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February - March 2004


Travel

Three Architectural Jewels of Rajasthan

by Bajrang Bahadur Mathur


My association with Rajasthan goes back a long way. My family originates from Uttar Pradesh and my only sister got married into a family from Jaipur. For many years I only visited Jaipur to meet the family although I knew as an architect and town planner that Rajasthan has many architectural and historical treasures. It is only recently that we managed to explore the three great cities of Jaipur, Jaisalmer & Jodhpur (named after their founders) and other places in between. They all present a great insight into Rajasthani culture and heritage.

JAIPUR is also known as the pink city. It is said that Jaipur is the first planned city of India built some 275 years ago.. The name of the city derives from its founder Maharaja Jai Singh. The township was planned in a grid like fashion in rectangular building blocks according to the principles laid down in the Shilpa Shastra, an ancient Hindu Scripture on architecture. The foremost sightseeing place and landmark of Jaipur is the Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds centrally situated within the walled city. There are excellent views from the top of the Hawa Mahal. The building has 953 delicately carved honeycombed sandstone windows which gives it such a unique and distinctive appearance. It was used by the royal ladies to view in complete privacy, the goings on in the street below. The Hawa mahal is part of the City Palace complex.

The large city palace is divided into a series of courtyards, gardens and buildings including Diwan-I-Am, the hall of public audience and Diwan-I-Khas, the hall of private audience.The family of the former Maharaja still live in part of the palace and the remaining part is a museum. The 18th centruy astronomical observatory, Jantar Mantar, was also constructed by the Maharaja Jai Singh. It is a collection of unusual shaped buildings each designed for a specific purpose, e.g. measuring the position of the stars and giving the accurate time. The famous Johari Bazaar or jewelers market and all the principle streets within the walled city are lined with colorful shops selling just about everything.
A recent addition to the list of tourist attractions is Choki Dhani, a model village laid out and furnished in Rajasthani traditional style to depict the lifestyle of a typical village. There are snake charmers dancers and musicians all performing at the street corners and in the centre of the village. The village also includes a Dhaba, a restaurant where authentic local cusine is served. Near Jaipur a popular destination is the Amber fort where an elephant ride can be taken to reach the top of the fort with it's attractive building, interiors and courtyard....

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