• Paul Nicodemus

Jaipur: The City of Rich Cultural Heritage

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

Text and Pics: Paul Nicodemus In an extraordinary achievement, India’s Pink City of Jaipur got inscribed as the 38th UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 6, 2019 during the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee held at Baku, Azerbaijan. With the successful inscription of Jaipur City, India has 38 world heritage sites, that include 30 cultural properties, 7 natural properties and 1 mixed site. Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan located 268 km from the national capital New Delhi, is among the most visited cities in India, thanks to its distinct geography, vibrant culture and grand palatial architecture. It demands priority on the checklist of tourists and travellers visiting from within India and abroad. Notably, the architecture and monuments in the city remind the modern world about past glory and grandeur. The city’s urban planning shows an exchange of ideas from ancient Hindu and modern Mughal as well as Western cultures. The grid plan is a model that prevails in the West, while the organisation of the different districts refers to traditional Hindu concepts. B.L. Dhama, a famous Indian architect and former superintendent of ASI, in his book ‘A Guide to Jaipur and Amber’ informatively presented the history of Jaipur in Rajasthan, India. Jaipur, formerly the capital of a state of the same name, is now the capital of Rajasthan. The old name of the State of Jaipur was Dhundhar (a desolate tract), and its ancient capital was Amber, situated five miles to the north of Jaipur. Amber was known at one time by the name of Ambavati Nagri according to an inscription dated Samvat 1714 or A.D. 1657, discovered by the writer in the year 1924. Its old rulers were the Minas who belonged to the Matsyadesh whose capital was Virata (modern Bairat), situated about 52 miles to the north of Jaipur. The geography of Amber limited its scope for progress. So, Sawai Raja Jai Singh founded a new capital. He founded the city of Jaipur in 1727. All the buildings he had completed, such as the city walls, the gigantic gateways, the Diwan-i-Amm, the Observatory and others, speak volumes about his grandness of conception. An excerpt from the executive summary of the nomination of the Jaipur city for inclusion on the World Heritage List beautifully showcased it. The City of Jaipur is an exceptional urban example in indigenous city planning and construction in South Asia. Unlike other medieval cities of the region, Jaipur was deliberately planned as a new city on the plains open for trade as opposed to hilly terrain and military towns of past, though its planning still ensured a response to the surrounding hilltops in all directions. The site selected within the valley that lay to the south of Amber hills was comparatively flat and unmarred by any previous construction. Besides exemplary planning, its iconic monuments such as the Govind Dev temple, City Palace, Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal excel in artistic and architectural craftsmanship of the period. Jaipur is an expression of the astronomical skills, living traditions, unique urban form and exemplary foresighted city planning of an 18th-century city from India. Jaipur is an exemplary development in town planning and architecture that demonstrates amalgamation and important interchange of several ideas over the late medieval period. In the years that followed, during the rule of Sawai Ram Singh I, the city was painted pink to welcome H.R.H. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1876. Since then, many of the avenues remained painted in pink, giving Jaipur the name Pink City. Dhola Rai Kachhawaha, an emigrant from Gwalior and Narwar, seized Amber from the Minas in about the first half of the 12th century. He married Marooni, the daughter of the Chauhan king of Ajmer. The poem rehearsing Dhola’s love was the subject of bardic songs in Rajasthan. His successors, Pajun Deva (1070-1094), Man Singh (1589-1614), Jai Singh (Mirja Raja) (1615-1667), and Jai Singh (Sawai) (1699-1743) occupy an essential place in the history of Jaipur. Pajun Deva, the seventh descendant from Dhola Rai married the sister of Prithviraja, the last Chauhan king of Delhi, and fought bravely on the side of his chivalrous brother-in-law in many decisive battles. Later, Man Singh I, became Akbar’s trusted friend and carried his victorious arms throughout the length and breadth of India. He also received the title of Raja and a mansab. He had in succession the governorship of Kabul, Bihar, Hajipur, Patna, Bengal and the Dekhan where he died during the reign of Jahangir. Jai Singh I (Mirja Raja), great-grandson of Man Singh I, was made the governor of the conquered provinces of Dekhan by Aurangzeb. He received the title of Mirja Raja (king having the greatness of birth or character). He was well versed in Hindi as well as several other languages, namely Turkish, Persian, and Arabic. Jai Singh II (Sawai), who came to the throne after two generations, was the most prominent of the rulers of Amber. Under his rule, Amber transformed from a small principality into a vast territory. He distinguished himself as a scientist and soldier. Sawai Raja Jai Singh founded the city of Jaipur and built astronomical observatories at Jaipur, Delhi, Madhura, Benares and Ujjain. Sawai Raja also published a work on astronomy called “Ziej-i (movements of heavenly bodies) Muhammad Shahi” which he dedicated to Emperor Muhammad Shah. His descendants Ram Singh II (1835-80), Madho Singh II (1888-1922) and Man Singh II (1922-1949) administered and ruled the territory with great zeal. After nine and a half centuries of rule, the last of the Kachhawaha rulers of Amber (the country of Dhundhar), Man Singh II, in keeping with the spirit of the times, surrendered his power and vast territory