Monday, September 8, 2008

Jaipur: Romancing The Stone

Entering Jaipur is a little bit of a disappointment because you expect the Pink City to live up to its name. Instead of a rosy pink faзade, the buildings are old and painted a dirty pink that seems to have faded with the years. However, as you wander into the old city you realize that the capital of Rajasthan is rightly called so. Surrounded by forts and palaces, hills and deserts, Jaipur transports one to bygone days.

The bustling metropolis is filled with foreigners and locals and is a riot of colour. The local tribal women wearing bright gherwala lehngas with their long cholis, their arms filled with ivory amulets and feet tinkling with silver anklets are a common sight as are the men in their dhotis and short kurtas with bright pagris and hukkas.

Founded by Maharaja Jai Singh II (1693-1743), the land of the brave Rajputs, Jaipur is systematically planned and constructed in nine rectangular sectors. The warmth and hospitality of the Rajasthanis, there undying love of art and culture and the exotic local cuisine makes Jaipur a tourist's delight. You can explore the historic fabric of the city, visit the markets and go on a shopping spree or just partake of the local singing and dancing.

Jaipur Amer Palace
What to see
Begin your sightseeing tour by going to the famous Amer Palace and that too on elephant back. You can see the magnificent architecture that includes the stately gateways, courtyards and pavilions.

Next, stop at the famous Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds, Jaipur's most famous landmark, built in 1799. It was from the 900-odd ornate windows of this imposing five-storey structure that the women folk used to peep at the ongoing festivities without making a public appearance.Other tourist attractions include the Jal Mahal, Jaipur's lake palace surrounded by water, the City Hall and the Albert Hall Museum.

No trip to Jaipur is complete without seeing the famous Jantar Mantar or observatory built by Jai Singh and the famous astronomical instruments. Also worth a dekko is the famous Rajmandir, considered to be one of Asia's most opulent theatre.

Rajasthani Food
All this sightseeing is bound to whet your appetite and what better way to satisfy it than sample the local cuisine. Rajasthanis are food lovers and their food though simple is liberally endowed with ghee. Try the famous dal-bati-churma or the pyaz ki kachori and for a sweet tooth head straight to Laxmi Misthan Bhandar and dig into the ghevar or the malpuas The best way to digest this rich fare is by washing it down with the famous anardana chooran or the different kinds of chatnis, that are available in every nook and corner of the city.

If you want to eat in ethnic surroundings, then visit Chokhi Dhani or Apno Gaon that offer traditional cuisine in rural setting. However, more than the food it is the people there who serve you with so much of love and enthusiasm that somehow you end up eating twice your appetite.

Jaipur's local flavour is best witnessed during the many festivals the city is home to. These include the Teej festival, the Gangaur festival and the famous Elephant festival, held during Holi in March. The Elephant Festival starts with an impressive procession of the painted pachyderms, tastefully attired and wearing glittering ornaments. There is also a "Best Elephant Shield" for the best-decorated elephant besides a tug of war and a newly introduced game of elephant polo.

Jaipur is one place where you can shop till you drop. The city is famous for precious and semi-precious stones, marble statues, handicrafts, lacquered jewellery, jaipuri jootis and tye and dye and sanganeri prints. The market opposite Hawa Mahal is filled with typical Rajasthani stuff and usually thronged by foreigners. Remember to hone your bargaining skills, or else you might end up paying an exorbitant amount.

Getting there
The good thing about the Pink City is that it is easily accessible and well connected by rail, road and air. Jaipur is only 6 hours from Delhi and the road is highly motorable. You can either drive down or go by bus. Rajasthan Roadways runs regular hourly services. The city is also well connected by train directly with Delhi, Agra, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Mumbai, Ahmedabad etc.

Visit the pink city during the months of September-March and you'll come back with priceless memories, a bagful of souvenirs and an address book full of friends.

No comments: