Day2 : A walk through the art, architecture and history

Yet another day in Jaipur and today we are walking back in history. The Hotel Vimal Heritage, provided us with a complimentary breakfast buffet by the pool side. The spread included parathas, fruits and granola. After a hearty breakfast, we booked an ola auto and headed for Amer Fort.

The auto driver was friendly and courteous (just like every other person we met in this amazing city) and on the way the he showed us the famous Raj Mandir theatre in MI Road and the JalMahal palace. Also I spotted the blue pottery center but decided to stop there when we return.

Amer Fort:

We reached the fort and at the entrance, along the road, what you see first is the Maota lake. But at this time of the year, the water level has really lowered. On our way in, a man approached us and introduced himself as a government authorized guide. We were not really sure of getting a guide, but my husband being so interested in history, thought it would be good idea to hire him. This turned out to be the best decision of the day.

You can reach the fortress in elephant back or by walk. Since it is just about 10 min walk and also they use young elephants for the ride, I would suggest you walk just like we did. He started narrating the history, as we walked up the roads leading to the fort. We didn’t even realise that 10 min flew by,while we listened to the stories of the past, about the ambitious kings who built this fortress over generations and about the wars that happened in this very ground.

We entered the palace courtyard through the Suraj Pol(Sun gate. On the opposite side of this gate is the Chand Pol(Moon Gate).

The courtyard was very crowded because the upcoming Kangana Ranaut movie, about Rani Lakshmi Bhai, was getting filmed here. So there were several men, all clad in white rajasthani costumes, roaming around with fake weapons.

From the guide, we also came to know that many many movies has been filmed in the premises of the fort, including the last year’s hit Bajirao Mastani.

When you are in the first landing of the fort, there is a small temple. Attached on top of the temple doors, is a small idol of Lord Ganesha. This idol is carved from a single piece of red coral and I don’t think a coral of this size, can be found anywhere in the world now. Trust me, you wouldn’t notice this unless you have an informed guide.

Ganesh Pol:

The entry to the palaces of the Rajas is via a huge ornate three storied gate called, The Ganesh Pol .

This structure is absolutely stunning with intricate floral paintings, with a painting of lord Ganesh at its centre.

Sheesh Mahal:

We passed another courtyard, to reach the next main attraction, Sheesh Mahal or the Mirror Palace. As you can see, entry is not allowed inside the Mahal as renovation is going on. We could see artists working on the old paintings.

The king got this palace made for the queen, when she shared her wish to sleep under the stars. Queens were not allowed to sleep in the open. So the king (he is a romantic for sure), got this mahal made for her, so that it gives the effect of sleeping under the stars. The palace walls and ceilings has mirror mosaics and intricate precious stone designs. Our guide took out his mobile phone and waved the torch light, at the ceiling. We were spellbound by the beautiful reflection, these millions of tiny mirror pieces made.

If in the daylight it looks this stunning, I can only imagine how magical it would be, when the candle lights gets reflected on these million mirror pieces at night. Also the candle light reflection was a means to keep the room warm at night, in those times.

Here is a puzzle

Identify 7 designs in this flower.

Hint : Most of these are body parts of animals.

This Magic flower is from one of the pillars in the sheesh mahal, made of marble. You can identify lotus, fish tail, snake, scorpion, elephant trunk, a cob of corn and a lion’s tail. If a single flower holds such mysteries, imagine the jewels of craftsmanship hidden in this entire palace.

Sukh Niwas:

It is a hall used by kings and queens to relax, as the name suggests. There is a garden in front of the hall, shaped like the star mosaics in the sheesh mahal. Did I mention that our guide was an amazing photographer as well?

This hall has a channel that carries cold water for natural cooling effect. Elements like these, are what astounds us about the architecture. About how well these structures mingles with the nature. The rooms are constructed based on the direction of winds or rains, there will be copper pipes with holes which transmits water and create the effect of rain in courtyards, there will be rain water harvesting techniques and way to run it through the garden and then later recycled. The ancient architects were true artists and much ahead of us in terms of technology.

Inspite of not having motor vehicles or roads, these kings have made it possible to get colored mirrors, precious stones and marbles transported from across the globe. Imagine how much sweat and blood would have taken for getting a palace made.

