The City Of Victory

If we had come here first, like everyone else looking to explore the romance of Rajputana, maybe, just maybe, we would have liked Jaipur better. But as it is, we came here from Jodhpur, and Udaipur before that, and we perceived a more jarring urban version of the famed Rajput culture and hospitality. We missed the gracious greeting with bowed head and hand on heart, and the soft spoken grace and warmth that we had come to expect.

Rajasthan or the ‘land of the kings’, epitomises everyone’s fantasy of India. Even ours! The land of hilltop forts and ornate palaces, of legendary kings and bejewelled princesses, of camels and elephants and colour….most of all brilliant vibrant colour.

The kings have been reduced to wealthy landlords, after their royal entitlements and privy purses were abolished. But they still command fierce loyalty from their former subjects.

The seven storied Chandra Mahal inside the City Palace

Founded in the 17th century by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II – hence the moniker – Jaipur is the gritty, bustling capital of the state of Rajasthan, and the gateway to this fabled region. This is one of the few Indian cities built to a plan. Laid out in a grid apparently based on the ancient architectural treatise of ‘Shilpa Shastra’.

Wide, straight avenues divide the city into sectors, nine in all, reflecting the nine divisions of the universe according to Indian astrology. Each sector was dedicated to a commodity and named after the caste that traditionally traded in it, based on the rigid caste system. The street and market names haven’t changed, and the caste system has – at least on the surface -been abolished. But Jaipur’s congested, filth strewn streets are far from the orderly place its founder envisioned.

 

The largest silver object in the world! Specially made to order for Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II, to carry water from the Ganges to drink on his trip to England for the  coronation of Edward VII!

Jai Singh II ascended the throne of Amber at 13, and his clan’s astute alliance with the Mughals was rewarded by Emperor Aurangazeb, who bestowed upon him the title ‘Sawai’, meaning “one and a quarter” with reference to his exceptional intellect. His descendants claimed the title as part of their hereditary inheritance.

The present ‘king‘ is yet another minor, the 13 year old grandson of ‘Bubbles‘ (after the gallons of champagne that flowed to celebrate the birth of a male heir in 100 years since 1835!) Bhavani Singh. He too died without a male heir, the little boy being the son of his only daughter and anointed ‘king’ despite accusations of foul play by his stepbrothers.

Jaipur has its fair share of fabulous landmarks, the old royal residence at Amber fort and the City Palace in particular. And splendid crafts like hand block printed textiles, the exquisite uncut-diamond encrusted Jadau jewellery and much, much, very much more.

But for the incurable romantic that I am, the defining symbol of Jaipur and Indian royalty can only be the pearl and chiffon clad Rajmata (Queen mother) and last Maharani of Jaipur, the gorgeous Gayatri Devi!

The princess of Cooch Bihar and third wife of the last reigning king (before abolition of monarchy in 1971) Sawai Man Singh II, Gayati Devi was a stunning beauty who was celebrated by Vogue in her prime as one among 10 most beautiful women in the world, and who dared to reject the purdah, mandatory for royal ladies of the time!

Their romance and lavish lifestyle is the stuff of legend. Her win, by the largest margin against the ruling party candidate, in the 1961 elections ensured her a place in the Guinness Book of Records! The feisty dowager continued to ruffle feathers, including her stepson the king’s, right up until her death in 2009 at the grand old age of 90.

Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds.
The most striking instrument in the Jantar Mantar, the astronomical observatory built in the 18th century and now a Unesco World heritage site, is the ‘Brihat Samrat Yantra’ which is supposedly the largest sundial in the world.
Jal Mahal (meaning “Water Palace”) is a palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake. This image was taken before it was restored.
Mirror studded walls inside Amber Fort
The Samode Palace, location of several movies and TV shows including ‘The Far Pavillions”

Until next time…..happy travels, no matter where life takes you!

