Jal Mahal: Water Palace
The city of Jaipur is the capital city of the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan. Jaipur, which is situated 190 miles (300km) southwest of Delhi, is often referred to as the ‘Pink City’ due to the color of its stucco buildings. The city’s buildings were first painted pink, to welcome Britain’s Prince Albert in 1853.
No one is quite sure as to why the color pink was chosen, though some theories state that this particular color was used to imitate the red sandstone, which was used for constructing buildings in Jaipur during the Mughal era (16th to the 18th century). Soon after, the city came to be known as the ‘Pink City’ and Jaipur continues to be known by this moniker today.
The origins of the city of Jaipur can be traced to the 18th century and the rule of the Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. The Maharaja had his headquarters in the city of Amber, which is located at a distance of 7 miles (11 km) from Jaipur. He decided to move his capital to Jaipur in 1727, as he felt that Amber couldn’t cope with the growing population of his kingdom, as the city was also experiencing a shortage of water resources. The king then began to plan the layout of his new capital in earnest. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II was a keen student of science and mathematics and this scientific thought helped him to plan the layout of the new city, though he even went on to ask a famed Brahmin scholar, Vidyadhar Bhattacharya of Bengal, for help in formulating his plans.
The construction of Jaipur began in 1727 and the city took more than eight years to complete. Jaipur was laid out in a simple grid system, which featured 9 main blocks. Seven blocks were used to house the people of the city, while two blocks were reserved for the Royal palaces and state buildings. The entire city was planned according to the principles of Indian architecture, a science known as Vastu Shilpa Shastra. This scientific layout of Jaipur was admired by all and sundry, and to this day, the city continues to be regarded as one of the better-planned cities on the Indian subcontinent.
Modern-day Jaipur is a busy, urban center which is home to more three million people. The city is especially known for its many historic attractions and excellent shopping options and is thus considered an essential stop on any tour of the erstwhile royal state of Rajasthan.
Best time to visit Jaipur
The state of Rajasthan, which is home to the Great Indian Thar Desert, is bestowed with a large, dry and arid landscape. Jaipur thus experiences a year round hot and arid weather pattern, which features scorching summers, mild and pleasant winters and little annual precipitation. The summer months in Jaipur extend from April to July and routinely feature daytime temperatures that top the 45̊C (113̊F) mark. The city also experiences a brief monsoon season between June and August, during which time it receives much of its annual rainfall.
The winter season in Jaipur extends from November to February. During this time, the city experiences pleasant daytime temperatures that range from 15–18° C (59–64° F). These temperatures are considered to be conducive for sightseeing and therefore the winter months are considered to be the best time to plan a visit to Jaipur.
Almost all nationalities require a visa to visit India. India only grants visa-exempt access to citizens of its neighboring countries; Nepal and Bhutan. Additionally, India offers a ‘Visa on Arrival’ facility for citizens of 11 countries. Currently citizens of Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Laos, Myanmar and Indonesia are eligible for a ‘visa on arrival’ in India. However if your parents or grandparents were born or have lived in present-day Pakistan, you cannot take advantage of this visa option.
All other visitors have to acquire a tourist visa from the Indian consulate/embassy located in their home country, before embarking on a visit to India. Indian visas are issued for various durations and ten year visas for India are usually available in the USA, while five year visas for India are often issued in countries like France, Germany, Norway, Spain, Finland, Belgium, Switzerland, Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Vietnam.
All visas for India are generally multi-entry and offer a six-month entry into India at a time. However holders of these Indian multiple-entry tourist visas are required to leave a gap of at least two months between visits. If you need to go back to India within this two-month period, you have to obtain special permission from the Indian consulate/mission located in your home country.
The issue of a tourist visa for a visit to India is subject to various conditions and it is advisable that you contact your nearest Indian consulate/embassy for more details.
Getting to and around Jaipur
Jaipur is equipped with the sole international airport that is located within the state of Rajasthan. The Jaipur International Airport is located in the satellite town of Sanganer, located at a distance of 13 km from the city center of Jaipur. The airport offers daily flights to most major Indian cities, though it also has a few international air links with destinations like Dubai, Sharjah and Muscat.
