered, sorted and kept with great care and order. The entire Silekh Khana has a ferocious look. If there is one thing that contradicts theme, that is the ceiling of Silekh Khana. It is indeed an irony that the ceiling of this ferocious armory is adorned with delicate murals of beautiful young women in dancing postures. It is also a relief to the visitor who is overwhelmed with the terror that is induced by the weapons in Silekh Khana. 

We exited Silekh Khana and entered the Sarvato Bhadra chowk again. The main attraction in this courtyard is the Chandra Mahal. This palace has seven floors. The ground floor of Chandra Mahal is known as Preetham Niwas. The first floor is Sukh niwas followed by Rang Mahal which is adorned by colored glasses. The next floor is Chhavi Mahal which is painted in beautiful blue hue. The top most floor is the crown of Chandra Mahal and it is known as Mukund Mandir. Visitors are not allowed inside the Chandra mahal, as the royal family still resides in this palace.  

Main palace and residence of royal family Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go
Chandra Mahal - view from inside courtyard
There is a tragic story associated with the Chandra Mahal. Maharaja Sawai Ishwari Singh, son of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II committed suicide in this very palace. He was terrorized by the advancement of the Maratha army and took his own life by getting bitten by a cobra. In those days a horrible ritual called Sati used to be practiced in India. Sati is a ritual where the wife(s) of a deceased person commit suicide by jumping into the funeral pyre of her husband. Following the suicide of Ishwari Singh, his 21 wives followed Sati. It is indeed a horrifying and sad thing to even think of. It was then I realized the greatness of the work done by men like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, who raised their voice against this evil practice. 

There is another beautiful courtyard near the Chandra Mahal. It is known as the Preetam Niwas Chowk. This inner courtyard is famous for its four beautifully decorated gates known as the “Riddhi-Siddhi” pol. Each of these gates represents one of the four seasons. The north east gate is adorned with the sculptures of dancing peacocks and the theme of this gate suggests autumn. This gate is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. 

 Riddhi- siddhi Pole  Gate denoting autumn season  Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go

The southwest gate is adorned with brightly colored lotuses and it represents the hot summer season. This gate is dedicated to Shiva and Parvathy.  

Riddhi- siddhi Pole Gate denoting summer season  Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go

The third gate is commonly known as “Lehariya(Waves) and it is in lush green color representing the spring season and dedicated to lord Ganesh.

Riddhi- siddhi Pole Gate denoting the spring season  Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go

 The fourth gate is also known as the Rose gate and it is adorned with intricate floral patterns and dedicated to Goddess Devi and it represents winter. 

Riddhi- siddhi Pole Gate denoting the winter season  Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go
In addition to these four gates, Preetham Niwas Chowk itself is a feast to the eyes. The walls of Preetham Niwas Chowk are painted bright yellow. Brick  red flowers are block printed on these walls. The floor of Preetam Niwas Chowk is also in bright brick red color. The audio guide told us that Pritam Niwas Chowk is a favorite shooting spot for many Bollywood directors. Many Hindi songs have been shot at this other worldly courtyard. One will not get bored even after spending a whole day in the Preetam Niwas chowk.

Preetam Niwas Chowk - The multi colored courtyard of  Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go
Preetam Niwas Chowk
 Due to the scarcity of time, we exited the courtyard reluctantly and moved to the next destination which is the “Sabha Niwas”. Sabha Niwas is also known as the Hall of Public Audience. As the name suggests, it is used as the Durbar hall of Jaipur King. It is a magnificent hall befitting the glorious kingdom of Jaipur. It was built in the 18th century by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh. In the center of the hall we can see the Royal throne and the golden flabella on either sides of the throne. The floor of Sabha Niwas is covered with very expensive red carpet, adding to the glory of the place. The ceiling of Sabha Niwas is intricately decorated with floral patterns in blue, red and golden color. It also houses a large chandelier, which was in its time, the biggest chandelier in India. Once we entered the Sabha Niwas, we suddenly started feeling like royals - thanks to the splendor that we were witnessing. However our royal-hood had to come to an end as we had to move on to the next attraction. After Indian independence, when the state of Rajasthan was formed in 1949, Maharaj Sawai Man Singh II sworn in as the ruler of Rajasthan. He took oath in this very hall in the presence of Shri. Sardar Vallabhai Patel. 

Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go
Sabha Niwas. Photo Courtesy Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum

We went into the Sarvato Bhadra to see the huge silver urns that we spotted while going into the Sabha Niwas. These huge silver urns were listed in the Guinness book of world records as the biggest silver constructions. It still holds its record. Each of these silver urns weighs 340 kilograms and can contain 4000 liters. They are also known as “Gangaajalies” (Urn which contain the water from river Ganges). There is an interesting story behind this name. In 1901, the Maharaja of Jaipur Sawai Madhav Sigh ordered to construct these urns. These urns were used to carry water from river Ganges, when the Maharaja was on his trip to England to attend the coronation of King Edward VII. Being a pious Hindu, Maharaja was concerned that he would be committing a sin if he crosses the ocean and drink the foreign water. Hence he took with him, three huge silver urns full of water and also some soil from Jaipur. During the second day of travel, they experienced heavy storms while they were sailing in the red sea. The priests accompanying the king advised him to abandon one of the silver urns in the ocean in order to please the ocean God Varuna. He complied with it and one of the tree silver urns was thrown into the red sea. The remaining two silver urns are the ones displayed in the Sarvato Bhadra. The third one might be deep asleep in the bed of red sea. 

largest silver construction in the world at Jaipur city Palace - Rajasthan, India - Pick, Pack, Go

It is been hours since we are roaming in the Jaipur city palace. The rain subsided as we walked towards the exit gate of the magnificent city palace. Our next destination is the world famous Hawa Mahal or the palace of winds. Hawa Mahal is an iconic image of the Jaipur city. Hawa mahal is located very close the city palace. Bidding good bye to the city palace we briskly walked towards the palace of winds – the Hawa Mahal.


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