By Jasbir Kaur | JAIPUR, INDIA | TRAVEL |
Jaipur is best visited during its winter months (November through to February) when the weather is dry, warm and sunny. But there are some drawbacks during the height of tourist season; hotels will charge maximum price, some of the more popular and affordable hotels will be sold out and most iconic spots will be too crowded. Making it impossible to get your best instagrammable shots.
I visited Jaipur towards the end of its peak season, early March. Luckily, the weather was bearable with temperatures between 15-25C.
Jaipur is a little different during this month and beyond, I was told. “You’ll see more local tourist taking advantage of the off-peak season prices,” my tour guide said.
“It’s also the best time to get heavily discounted AirAsia tickets which by the way is the only international direct flight from Kuala Lumpur,” interrupted one of my traveling companion when she saw a big AirAsia billboard hanging over the road we were on.
I was booked into the ‘Quiet Zone’ which was a smart decision because I managed to sleep during my five hours flight, and felt fresh and ready to conquer Jaipur the next morning. Take note ‘Quiet Zone’ offers minimal noise with soft ambient lighting where meals are served faster but is available to passengers 10 years and above only.
One of Jaipur’s most distinctive landmark is Hawa Mahal which translates to The Palace of Winds. It was built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 as a multi storey platform for the royal women to observe processions and every day life. Constructed with red and pink sandstones, it’s an architectural masterpiece with over 900 intricately carved small windows known as ‘Jharokhas’. These small windows not only beautify the frontier wall but allow proper ventilation of air into the palace, keeping it cool and airy in summers.
“It’s the first building built without a foundation and with a six inch thick wall front,” shared the tour guide while I was struggling to capture this beauty. Clearly annoyed by my lack of interest, he waved in front of my camera phone and continued: “Array, that’s not how you do it. The best way to capture Hawa Mahal is from the cafes across the street. Come, come.”
And just like that he hurdled us close and began manning the onslaught traffic to allow us a safe passage. Please don’t try it on your own. Crossing these roads are not for the faint hearted.
Upon entering the compound of this mahal, I was disappointed by the simple interior and could not help wonder how secluded and lonely life must have been for these royal women. This iconic landmark stands as a reminder of the ‘Purdah’ system, a Rajput custom used in the past, where ladies of the royal household were bound by stringent customs that disallowed them to go in public and interact with strangers. Royalty with a price.
Located in the heart of the city, it has to be one of the prettiest attraction. Everything is pink and resembles the Hawa Mahal but on a much grandeur scale. This palace was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II sometime in the 18th century. It showcases a unique combination of Rajput, Mughal and European style architecture.
City palace is a must visit because this palace was operational until 1949 and carried out the Maharaja Jaipur’s ceremonial and administrative affairs. That’s the closest I’m getting to being in an actual functioning palace. Most of the ornaments, carpets, furnitures are in their original state. The main Diwan, where all the official affairs were carried out, has a very European and Jaipur architectural design. Chandeliers hanging in this Diwan and the carpets were all imported to showcase these Jaipur Maharajas wealth.
Sadly no photography was allowed and is heavily guarded. So don’t try to roll on the carpet or sit on the Maharaja’s throne.
Built in the 18th century by Sawai Jai Singh II on the edge of the Aravali hills. This formidable fort, with walls sprawling up to 1km, was the guarding walls to Amer city and Jaipur, and as a summer retreat for the Maharajas.
However over the decades with the absence of intrusion attempts, Madho Singh II, a ruler famous for his gargantuan appetites, turned this fort into his love nest towards the end of 19th century. He upgraded it by building nine identical duplex palace suites within the fort walls to house his most treasured concubines and one personal suite for himself, away from his official wives and courtiers.
Each palace suite is named after his concubines and is beautifully decorated with Rajput Mughal frescoes.
The wonder of Nahargarh fort lies on the top most floor. Here you’ll find many vantage point to get clear crisp shot that can capture most of Jaipur City. And if you enjoy capturing the sunset, come towards the evening, around 5pm, to get the perfect shot to add to your sunset collection. But don’t stay up too late because it’s a precarious drive along narrow dirt road with no street lights. Also, you don’t want to get caught off guard by cars appearing off the beaten track and mow your vehicle down like a blue overturned car I spotted on my way down.
“Night time is dangerous, Didi. Too many lovers and drunks like to come here,” complained my tour guide while shaking his head disapprovingly.
Before leaving the fort, be sure to visit the public toilet located just outside the palace complex. It’s a recent extension made for the public with an interior that screams royalty. Don’t be afraid to open the window because it offers an amazing view of Jaipur City while relieving yourself. But there’s price tag attached to this loo visit.
Of the three hilltop forts that watch over Jaipur city, Jaigarh fort is the most splendid of it all, in a warfare manner. It was built by Sawai Jai Singh II in the early 18th century. Despite being ancient, this fort still retains its imposing fortress appearance. Its tall thick curtain walls and strategically placed crenels along the fort’s bettlements made it look impossible to penetrate this fort.
I’ve seen a couple of castles in Europe and most of them had open crenels but the ones I saw on Jaigarh fort were square holes. They slanted downwards and the gap grew smaller towards the outside wall, giving soldiers a clear view of intruders while being safely hidden behind the thick walls. You’ll find the world’s largest cannon here. It so large that it had to be assembled here and record says it was fired only once using 100gm gunpowder which traveled up to 35km.
It’s a bit of walk to reach the top but the view from here is worth it. On a clear day you can get a clear shot of Jawa Mahal (water palace) and it’s reflective image on the pond.
ROYAL GAITOR OF MAHARANIS
Did you know the kings and queens of Jaipur lived and died like the Egyptians? Their bodies weren’t mummified because in Hinduism a body is cremated after its soul leaves and a cenotaph was erected on the cremation grounds.
Royalty in life and death. That was the way of life of these Jaipur Maharajas and Maharanis.
I visited Maharani Jadon, wife of Maharaja Madho Singh II. She was given a five domed structure embellished with attractive and richly carved pillars. The were other cenotaphs too belonging aunt and niece of the Maharani in this cremation ground. Each had their own carvings. Was told these depictions of musical instruments on these pillars like the veena, sarangi and dholak with musicians were indicative of the rulers and queens in music and arts.
Intrigued by Jaipur? AirAsia X is ready to fly you there. It’s the only long-haul, low-cost carrier that offers direct service from Kuala Lumpur to Jaipur, four times-weekly flights (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat)
This trip was sponsored by AirAsia and Jaipur Tourism.
Jasbir Kaur, an editor at Asia Samachar, was on a trip to Jaipur sponsored by Air Asia X and Jaipur Tourism. It’s the only long-haul, low-cost carrier offering direct service from Kuala Lumpur to Jaipur, four times-weekly flights (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat). This is her final of a two-part take on the trip. More photos at Asia Samachar Facebook page
Jaipur isn’t like it’s northern neighbours (Asia Samachar, 27 March 201p)