OK back to the present. Here is a picture of the Kesar Kyaari(Saffron Garden) in the Maota lake(the one we saw from the road). It is said that the Raja tried growing saffron in this garden but it didn’t go well because of the hot climate.

Also from the topmost courtyard, we could see the only Mira-Krishna temple in the world, among the ruins of havelis in the old amer city.

Now let us talk about the most interesting part of the day : Shopping.

There are shops inside the Palace premises that sells rajai(cotton quilts), home decor items and clothes. We bought a beautiful royal blue quilt and silk cushion covers from here.

But mind you, these are not government emporium (eventhough the shop keepers claims so). The shops are given on lease to private vendors by the government. I suggest you don’t purchase anything from the palace, because now we are heading towards an exclusive and authentic shopping place in the old city.

The Best Place to Shop Authentic Rajasthani textiles, jewelry and everything else:

Our guide encouraged us to visit an emporium located a few minutes away from the fortress. To encourage local artisans and sell original products at very nominal rates, the government has provided free transportation to and from the emporium, which sounded great. So we got into a jeep and headed towards this emporium along with our guide.

We met an elderly man here who took us around the building. Each floor is literally a treasure trove. On the ground floor, he demonstrated the art of block printing using vegetable dyes and dyes made from semi precious stones. He showed us how the color changes from red to blue, when the dyed cloth is dipped in a salt solution. Then he took us to the jewelry section, where beautiful jewelry made of precious and semi precious stones set in silver were displayed. These jewelry comes with a gurantee and can be returned to the nearest Khadi shop in your city, and they assure a cash back.

I spend much time looking around, ogling at the huge precious stones and stunning strings of multicolored corals. Next we headed to the textile section. All the clothes sold here are dyed using natural colors and has hand block prints. From dupattas to intricate wall hangings, from saris to reversible jackets each piece is made by hand and is of high quality.

The next two floors had beautiful Rajasthani miniature paintings, camel leather footwears and a stunning display of the largest model of Taj Mahal in original marble, completely hand made. Another section showcased inlay work of semi precious stones, in small marble boxes. There is something for everyone here and this is a must visit place to enjoy the marvels, created by these gifted artisans.

We didn’t have the energy to walk anymore. So we were relieved to find a restaurant inside the same complex. We savoured on hot chole baturas and dal batti churma and was all set to explore more.

We took the free return trip, back to the fort gates. Our plan was to visit the nearby forts like Jaigarh and Nahargarh. But no Ola cabs were available and the local cabs and autos were quoting steep rates for less than 8km travel. So we waited for a while and got into a public a/c bus that was going in the direction we were heading to. The bus had a stop right at the foot of the road, leading to Jaigarh fort. But one elderly passenger suggested us to get down a little ahead near Jal Mahal, as it would be difficult to get transportation towards the fort gates from this stop. So we got down ahead as he suggested and saw him get down as well. He started following us for a while asking us to hire him as a guide. We didn’t see that coming! We ignored him and walked ahead.

We didn’t quite like the Jal Mahal area, as it was crowded with street vendors and not so nice public. We also didn’t want to go back to Jaigarh fort, unsure about getting cabs for returning to the hotel later in the evening. So we hired an auto to go to the shop I was most looking forward to visiting, The Jaipur Blue Pottery Art Center.

Jaipur Blue Pottery Art Center:

This store is easy to locate as it is the most colorful building, that stands out among the earthy hued buildings in Amer road. There are many blue pottery stores in Jaipur, but this one is the real deal.

The entrance is decorated with wall plates in various colors, but mostly blue and white. Mr Anil Doraya, a President award winner, for working towards reviving this art form and making it popular, welcomed us to his abode. He asked one of his students to give us an idea of the procedure of making these stunning pieces.

The ink blue color is imparted from cobalt oxide and the lighter blue shades, yellow, browns and greens are also derived from natural stones or plant dyes. The raw materials for the ceramic includes quartz, glass, rock salt, gum, sodium bicarbonate and fullers earth. He said that around 60-70% of the ceramic products breaks before it gets to the painting stage, which makes each piece very precious. Mr Anil Doraya has done much research and experimentation to discover more colors and shades that could be used in this art.

From small magnets to large pots and plates, from tiny buttons to soap dispensers and tea sets, this store will leave you in awe of the eye catching colours and patterns in everyday objects.

