We saw some great things in Rajasthan’s capital. We also got to know a wonderful family. (Read about that here) See all our Jaipur Photos here!
Jaipur’s historic city centre is referred to as ‘The Pink City’ and is indeed, painted pink. To impress Britain’s Prince Albert during his 1876 visit to India, Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh beautified the city which included painting all the buildings a terracotta pink, a colour that represents welcoming and hospitality. The Maharaja’s favourite wife loved the look so much that she convinced him to pass a law making it illegal to paint buildings any other colour. While the city has expanded, in the city centre the law is still in effect today. We enjoyed walking around, especially at dusk when the pink sky matched the buildings. Here there are shops to buy everything from fabric to utensils and incense to toys. In the Pink City we saw the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds. This beautifully tall, pink building was built so that the women of the royal family could view street festivals and remain unseen.
Aside from wandering through the Pink City, we took a local bus to Amer Fort, one of Jaipur’s biggest attractions. The local bus was sweet; it took about twenty minutes and cost us 26 rupees or $0.52 CAD together. In the state of Rajasthan, women get a discount on public transportation, so Chantal’s tickets are always a little cheaper than mine. We were blown away by Amer Fort and its defender, Jaigarh Fort; they form one complex. Even more than the Red Fort in Delhi, it reminded me of the castle books I read as a boy, as it perched defensively at the top of a rocky hill.
We walked up the stone laid path to Jaigarh Fort and were reminded of how out of shape our Netflix soaked bodies still felt. With a few quick breathers though, the amazing views motivated us to reach the top in what seemed like no time at all. We paid our entry fee of 200 rupees each, $4 CAD and walk around the fort. Inside we learned that Jaigarh Fort had been the world’s largest cannon foundry. Aside from it being near many iron ore mines, it had a large wind tunnel that caught the high hill air and directed it towards the furnace. The fort also housed an incredibly cool and massive mechanical device that hollowed out the cannon barrels. It was driven by four pairs of oxen and precision gears. Many of the cannons were 16 feet long, however the coup de grâce of them all was named the Jaivana, a fifty ton beast that sits atop the fort. Four elephants were used to swivel the cannon and it used about 100kg of gunpowder to shoot a 50kg cannonball.
It was only used once and while some estimate the cannon could shoot about seven miles, local legends say that the Jaivana shot twenty-five miles. Legend also says that during the shot, men and elephants around the cannon were killed, local homes collapsed and many women gave birth prematurely. Regardless, just looking at the weapon was enough to scare the pants off me. There were lots of monkeys at the fort as well as a number of elephants. I won’t promise that I will refrain from taking photos of them in the future, or that we will definitively deny ourselves a ride on the beautiful animals if an opportunity presents itself, however i could not bring myself to photograph these particular elephants as they looked so unhappy and hard worked as they shuttled tourists up and down the hill.
We spent our Christmas afternoon meeting a friend we had met in Amritsar. Clem, a lovely girl from France, met us at the hill top Monkey Temple or Galtaji and introduced us to some wonderful Jaipur born friends of hers, Astha and her brother Rahul. As we walked up to meet them, we saw many macaque monkeys. One even charged at Chantal while she attempted to photograph its baby! (pictured left)
At the top of the hill, we had an amazing view of Jaipur and a great visit with our new friends. Rahul told us the story of a holy man who was submerged at the top when he passed away, rather than being cremated as most Hindus are. We drove down the hill with our friends and met Astha and Rahul’s parents who were so kind and welcoming. Astha drove Clem, Chantal and I to Jal Mahal, Jaipur’s water palace. We enjoyed the view and avoided buying any souvenirs before heading back to the city centre. Astha and Clem dropped us off near our homestay and we went shopping for gifts for our Jaipur hosts.