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

89 thoughts on “The City Of Victory

  1. I too had always romanticized Rajasthan and finally went last year. We did the exact same route. Udaipur, jodhpur and jaipur. I still want to go back and explore more!

  2. I love the bits of history complemented by the beautiful pictures. India is so beautiful and diverse.

    1. Diverse is an understatement Imelda! We look, talk, eat and live different in each region 🙂

  3. Another treasure out of you ! I have never been to India – cannot wait to one day step foot into your earth ! It is a shame being half Indian , I have not even visited this dynamic country ! And, when I do, you and I MUST meet – what joy would that be!! May your lens continue inspiring the world with such prolific posts from you ! Love ya Madhu !!

  4. Rajasthan is a place I would love to visit one day. I loved these pictures. It’s wonderful that so much of history is attached to this beautiful land in India. I was not even aware that Gayatri Devi was one among 10 beautiful royal ladies in her days. Great post.

      1. You bet… Must have been the real thing in another lifetime… 🙂
        When you have a moment, Google and read the article Adam Sachs | The accidental Indophile. Quite funny too! TY!

        1. Couldn’t wait to read it! Amazing! His tweets were even more hilarious! Thanks for the link Eliz. My friends are going to LOVE this 😀

  5. It was on New Year’s eve, several years ago, that we set about on a road trip to Jaipur and Ajmer… My memory is hazy now… But the names and the images brought back memories 🙂 Great post….

  6. India is unknown to me, so I find this post very interesting. Great photos to give more weight to the text.

  7. Another wonderful post! Always your commentary is wonderfully clear and informative, but I most enjoy learning about India.

  8. Felt nostalgic while enjoying each of the beautiful pictures. Yes the Maharani’s grace and beauty are legendary! Thanks Madhu for sharing your travel experience.

    Kind regards.

  9. Your photos and text are reminders of an era so rich with history, mystery,and romance .One of these places I must see for myself. Lovely.

  10. If I had to pick only one Indian state to visit, it would definitely have been Rajasthan. Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal, Chand Baori, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, oh so many intereting places in only one state.

  11. A fascinating post Madhu – I recognise many of your photos and was fortunate to stay at Samode Palace (blogged about it here http://wp.me/p1tbVN-ek) We only had a few days in Jaipur – I’d love to re-visit the city one day. Wasn’t Gayatri Devi an inspiration!

    1. Loved your account, Suzanne! We stayed in the Ajith Bhavan Palace and just went to Samode for lunch, but we were given the grand tour as well. Also of their fabulous tented accomodation in Samode Bagh (garden) farther up.

    1. I am impressed with how much of India your daughter has explored! Thank YOU for the challenge Frizz. It has made it easier for me to choose my destination 🙂

  12. I would love to go to the north of India….I have only been to Bangalore, Mysore and Goa, which were great, but I want to see much more of India.

    1. All of Rajastan is Denise, more so than Jaipur. Haven’t been to all those places myself!

    1. Yes Gayatri Devi was an incredible woman. She cared two hoots for what society thought of her and that was her allure 🙂 Isn’t it always?

  13. Did this post ever bring back memories! Our arrival in Jaipur was similar – heaving and bustling and people falling overthemselves to drag us into a taxi. All we wanted to do was walk to the nearest tourist bungalow and fall into a haven of peace and tranquility.

    I think our arrival put us off the city because I doubt we made the most of it after that, I remember seeing the almost facade (as you said) and not being impressed. I don’t remember the Amber Fort so maybe we didn’t get there. I do remember great meals and an incredible level of service at the dak. Jaipur huh? I doubt it would be any different 28 years later 😀

    1. PS Appreciated your warning about the bullfight, so didn’t comment on that post. Looked at the early piccies – but went no further. Although having said that, on roughseas, I posted the pic of Juan Carlos with his dead elephant trophy because I was so annoyed. I guess it depends on our reasons for posting and what value a shocking pic adds to a post. Sorry o/t but I didn’t want to read the end of the other post.

