May 29, 2012

Cities- Jaipur

This is my second visit to Jaipur. I had visited the place earlier with my family. It was perfect family get-away, expensive hotels, elaborate breakfasts and meals, long photo sessions, talk-talk-and-talk, and the some sight seeing :) I had to visit some forts which were far from the city, such as Nahargarh and Amber forts, and the pre-modern city itself as a local, eat roadside and wander on the streets.

Jaipur, once the capital of royalty is now the capital city of Rajasthan. Popularly known as Pink City, is a very planned city according to the Vastu Shastra in the pre-modern era. It seems the city was painted pink to welcome Prince of Whales when he visited. The king then wanted to give the city a distinct look!

Day-1:
I reached Jaipur at about 12:00 noon. I was coming out of the station a flock of rikshaw drivers surrounded me. Usual scene huh? I had plans to stay 3 nights here at the Youth Hostel. Wanted to check how Youth Hostels worked in India. Well, Youth Hostel at Jaipur was okay. I wouldn't say 'good'. Settled in the room later went in search of the RTDC office and made a booking for a city tour for next day. I took it easy and went around the nearby B&Bs asking about tariff. In the evening I ate delicious Aloo Paratha with pickles and curds for dinner. Aloo paratha is one of my faves, and I eat it only when I backpack.

Day-2:
Well, my itenerary was stuffed tight with the monuments of pre-modern era. I didn't see much of the modern city of Jaipur. Since, it was a backpacking tour I didn't have the luxury of private rental car. I took a RTDC one-day-package-tour paying only Rs.250. Cheap huh? For few of the late bookings they arranged a TATA Sumo since the bus was full. The driver specifically gave me the front seat :)
As we proceeded towards Birla Temple driver gave us instructions and options. Birla Temple, also know as Lakshmi Narayan temple, is grand and is built with high quality marble on an elevated ground at the base of Moti Dungari hill. We were given time just enough to reach the temple and back to the sumo.

Then the driver gave us an option ...
Do you want to see City Palace or Albert Hall? ...
People ask, what is the difference?
Reply- Both are museums, both display weapons, potery, royal clothes etc ... If you go to Albert Hall you will get a composite ticket for Rs.50 which is valid for 2 days, you are allowed to visit 4 more attractions. City Palace entry ticket alone costs  Rs.25 and is not included in composite ticket.
Everyone says ... lets go to Albert Hall ...
For me it didn't make much difference, because I have seen both museums in my earlier visit. It was good to visit one of them again. But, just 30mins to see Albert Hall? wow! Anyway, I had the ticket so, I refreshed my memories of Albert Hall in fast-forward ....

Next stop ... I mean the view of Hawa Mahal as we drove past it. Then Jantar Mantar. There was enough time here to see and understand the instruments. Some are working and some aren't. But, strolling in that concrete instrument garden was fun. It is amazing to know those days someone built these astronomical instruments which are accurate.
Well, package tour and no stop for shopping? Never!! We were left at an art emporium supposed to be run by Rajasthan Government. We had all the time we needed or say extra time!!! Few in the group who were first-timers bought many things, like rajai, Maharani saree, salwar suites, white metal tea set and so on ... few others thought the stuff is nice but they didn't need them, some others out-rightly spoke about the stuff sold here is not good, how people are cheated, how package tours force people to shop and so on ... well everything is part of the package :)

Then came Jaigarh Fort. The drive was good. Hot September Sun in Rajasthan ... brutal ... and we were in the open on a hilltop fort. Well, I didn't walk up to Jaivan. Instead, I observed the monkeys around while enjoying the malai kulfi. Monkeys looked devastated they were suffering!! The bright sun, the heat and no water ... they were trying to use the little shade ... even they were hiding their faces in the cracks! Poor guys :(
Lunch time!! yey! I was looking forward for this event! Because after lunch we were going to places I really wanted to visit, I mean to say the places I had not visited in my previous trip. Nahargarh Fort. The drive to this place is really good. Winding road going up the Aravalis, giving the glimpses of many other unknown or not so popular monuments. Plenty of hilltop breeze makes this place cool. We were given one-and-a-hours time to see the place and for lunch.
The fort was built by Raja Jai Singh in 1734 and then extended, Madhavendra Bhavan, by Raja Sawai Ram Singh II in 1868. Nahargarh means 'abode of tigers'. The Fort looks much like a residential quarters. It has 12 identical suites for the nine queens and the King. The palace is very well planned. It looks simple but has beautiful paintings and inlay work on the walls which are fading away. The place was used as summer palace by royal families. I must say it was a peaceful abode than a grand residence.
There is a restaurant here. Variety of food is served. Some from the group had a very elaborate lunch. Some didn't have anything because it wasn't a 100% vegetarian restaurant. That reminded me of a restaurant in Jaipur. The board read Vaishnav Pavitra Bhojanalaya. The pavitra-ness was, may be, the meat isn't cooked here. It also reminded me of my travels with my parents when I was a teenager. My mother never eats out. We landed in a place where there were no pure vegetarian restaurants. Somehow my dad convinced my Mom to get inside a 'veg and non-veg' restaurant. My Mom didn't eat anything anyway. The people at table beside us were enjoying the whole roasted chicken. That was the first time I saw non-veg food in my life. May be the whole roasted chicken was little too much for a 13 year old to see for first time. After watching them ripping the limbs of poor chicken I was down below the table cold and numb. I still feel embarrassed thinking about my fainting incident! For 3 days we survived on bananas. Over years, now my mindset has changed as a grown-up ... my Mom still survives on bananas :) I was sitting under the tree and watching the amazing view of the Pink City thinking about the past. The cool breeze was heaven.