Jaipur is also linked by train and long distance bus services to various other destinations in India. Transportation within the city is offered by public bus, radio taxis and auto-rickshaws (motorized three-wheelers), though most visitors to the city opt to hire a car with a driver for their sightseeing expeditions in and around Jaipur. Most local tour operators and hotels can help arrange this service.
Family-friendly hotels in Jaipur
Jaipur is a prominent tourist destination in Rajasthan and thus is equipped with a wide variety of hotels, many of which are housed in converted palaces and former royal residences. These Jaipur accommodations cater to all price-points, accommodation needs and preferences.
Jas Vilas is a family-run boutique hotel in Jaipur. This quaint hotel is housed in a stunning 50 year old, historic mansion that has been in the family for generations. The Jas Vilas offers eight well-appointed rooms which are outfitted with antique furnishings, as well as modern-day conveniences like wireless Internet access, TVs equipped with satellite channels and air-conditioning. This homey hotel also offers facilities like an outdoor swimming pool and a communal dining room where meals are served. The Jas Vilas affords easy access to the many attractions of the Pink City, as it located close to the busy Sawai Jai Singh Highway.
The Samode Haveli
The Samode Haveli is a heritage hotel located six kilometers away from the city center of Jaipur. This hotel is housed in a 175-year-old historic building, that was once a royal residence of the Samode royal family, former rulers of Amber and Jaipur. The hotel offers 39 lavish rooms and suites, outfitted with antiques and luxurious soft furnishings, which reflect the history and culture of Samode. The hotel is equipped with a beautifully decorated restaurant, a gorgeous central courtyard, lush gardens and a Moorish-style outdoor swimming pool.
The Rambagh Palace Hotel
The Rambagh Palace Hotel is owned and operated by the highly ranked Taj group of hotels, a well-known Indian hospitality company, which has a presence in many parts of the world. The Rambagh Palace hotel is housed in a palace, which was once the residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur. The hotel is an awe-inspiring property that features a central courtyard and 47 acres of landscaped gardens. Other facilities at the restaurant include three restaurants and bars, which are adorned with trimmings like Florentine frescoes, hand-painted murals and gilt-edged mirrors. The hotel also hosts a full-service spa that offers an assortment of holistic treatments, an indoor heated pool and an outdoor pool, two Finnish Saunas, a 9-hole golfing green, two fitness centers, a yoga room and a shopping arcade. The Rambagh is also equipped with a fleet of vintage cars, which can be hired by guests for expeditions around the city.
The hotel offers 79 luxurious, restored guestrooms and suites that are adorned with rich furnishings, silk drapes and much local artwork. These old-world rooms at the Rambagh Palace Hotel offer a slew of modern-day conveniences like in-room safes, tea/coffee makers, LCD TVs with cable and satellite channels and high-speed Internet access (additional fee). The hotel can supply rollaway beds and offers in-room childcare on a chargeable basis.
Photo courtesy: The Rambagh Palace Hotel
Family-friendly attractions in Jaipur
The City Palace Complex
The magnificent City Palace complex is located in the heart of the city. The City Palace complex was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1728, and features high walls and exquisite gardens and courtyards. The palace grounds also include smaller palaces, pavilions, gardens and temples. The City Palace complex which is laid out in a grid like pattern served as the principal residence of successive Maharajas of Jaipur and each Maharaja who resided at the palace added to and enhanced its original structure.
Prominent attractions of the City Palace, include buildings like the Chandra Mahal, the abode of the present ruler of Jaipur which is approached via a series of courtyards, the Mubarak Mahal which today hosts a museum that displays textiles and costumes and the Sileha Khana which offers displays of armory and weapons. Other points of interest in the complex include the Diwan-E-Am (Hall of public audience), which is adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures and houses a collection of old manuscripts and the Diwan-E-Khas (Hall of Private audience), which is adorned with marble sculptures and two gargantuan silver urns, reputed to be the largest silver vessels in the world. These urns were used by Maharaja Madho Singh II to carry water from the River Ganges with him, when he traveled to London in 1902 aboard an ocean liner, as he didn’t trust the quality of the water in the west.
