Thursday, 21 June 2012

Monsoon Magic in Rajasthan: Part 1 – Colorful Jaipur


JaipurJaipur is the capital of Rajasthan state and also the former capital of the princely state of Jaipur. It is also popularly known as pink city and is the showcase of the royal Rajput culture of Rajasthan. Our family planned a weekend trip to this beautiful city during the monsoons. The aim was to make most of the beauty of monsoon showers along with cultural heritage of the ‘pink’ city.
We decided to drive down from Delhi to Jaipur, as the weather was pleasant in the monsoons. The drive was enjoyable, with cool winds and pleasant scenery. The NH 8 Highway, which connects Delhi to Jaipur is in very good condition and the landscape was vibrant and green, as a result of desert plants sprouting to life in the monsoons. We reached Jaipur by 12 noon.
City PalaceAfter checking into the rest house & quick refreshment, we went to visit the city palace and its surrounding old city. The city palace is home to the maharaja (king) of Jaipur and is his private property; the present king is 11th king of the dynasty founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. The city palace looked vibrant and the moods changed every minute as the sun played hide and seek among the monsoon clouds.
City PalaceCity PalaceThe city palace compound has a Jantar Mantar- an observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh for study of astronomy. It is one of the 12 he built all over India and is also the biggest. We gained a lot of knowledge about all the different instruments and what they could measure. In the City Palace observatory at Jaipur, the clouds gathered and soon the sky darkened so that it looked as if it was late noon. Ten minutes later, big drops of rain started to fight their way through the thick air and explode on the hot slabs below our sandals in the central courtyard. Huddled into a doorway with tourists, workers and pilgrims, we watch as an ocean poured through a sieve onto Jaipur. A quarter of an hour later the storm passed, and everyone splashed their separate ways.
City PalaceCity Palace

After the heavy dose of downpour at the City Palace Observatory – Jantar Mantar, me and mum-in law wanted to do some shopping in the surrounding old market, but my dad in law was adamant to see the Hawa Mahal or the wind palace. Luckily it was located bang in the middle of the market so we could combine the two together!!
Hawa MahalHawa Mahal or “Palace of the Breeze”, is a palace in JaipurIndia. It was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, and designed by Lal Chand Usta in the form of the crown of Krishna, the Hindu god. Its unique five-storey exterior is also akin to the honeycomb of the beehive with its 953 small windows called jharokhasthat are decorated with intricate lattice work. The original intention of the lattice was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen, since they had to observe strict “purdah” (face cover)
Chokhi DhaniChokhi DhaniAfter a quick nap in the late noon, we were ready for some fun time at Chokhi Dhani, which is a rural theme resort located in the outskirts of the city and quite popular for its ethnic food and cultural programs. The resort is planned in such a way that one gets the feeling of being in a typical rajasthani village. We had a wonderful evening with lots of folk dances and stuffed ourselves with the delicious food…and oh boy was it loaded!!!..i couldn’t even get up after the meal!!! In the rains, the place looked ethereal and the pleasant weather made the  whole experience a really cherisable one!!
Govindji templeNext morning..we got up early and headed for Jaigarh Fort. On the way to the fort lies Jal mahal, which is a former summer palace of the maharajas located in middle of a lake and Govindji temple, both of which were great for photography.
The Jaigarh Fort was truly majestic. We drove our car upto to the highest point of the Fort (which is allowed, by paying an extra vehicle charge!!). The fort took 700 years to build and the sheer scale of it is amazing. I can only imagine the vision of the kings to build this thing amidst such a challenging landscape and topography!! Set at the top of the fort, lies jaivan –the world’s largest cannon; it was fired only once and the cannon ball landed 35 kms away!!!
The unique thing about the fort apart from the cannon is that it was never attacked by any enemy, neither the mughals nor the British.
The views from the fort were totally soothing and soul stirring. The rains had completely changed the rugged rocky mountain landscape into a green verdant one. Everywhere the eye wandered, there was lush green vegetation; the fort guide informed us that If we had come in any other season, we would not have believed that this landscape can become totally barren and look quite unlike what it looked in the monsoons!!
Amer FortNext on our stop was Amer Fort; this fort along with Jaigarh Fort located immediately above on the Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles) of same Aravalli range of hills, is considered as one complex, as the two are well connected by subterranean passage. This passage was meant as an escape route in times of war for the royal family members and others in the Amer Fort to shift to the more redoubtable Jaigarh Fort
Amer FortAmer FortThe Amer Fort was ancient citadel, the capital of the ruling Kachhawa clan of Amer from 1037 to 1727 AD, was shifted to present day Jaipur in 1727. Amer Fort is known for its artistic style, blending both Hindu and Mughal elements. The fort with its large ramparts, series of gates and cobbled paths, overlooks the Maota Lake, at its forefront. The views from Amer Fort were also breathtaking and we were again mesmerised by the natural beauty of the rugged landscape, which had come to life in the monsoons.
Amer FortAmer FortAmer Fort was our last stop in Jaipur after which we drove back to Delhi with rains and cool winds keeping us company for the whole way. Our monsoon weekend trip in Jaipur was fun filled and colourful, with greenery of nature combining beautifully with pink color of the city, for which its so famous!!
Alternatively, travelers can plan to book their stays at some really beautiful homestay in Jaipur – Colonel’s HomesteadMadhu Pushp BhawanMandela HouseNohra Heritage HomestayRajasthani HouseRawla Homestay and Sri Niwas Country Homes

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