Meanwhile, there was an interesting conversation between the vegetarians and the driver going on ... The Veggie-Guy drank some water from the bottle belonged to the Driver. Driver casually asked the Veggie-Guy and his wife, Did you finish your lunch?
Veggie-Guy: oh, the restaurant is not vegetarian
Driver: then you shouldn't have had water from my bottle, I belong to lower caste, from a sweeper family
That really got my ears straight!!! It was a very friendly conversation between them but still I hear this even in 21st century?!!
Then the Veggie-Guy replied, the water was clean and nothing else matters!

It was cool there and monkeys were happy. An old lady sold fried-dal mixed with masala. Group of youngsters running around and loud. It was hard to get going from the fort. Next stop was Amber Fort.

Amber, pronounced as Amer, is 11 Km from Jaipur. The grand fort is built with red sand stone and white marble. Interior of this fort is very grand, speaks of classy art and architecture. The mirror setting on the walls is amazing and has a romantic aura. It needs little bit of climbing or an elephant ride, or car by paying Rs.20 per person in the car. We had an hour to go around. The driver said that climbing up to the fort would result in instant 1kg weight loss. Well, I wondered, in that case the elephants should have reduced tosize-0 by now, they take two trips everyday!
There is a temple of Shila Devi. The legend says, Maharaja recovered the statue of Goddess from the sea bed and installed in the fort per instructions of the Goddess in his dream. The Ganesh Pol is beautifully painted and carved. The Sheesh Mahal is fantastic. The Maota Lake is beautiful.
The next and last spot is Kanaka Vrindavan gardens. It is located at the foothills of Nahargarh Fort area, in the Kanak Valley. We had an hour to enjoy the garden and to visit the nearby temple. The garden is very peaceful and beautiful. There is a Radha-Madhavji temple just beside it. The marble idols of Radha and Lord Krishna are exquisite. One of the beautiful idol-pair I have ever seen! I felt so happy after visiting the temple. As usual photography not allowed here.
On the way back we had a view of Jal Mahal in the golden light of setting sun. Drive back to city was uneventful!

Day-3:
In my last two trips to Jaipur the guides never allowed us to see the Hawa Mahal. I decided to see it myself. Per guides it is just an ornate wall. In reality it is not. It is a beautiful structure worth a visit. It is a window for royal women to the world.
Hawa Mahal road is one of the market roads and I went around the traditional markets of Jaipur. Badi Chaupar, Choti Chaupar, Johari Bazaar, Tripola Bazaar, Bapu Bazaar, Telipara road and so on ... There were sweet stalls, pickle stores, vetetable markets, clothing, utensils, books whatever on the earth you need. I ate kulfi, drank lussi, bought souvenirs and window shopped ... It was fun.
I visited the Dolls Museum after that. It is a bit out of the way near Police Memorial and back of SMS Hospital. The dolls are well preserved but, I didn't see any tourists apart from me. The websites mention it is one of the great attractions, in my experience hardly anybody knew that there is a museum of that sort. I went walking from Albert Hall, it felt a bit long way in the hot Jaipur sun. It is worth a visit if you like dolls, and Rs.5 you pay tickets will be spent on the education of students who have hearing problems.
To wander around Jaipur by foot needs preparation ... lots of water, a sun hat, sunscreen are must carry items. It is a good idea to avoid being out in the sun during afternoons. Winter months are okay, but late September was not very okay for me.

That night I packed my backpack, next morning I had to catch a train to Delhi very early.
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7 comments:

  1. Nice article. Did you visit the palace andbsaw the two huge silver pots! I was told they carried Ganges water for the royal family use. One pot for 6 months?
    Keep writing. I am slow to catch up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I did see them, it seems they were made of silver obtained by melting thousands old silver coins.

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    2. well its made of approximately 14,000 silver coins

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  2. Nice Blog And I Like Travelling .Mostly I Like Rajasthan Becoz It Is Heritage State

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  3. No Doubt Pink City(Jaipur) is best place for Traveling.As per my opinion every body should visit Jaipur once in life. There are a lot of tourist places in Jaipur.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I read your Blog it's a very attractive and awesome post and I found it very helpful for planning my travel in future.Thanks for sharing up such fabulous information,if your planning for the check India Tour Packages such as golden triangle tour packages and their Varanasi Tour Packages is the best option to you from Ghum India Ghum company

    ReplyDelete
  5. if you are interested in indian textile and craft , then do visit anokhi museum and take 1-2 days workshop on hand block prints & natural dyes with jai texart . bagru .

    ReplyDelete

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