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The sandstone ‘pink city’ of Jaipur, is the heady gateway to the magical state of Rajasthan. Its historical landmarks lie amid the overwhelming sprawl that characterizes most large Indian metropolises. However, it’s a worthwhile stopover in itself, and is an important staging post for the surrounding area.
The city was founded in 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh II and took four years to build. Its design was based on a grid of nine squares representing the ancient Hindu map of the universe, with the sacred Mount Meru occupying the central square. The three-by-three square grid was modified to allow the hill fort of Nahargarh (Tiger Fort) to overlook and protect the capital.
The City Palace complex occupies the centre of Jaipur and covers one seventh of its area. Behind its high wall are numerous palaces and museums. The ‘Palace of the Winds’ (circa 1799) forms part of the east wall and is best seen from the street outside. Possibly Jaipur’s most famous building, this pink sandstone façade was built for the ladies of the harem . Nearby is Jantar Mantar, Jai Singh’s fascinating observatory. Around the palace, the old city, with its bazars, palaces and havelis, is well worth a wander.Read more
Knotted, narrow streets hold cupboard-sized workshops where elderly women dash out clothes on rusty Singers; men energetically stuff mattresses with piles of rags; boys mend bicycles; whole families carve table legs and ‘gold men’ rub metallic pigment into fabric patterned with resin glue in the city’s textile houses. Escape the bustle and head up to the Tiger Fort (Nahargarh) for sunset. This small fort with its immense walls and bastions stands on a sheer rock face and offers breathtaking views. Proud peacocks pick among the ruins and monkeys scamper about in the twilight against the beautiful backdrop of Man Sagar Lake and its Jal Mahal (Water Palace).
Outside the city are many hunting lodges, palaces and forts. Amber Fort is one of Jaipur’s biggest draws.Today there is no town to speak of, just the 17th-century palace clinging to the side of the rocky hill, with a small village at its base. Nearby, on a hill top stands the gigantic bulk of Jaigarh Fort, its walls, bastions, gateways and watchtowers a testimony of the power of the Jaipur rulers.