The walled Rajasthani capital of Jaipur is famous for its unusual rose-coloured sandstone architecture that gives the city its nickname ‘the pink city’. Voted as India’s top city to visit in Trip Advisor’s 2015 Travellers’ Choice Awards it offers many and varied options for any travel itinerary to India.
There are a number of magnificent structures to see in and around Jaipur, built by the resident maharajahs. Two in particular are an absolute must, examples of India’s long tradition of scientific theory influencing artistic practice.
The first of these, Jantar Mantar, is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed astronomical observatory. It is the largest and best preserved of the five observatories built by the astronomer Prince Jai Singh II using principles from both Mughal and Hindu astronomy.
Built in the early 18th century it is home to 20 astrological stone structures of giant proportions. These were used to measure time, predict eclipses and chart the declination of celestial bodies.
The Vrihat Samrat Yantra, ‘the great king of instruments’, is the largest of the structures at 27 metres high. It is one of the world’s largest sundials with its shadow visibly moving at the rate of 1mm per second. At its peak is a platform, a Hindu chhatri, used to announce eclipses and the arrival of monsoons.
The Amber Fort
Not far from the town lies the 16th century Amber Fort, a stunning mix of Mughal and Rajput architectural styles. Here the multitude of geometric ornamentation shows how mathematics was an essential element of the fort’s artistry, working to symbolise the strength of the king.
Continuing on through the fort you will see beautiful gardens, ornate entrances and dazzling palaces.
Of everything to see here you should not miss the Ganesh Pol, the entrance to the private palaces. Its painted façade is awash with colour and it leads in to the third courtyard, home to arguably the most exquisite space within the Amber Fort.
This space is the Sheesh Mahal, the Palace of Mirrors. Built for a queen who loved to see the stars shining, its walls and ceilings are covered with tiny glass mosaics so that a small flame can take on the appearance of the twinkling stars.
The gardens of the Amber Fort are also worth your time. The Kesar Kyaari on Maota Lake exemplifies the gardens of the Mughals. Its star-shaped flower beds were once used to grow an abundance of saffron flowers. Sadly today the climate is no longer supportive but the carefully manicured gardens still show off the celestial geometries of its past.
Jantar Mantar and the Amber Fort are both included on Bunnik Tours’ 19 day Colours of Rajasthan small group tour.
Check out Dennis in Jaipur on YouTube to find out more.