Bapu Bazar:

This is another famous shopping street near Johari bazar, where we stopped next, for a late evening walk. We were standing outside one shop and I noticed some unique block printed fabric inside. Unlike other vendors, who calls out from their shops forcing you to take a look, here there was even a board that said something like ‘only customers well informed of quality textiles are welcome’.


PC:Googleimages. A print similar to this was what I liked the most in their collection.

If you have heard of high end brands like Good Earth, Kilol and Jaypore, that sells very unique and stylish block printed attires for the modern woman, this shop is an affordable and equally good version of them. Incase you are interested, this is shop no: 106, called Jaipurwala (if I am not wrong), in one corner of the long row of shops in bapu bazar.

We promised to stop by again, another day incase we could spare some time, as the owner wanted us to take a look at their latest men’s clothing range, which would be available the next day. As stepped out of the shop, we were caught in the middle of a colorful and loud procession on the road by the Sikh community. We watched the festive displays and dancers for a while and returned back to our hotel in an Ola cab.

We got talking to the cab driver and told him about our plans to visit Agra. He quoted a much cheaper rate than the price we saw online and showed interest in taking us there. We took his number once we reached the hotel , incase we decided to accept his offer.

This was the most happening day of our travel, so far. We met some amazing people (we were so caught up talking to them about everything else, that we forgot to ask their names), had some scrumptious food and time travelled to the pages of some royal history.

PS: If you have a vehicle to travel around, you can plan to spend some time at Jaigarh and Nahargarh forts in the evening. The sunset from Nahargarh fort is highly recommended in many travel blogs.

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Day 1 : The grandeur of The Pink City

Day 1 : The grandeur of The Pink City

Jaipur has always fascinated me for it’s rich cultural, colours and heritage. It is the capital of Rajasthan and is also known as the Pink city. The city was painted Pink as a gesture of welcome to the Prince of Wales. Here is my travelogue, exploring Jaipur.


The Trip : Jaipur > Agra > Jaipur > Ajmer > Pushkar > Udaipur

Jaipur:

The best time to visit Jaipur is from October to March, as the climate gets less harsh around this time. Days are not unbearably hot and nights are quite cool and pleasant.

We made all the bookings online, much ahead of the travel dates. We compared the prices listed in different sites and went with the most affordable option, near the areas we wanted to visit.

We reached Jaipur around 9 am. Our stay was booked at Hotel Vimal Heritage for 3 nights and it was around 14kms away, from the airport. So after much enquiries on the local transportation costs, we decided to book an Ola share as it was the cheapest option. The hotel turned out to be a house renovated into a haveli, with cordial staff and very beautiful decor.

The spacious room we got, was next to the indoor pool and had a wall full of colourful tinted glass work. Quite happy and excited so far. I will review the hotel in detailed in another post.

CITY PALACE Museum:

Timings: 9.00am to 5.00pm
Ticket cost : 190 Rs per person

Our first stop was at the city palace museum. This is just a part of the city palace, opened to public. The Palace itself is accessible to public but the entry fee is very steep. So we skipped that. The museum mostly displays the items used by the royal family, including silk attires with elaborate gold and silver detailing, weapons and chariots. The architecture is another highlight. It is a harmonious mix of both Mughal and Rajput architecture. Like the famous miniature paintings, the art work on doors, walls and ceilings are quite colorful.

The big courtyard of the palace, has 4 doorways depicting each season, which has elaborate and very detailed art work with all natural plant based paints.

These paints have successfully passed the test of time and leaves you in awe of the then artisans.The intricate hand drawn patterns and vibrant colors has to be seen in person, as no picture does true justice to the craftsmanship.

There was also a puppet show for the visitors in the courtyard.

Right outside the city palace, at a walkable distance is the Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal. But we hadn’t had breakfast and our stomachs were growling at this point. So we decided to first fill our tummy before exploring more. We booked ola again but the traffic was terrible and the driver was not able to find the location even after we waited for 20min. So we decided to walk to the famous Lakshmi Mishtan Bhandar (the only restaurant we could find nearby).This one was already on my list of must visit restaurants. It was quite a walk, but a very interesting one along the shops of Johari bazar.The shops extends along the walls of the city palace and Hawa mahal and are numbered with name and details in Hindi in the same template.