The Jantar Mantar
Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II was a keen follower of astronomy and his love for this study of the celestial objects led him to create one of Jaipur’s most well known attractions, the Jantar Mantar. The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is one of the five such observatories that were built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II between 1727 and 1734. The Jantar Mantar is equipped with several instruments that help to study the movements of the stars and planets. However, the star attraction of the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is its large sundial, which continues to tell the time correctly until today. The sundial at the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is the largest in the world.
The Hawa Mahal or the ‘Palace of Winds’ is yet another acclaimed attraction in Jaipur. This pink sandstone Palace was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh and it is located close to the City Palace complex. The palace overlooks the busy streets and bazaars of Jaipur and it was in fact built to afford the women of the court, a chance to view the activity of the bazaars behind the privacy of filigreed stone carved screens. The structure of the five-storey high palace is said to have been inspired by the shape of the crown on Lord Krishna’s head, though it also resembles the honeycomb of a beehive. The palace contains more than nine hundred intricately carved and adorned, finely screened windows called ‘jharokhas’ which allowed the royal ladies who had to observe strict ‘purdah’ (face cover), a chance to participate in the hustle-bustle of daily life without being seen by the hoi polloi.
Family-friendly activities in Jaipur
Explore Amber Palace on the back of an elephant
The Amber Palace served as the seat of power for the Kachwaha Rajput Kings from 1037 to 1728. The Palace is situated on the summit of a hill, which is located at a distance of 11 km (seven miles) from Jaipur. The palace is an exponent of the indo-Islamic school of architecture, which developed after the Mughals arrived in India in the early 16th century. Visitors can tour the interiors of the palace and view the Maharaja’s opulent private chambers, which are surrounded by the rooms of his many wives and concubines. These rooms are linked to the main bedroom via a network of secret passageways, constructed to prevent jealousy amongst the members of the harem. Other attractions located within this palace cum fort include temples, pillared pavilions, gardens and smaller palaces like the Sheesh Mahal, the Shila Mata and Jai Mandir temples, the Diwan-e-khas and Diwan-e-Aam (audience halls) and the Kesar Kyari landscaped gardens. Children will especially enjoy a visit to Amber Palace as most tours of the palace, feature an elephant ride, which takes visitors up the palace ramparts, through a succession of tall gates.
Explore Amber Palace on the back of an elephant
Chase the pushy primates of the Galta Monkey Temple
The Galta Monkey Temple is located between two steep cliffs on the outskirts of Jaipur. The temple is part of a much larger, much venerated temple complex that is dedicated to the sun god, Surya. This temple complex is inhabited by numerous monkeys, who enjoy swimming in the complex’s holy pools. The mischievous primates are quite accustomed to humans. In fact these monkeys look for gifts of fruit and nuts from the devotees who come to worship at the temple. A visit to the Galta Monkey temple makes for a fun day trip from Jaipur.
Go shopping in Jaipur
Jaipur is known for its many shopping options. The city offers a treasure trove of products like leather shoes and bags, jewelry, ethnic textiles and home furnishings, gemstones, blue pottery and much more. The city is home to several up market stores like Amrapali, Gem Palace and Anokhi, however if you want to have an authentic Jaipur shopping experience, you should perhaps visit the city’s many bustling bazaars and markets like Chameliwala Market, Jauhari Bazaar, Bapu Bazaar, Nehru Bazaar, MI Road, Tripolia Bazaar and Chaura Rasta.
Useful numbers to have on hand while visiting Jaipur
India Tourism Office Rajasthan
State Hotel Khasa Kothi
302 001 Jaipur
Tel: +91 (0)141 2372200
Fax: +91 (0) 141 23 72200
Emergency numbers for India-
Police – 100
Foreign Embassies in India
United States Embassy, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2419 8000.
British High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2687 2161.
Canadian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4178 2000.
Australian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4139 9900.
South African High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2614 9411.
Irish Embassy, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2462 6733.
New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2688 3170.