-By Swetha Amit
A blend of tradition and modernity has what made Jaipur stand out. Despite commercialisation, it is a pleasure to note the well preserved history and culture.
Buildings depicting the pink of health, the royal capital of Rajasthan exhibit a blush that would be a painters' delight. Our trip to Jaipur and Jodhpur proved to be a mystic experience as we relived the past.
Resplendence at its peak
A visit to the Chauki dhani gave us a feast of its rich culture with the entry fee being only about Rs300 per person. Embedded in a capsule, it exhibited with pride the several aspects of its tradition. The colourful attire, the linguistic charm, the effervescent folk dance, the touching simplicity, overwhelming hospitality and the perseverance completely mesmerized us.
It was only when the shadows slowly crept in, that we looked at our watches. In spite of the four hours we spent there, we were surprised to note that we weren't fatigued. In fact, we were feeling as energetic as ever and eager to delve deeper into this royal expedition.
A royal fort
After hearing stories about the three major forts in Jaipur, we started off early in order to cover all of them.
The first stopover was at Nahagarh fort. A drive across to this majestic monument amidst the mountains in its twists and turns was an exhilarating experience. We could almost visualize cavalry and troops marching down the same route. It was a panoramic view of the city from the top, interspersed with calls of the peacock.
The next halt was Jaigarh fort and it managed us to entice us with its bewitching past. Its specialty was the canon on wheels which is the largest moving one in Asia.
The Amber fort took us to a different level of exquisite and exotic beauty with the splendors of its appealing architecture. The famous Sheesh Mahal with its array of tiny mirrors provided a scintillating effect throughout and being well-maintained, it is difficult to imagine it is hundreds of years old. On reaching here early, one can get a treat to an Elephant ride to reach the top at the cost of Rs600.
Mahal amidst the lake
Situated in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, the Jal Mahal is a beautiful sight. Though the palace is abandoned at present, earlier one could reach it via a boat. It is well-known for its elaborate architecture and carvings.
The city palace is truly the centre of attraction of Jaipur. It portrays a bejeweled look as it haughtily stands as the epitome of the pink city. It consists of courtyards, gardens and other buildings. A fine museum is also located inside which gave us interesting inputs on the significance of the Rajasthan culture. It turned out be both a beautiful and learning experience for us. And made us retrospect into the oft quoted saying, 'beauty with brains' which was what this monument clearly stood for.
The Jantar Mantar is the largest open air observatory in the world and situated adjacent to the city palace. We experienced pride in understanding the astronomical prowess of our ancestors while we toured around. We noted that the instruments were made out of stone and marble, each having a specific purpose.
A spiritual quest
Moti Dungri is a hill which has a temple and a palace within the vicinity. We encountered a spiritual moment in this place of worship which was dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The scenic surroundings around it made it a tourist attraction. However we learnt that the palace was not accessible to visitors.
Below the Moti Dungri is situated the Birla Mandir. It was evening as we set foot there and waited for the 'aarti'. It had a calming effect as we sought blessing of the God. Later outside, we observed that this marble constructed shrine was beautifully maintained with its lush green gardens.
Shop till you drop
Our visit to Jaipur wouldn't have been complete without purchasing its stunning souvenirs. Babu Bazar and Jowri Bazar have an array of shops with handicrafts, ravishing jewellery, carpets, handbags which were truly exclusive to the Rajasthani folklore. The prices at certain shops remained fixed while others seemed open to bargaining. The cost of jewellery can range between Rs200 to Rs1000. Bags are priced between Rs100 to Rs 800. Carpets, handlooms and other items cost anywhere from Rs80 to Rs1000.
A six-hour overnight train journey from Jaipur brought us to Jodhpur city. It was once the capital of the Marwar state and is the second largest city in Rajasthan currently. Jodhpur has a very unique culture which is quite different from Jaipur.
Living life King Size
We were first taken to the Umaid Bhawan palace which is situated on the Chittar hill. We were told that it was the residence of the current royal family. Built with yellow sandstone, its impressive exotic charm propelled us to want to explore its plush interiors. And this didn't disappoint us even in the faintest manner. The existence of the museum inside exhibited the generation and history of its rulers. It portrayed pictures of several escapades of the kings' hunting expeditions, passionate polo games, and the grand lifestyles led by the royalty. It was an intriguing experience, considering its captivating story and the posh surroundings.
Yet another royal fort
Situated about 400 feet high, with seven gates of entry and one of the largest forts in Rajasthan is the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. Climbing this fort proved to be quite an uphill task for us literally. We noted that lifts were provided for senior age groups.
The fort-palace has inside it the Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Sheesh Mahal - The hall of mirrors, Phool Mahal - The palace of flowers, Takhat Vilas - Maharaja Takhat Singh's chamber. As we traversed inside, we found a display of quaint and pretty palanquins, old furniture, well preserved weapons and swords. We were taken to the top to see the majestic canons that once upon a time fired away furiously during battles. We also got a breath-taking view of the old Jodhpur city which has most of the structures painted in a light blue - hence the name 'Blue city'. We were soon guided towards the Chamunda Mata Temple and also noticed a huge shrine of Lord Shiva in the vicinity.
The Jaswant Thada is situated about half a kilometre from the fort. We were told that this was an architectural memorial, surrounded by cenotaphs of successful rulers. It was made out of marble and also has a small lake nearby.
Bustling market area
In the evening we toured around the Ghantaghar market area. This is a wholesale market place with an array of shops and enterprising shopkeepers. We saw that language seemed no barrier to them as they had got used to conversing with foreign tourists. Italian and French were two languages that they had mastered. Many handlooms and art crafts were available at reasonable rates of anywhere between Rs100 - Rs500. We learnt that such goods were exported and awareness has expanded through the virtual world. We did not fail to miss the clock tower right at the centre which is what brings this bustling market area its name.
How to get to Jaipur and Jodhpur: Jaipur and Jodhpur are accessible by road, rail and air.
Jaipur: There are several flights from Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Jodhpur, and Udaipur.
Jodhpur:There are several flights from Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and Udaipur.
Jaipur: Well-connected by trains from all parts of India.
Jodhpur:Direct trains from Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, etc.
One can easily drive down from Delhi or Agra which is about a 11- hour drive. From Jaipur/Jodhpur, most places of tourist interest are about six hours away. One can either hire a cab or drive down. The fare of the cab has to be fixed prior to the journey.
Within the cities: Hiring a cab would be an ideal option. The rate is according to an hourly basis or distance. Autos could be a possible option as well.
Best time to visit: October -March is the winter season in whole of Rajasthan. The pleasant temperatures during the day around this time make it ideal for sightseeing and avoid the scorching heat.