Part of the golden triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur – Jaipur is the newest city of the three! Founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1727 AD, it has the distinction of being the first Indian city to be completely pre-planned and laid out according to the principles of Vastu Shashtra (the science of Indian architecture). Also called the "Pink City", Jaipur got this name when the city was painted pink in honour of the Prince of Wales' visit in 1876.
Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, who had his capital in Amber, wanted a new capital due to the scarcity in both space and water. Having a great interest in mathematics, architecture and astronomy, he was keen that any new city be perfectly planned. After consulting many books and manuals on the subject, he assigned Vidyadhar Bhattacharya of his court to design the layout of Jaipur city. The city was designed in 9 blocks, with the royal palace exactly in the centre. Surrounding the palace were straight roads, public buildings along with the business areas and the homes of the nobleman and the merchants of the city. The city was surrounded by a wall which had seven gates, which opened in the morning and shut in the evening and was also protected by nearly 17000 soldiers. The City Palace complex, especially the Hawa Mahal within, is a place that you must visit in Jaipur!
The architecture that you will see in and around Jaipur is said to be a perfect blend of the Rajput and Mughal styles, imbibing the best of both. You'll find a rich variety of forts, palaces, museums and temples for you to explore! The most notable of the forts to visit are the Amber Fort, the Jaigarh Fort and the Nahargarh Fort. Apart from the City Palace, the Jal Mahal, the Rambagh Palace and the royal observatory Jantar Mantar are definitely to be seen. The Moti Doongari temple, the Govind Devji temple, the Lakshmi Narayan temple and the Jain Mandir are all very popular as places of worship with locals and visitors. They are an interesting insight into the religion and social practices of the region!
If you are able to, try and time your visit to some of the festivals that light up the city through the year. One of the most popular festivals is the Elephant Festival held in March/ April every year on Holi, the Hindu festival of colours. Elephants were the carriers of Rajput royalty and their guests and this legacy has been carried forward to the present day. The elephants are decorated beautifully and taken for a grand procession after which they participate in races and polo matches. Rajasthani cultural performances and the playing of Holi follow the festivities. Makar Sankranti, or the Kite Festival, in January is another famous festival of Jaipur. Other festivals to watch out for are the Teej and the Gangaur festivals, both of which have rich cultural histories. Both are unique in that they are celebrated primarily by married women and girls.
The strong Rajput influence is not only in the architecture of the city, but also in the arts, jewellery, cuisine, culture and textiles that you will experience in Jaipur. Shopping in Jaipur is itself the focus of many visits to the city. The large and bustling markets of Jaipur are home to stores selling local Rajasthani arts and crafts. You should expect to see the famous 'Kundan' style jewellery, pottery, batik painting, block printed textiles of Sanganer and Bagru, tie & dye fabrics, Indian slippers (called Mojaris), along with sandalwood and stone carvings. The main shopping areas to explore in Jaipur are Johari Bazar, Bapu Bazar, Nehru Bazar, Chaura Rasta, Tripolia Bazar and M.I. Road.
To miss out on the cuisine of Rajasthan would be missing out an important part of your Jaipur experience. Go on to a local restaurant, order a "thali" (literally translated – "plate") and don't be very surprised to see as many as 30 items on the very large plate in front of you. Do remember that a lot of the local cuisine will be vegetarian, delicious nevertheless!
It is worthwhile getting your travelling shoes on and exploring the rest of Rajasthan – all accessible by rail and road. Consider visiting the nearby cities and towns of Udaipur (400 km), Jodhpur (331 km), Jaisalmer (570 km) and Bikaner (321 km).
Note: Rajasthan is a desert region so temperatures in the summer months of April to July are fairly high (going up to 45 degrees Celsius). Do a quick check before you head out there!
Getting There: Jaipur is well connected to many Indian cities by air and rail. The city is about 260 km by road from New Delhi, covered comfortably in about 5-6 hours – regular taxi and buses are available on this route.