      1. Don’t worry about it 🙂
        Mine wasn’t all that shocking, We left before the kill. But a lot of people don’t want to have anything to do with stuff like this, hence the warning.

    2. No Jaipur isn’t any different 🙂 Even the museums run by the government were in worse condition than in the other cities, where the erstwhile royal families manage them! Tourism isn’t high priority with our government obviously.

  14. Lovely images once again, Madhu. Thanks so much for a glimpse into the fascinating history. You tell it so well. 🙂

  15. Very interesting post, just love this kind of informative reading – I’m always so curious about the world under our skin – beautiful shots… 😉

  16. I love, love love this post Madhu! thanks for taking me back to wonderful Jaipur. My silver pot is there and even a shot of the park that has the tennis ball tree. Good for Gayatri, what an impressive woman ahead of her time! Fabulous post 🙂

    1. Thank you Gilly, I thought you might like this 🙂 It was your post – like the Caravanserai earlier – that sent me scurrying to look for these old photos!

  17. The photograph with Madho Singh’s water vessel is just spot on, Madhu – to me it encapsulates all that remember of the splendour and perfection of the palaces, and the of the jewel-like red city. Like you I was totally bewitched by the romance of Gayatri Devi, but the city too wove its magic around me from the start – we stayed for days and days, just wandering, imagining, soaking it all up. Great post, as always and wonderful to see your pictures (all mine are irredeemably purple-tinged!). 🙂

    1. Thank you! Yes these images aren’t too bad. Just have to find the time to convert the rest. Did you visit Jaipur a long time ago?

      1. Yes, I guess it was a good while ago now – when R and I were going back to Oz back in 1983. I suppose the population has risen by about 50% since then and the once wide boulevards are jam packed full of traffic. There were camel carts and things on the streets, back then … 🙂

  18. Beautiful post Madhu – you are right, Maharani Gayatri Devi was gorgeous! It also brought back memories of my dear Dad, who served in the Rajputana Rifles, and always regaled us with stories of India’s glorious past. Those were good days….

    1. He must have had a few tales to tell! Yes despite their excesses, Indian royalty still evokes nostalgia for its glorious past! Thanks for reading Shaantz.

  19. I also love reading the history you include in your posts and I always enjoy your photos 🙂 Judy

  20. I love the vibrant colors of the dusty road and archway of Rajasthan, the largest silver object in the world used to carry water from the Ganges, and of the feisty dowager Gayati Devi . You’ve captured a lot in just a few photos.

  21. WOW! So many patterns. WOW! The designs are just WOW.
    13 year old for a king!? So when the adults kneel down, they get level with the kid? Hehe. I love the interesting magical number 9.

    1. Or maybe he sits on a pedestal 🙂 9 is for the number of planets. Indian astrology, as others I presume, is heavily dependent on planetary movements and even a cynic like me is sometimes flabbergasted by the predictions! Not sure how the discovery of new planets affect astrology though 😀

  22. Jaipur is just glorious! Feel like to know more about Gayati Devi lavish life, great story. Thank you, Madhu!

    1. Hers was a real life fairy tale! And those looks helped exaggerate that aura 🙂 Thanks Amy.

    1. It is and there is so much I myself have not seen. Rajasthan is large and the neighbouring states are equally interesting. This was my least favourite of all the places that I did visit actually!

  23. I cannot imagine living in a country of such history and beauty. The US is a very young country without the grand monuments and palaces, etc., so prevalent in India and around the world in ancient societies! This was a beautiful series.

  24. I love the history you weave among your striking photos. Thanks so much Madhu. I hope to soak this all in someday in person. 🙂

    1. You will love it, i have no doubt. But come with an open mind. India isn’t an easy place to explore 🙂

      1. I have heard that but to me part of the allure when we travel is to soak in the culture and the reality, not just the lovely sights. Thank you Madhu 🙂

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