To our delight we found a lassi shop(again, a must visit) in a corner of the bazar, but decided to visit it after lunch. And just ahead we found the LMB restaurant. They had their famous thalis as well as alacarte items with rajasthani and punjabi dishes. We went with Kashmiri pulao, punjabi paneer masala and rotis. The food turned out to be very tasty and rich.

After the scrumptious lunch, we headed to the lassiwala and had the most yummy lassi I had ever tasted. Now, I have read reviews of lassiwala shops in many other areas of Jaipur but let me tell you, of all the places we tried lassi at, this was the best. It is served in a disposable madka (clay cup) and is topped with a block of thick malai(milk cream). You can understand how much we loved it, by the fact that we were getting lassis everytime we pass the shop while shopping in the bazaar.This is something I am going to miss for sure.

Hawa Mahal:

We walked back to hawa mahal, or the Palace of the winds and spend some time exploring the place. The palace is essentially a high screen wall built so that the women of the royal family could observe street festivals while unseen from the outside. The mahal looks stunning from the outside with its many tiny windows facing the street.

The mahal is 5 storys high and once can see the Jantar Mantar and City palce from the top. We explored the inside rooms but it didn’t look that well maintained like the city palace.

There was puppet show for kids, here as well. And I bought a puppet couple for 200 Rs. It was more of a gesture of encouragement to the puppeters. But later I found that the same puppets are sold for Rs 100 or less for a pair in Johari Bazar. So incase you would like to take home puppets, do bargain and buy from the street shops.Also the puppets you see here are not the ones with flexible joints. These are more of decor pieces, mostly aimed at attracting kids. We found the original puppets in Udaipur and that was priced at around 700Rs.

We spent some time in Johari bazaar asking prices of things and walking around enjoying the colorful textiles and traditional prints. We headed back to the hotel in an electric tuk-tuk or an open auto. I wouldn’t say this was the most comfortable option for long rides, but it was fun going at a slow pace, wriggling out of traffic jams and enjoying the hustle and bustle of the city in the evening. These electric vehicles are available in plenty here and takes you in groups to nearby areas at a very low fare.

Chokhi Dhani:

Our plan was to take rest and start to Chokhi Dhani later in the evening. Most of the people we talked to, had suggested this place. It is an ethnic resort, set like a Rajasthani village. There will be small huts or mud podiums for the cultural shows like folk dances, magic shows, music and other entertainments like camel and horse rides along with Rajasthani food. In addition to that there are shops selling local textiles, paintings and decor items. The cab ride from the hotel to the resort took around 45-1 hour, as we chose share cab.

To be frank, I didn’t feel it was worth the hype. Yes incase you don’t really explore the older city and cultural aspects of it, this is one place you can see it all in one go. There was this mehendi counter, where women clad in traditional Rajasthani attire was applying mehendi designs for free. The lady who applied it on my hand, did a terrible job and it looked like a mess.

By the time we started exploring the place, the dancers were just sitting around and chit chatting and not very enthusiastic to perform. Once the crowd starts gathering around, they started performing.

The camel ride (just few metres) was fun. Well, I didn’t feel so while having the ride, as I was holding on to my husband for dear life. He apparently enjoyed it and I guess must have felt like riding godzilla. As for the other amusements, magician sitting under a huge snake hood (who made objects disappear and pigeons appear out of nowhere); the hut where an old lady was cooking bajra rotis live in a chulha; and the general traditional settings were interesting.


The food was mediocre compared to the restaurant food and the street food. It was not particularly tasty but I guess people go there for the ambiance than for anything else.

So in case you are planning to go there, you must start early in the evening, so that you make the most of the visit and get to explore everything they offer.

It is quite far from the city, so incase you are dependent on uber or ola, it is better to start early.

We didn’t visit Jantar Mantar, the observatory. So if you have more time at hand, you can add that after City Palace.Also you can jam in, some shopping time at Johari Bazaar.

Jaipur, eventhough a very busy city with its malls and cafes(Cafe Coffee Day is present even inside palaces now), still holds its ancient charm and exquisite royalness. The sheer magnificence left me awestruck and craving for more. More on the travel coming soon.

Hope you liked the post. Do leave your comments.