to the Indian government. Art and Culture With the rulers of Jaipur patronising arts and crafts, it has many cultural sites like Jawahar Kala Kendra, designed by Architect Charles Correa and Ravindra Manch. The state museum hosts several arts and antiquities. The city looks vibrant with statues depicting Rajasthani culture and many traditional shops selling antiques and handicrafts. The Jaipur Gharana of Kathak is one of the three significant gharanas known for its rapid intricate dance forms, animated body movements and subtle Abhinaya. Ghoomar is a popular folk dance style, and Tamasha is an art form where Kathputli puppet dance is shown as part of the play. The Jaipur Literature Festival is one of the most prestigious in the world. Live performances of street circus, plays, numerous folk and devotional songs and annual events portray the culture of the old city. Some of the crafts include bandhani, block-printing, stone carving and sculpture, tarkashi, zari, gota-patti, kinari and zardozi, silver jewellery, gems, kundan, meenakari and jewellery, Lakh ki Chudiyan, miniature paintings, blue pottery, ivory carving, shellac work and leatherware. Places of Interest Hawa Mahal, Albert Hall and Museum, Amer Fort/Amber Palace, Jantar Mantar/Observatory, Nahargarh Fort, Jal Mahal, City Palace, Jaigarh Fort, Birla Mandir, Maharaja Public Library, Galta, Govind Dev Temple, Garh Ganesh Temple, Moti Dungri Ganesh Temple, Sanghi Jain temple and the Jaipur Zoo are some of the significant places of interest. Sisodiya Rani Bagh and Kanak Vrindavan are the major parks, and Raj Mandir is a famed cinema hall in Jaipur. Hawa Mahal: Hawa Mahal, also known as the Wind Palace, is a five-storey pyramidal shaped monument with 953 windows that rise 15 metres from its high base. The Mahal overlooking the Sireh Deorhi Bazar has each storey decorated by a series of semi-octagonal oriels furnished with lattices and crowned by curvilinear and squared miniature domes with decorations. The topmost storey converges to the back of a Singhasana (throne). Maharaja Pratap Singh (1778-1803) built it. Albert Hall & Museum: In the middle of the Ramniwas Gardens at their southern boundary stands the Albert Hall & the Museum. The monument is considered the most elegant building built at Jaipur. Maharaja Ram Singh II commenced the construction, and his successor, Maharaja Madho Singh II completed it. It was made a permanent memorial of the visit of the Prince of Wales to Jaipur in the year l876. The museum contains a vast collection of all arts, such as metalware, textiles, Indian arms and weapons, jewellery, coins, Egyptian antiquities, wood carving, pottery, lacquered work, garnet, sculpture, painting and photographs paper mache work, basket work, clay models, carpets, ivory work, geological and anatomical sections and other miscellaneous works and astronomical instruments. Nahargarh Fort: Nahargarh rises high above the city of Jaipur. The fort offers a beautiful panoramic view of the town. Formerly, guns boomed every day at sunrise, noon and bedtime, the arrivals and departures of persons of eminence, the births and the other events of the royalty which were heard for miles around. Another name of Nahargarh is Sudarshan Garh or good looking fort. Amber Palace: Amber, the ancient capital of the Kacchwahas is situated five miles to the north of the city of Jaipur in a gorge of hills on the old Highway to Delhi. The way is picturesquely flanked with temples, gardens, palaces, cenotaphs, lakes and various other buildings. Amber Palace is an excellent example of palace architecture of mediaeval times inspiring awe and reverence. B.L. Dhama describes it as a palace standing on a terraced plateau at the north-east foot of Jaigarh hill and overlooking the town of Amber, it forms a most imposing edifice. A great court-yard called Jaleb Chowk occupies the lower terrace; this is surrounded on three sides by blocks of buildings, formerly used as barracks, stables and attendants’ rooms, and is entered from the east and west by splendid arched gateways, known as Surajpol and Chandpol from their facing the sun and the moon respectively. Singhpol or the lion gate, Kali Temple, Dewan-i-Amm (the Hall of Public Audience), Ganeshpol, Dewan-i-Khas known as Jasmandir and Sheesh Mahal, Sukh Mandir (the Hall of Pleasure) and Man Singh’s Zanana Palace within the palace compound offer glimpses of the past glory. This grand palace once was decorated with the sumptuousness that is displayed throughout this marvellous castle. Maharaja Public Library: The library was founded in 1868 by Maharaja Ram Singh II. It contains a precious collection of English, Sanskrit, Arabic, 'Persian, Hindi and Urdu works, almost on all subjects. Jal Mahal: The water palace was built by Maharaja Pratap Singh (1778-1803) amid a lake known as Man-Sagar. Jaigarh Fort: Above the Amber palace stands Jaigarh or the stronghold of Jai Singh, the work of both Mirza Raja and Sawai Jai Singh. From the fort rises a watchtower called Diva miner or the lamp bastion from which a full view of the plains on the further side of the range of hills is obtained. City Palace: Established at the same time as the city of Jaipur by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the palace served as the ceremonial and administrative seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur till 1949. It now houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum and continues to be the home of the Jaipur royal family. The palace complex has several buildings, various courtyards, galleries, restaurants, and offices of the Museum Trust. There are several entrances to the castle, but the first approach is from the Sireh Deorhi Bazar by three grand and excellent portals, the first being known as the Bandarvar gate. Passing through a court, we see on the right, the garages for the elephant-driven chariots and then enter the Jaleb Chowk by the Dundubhi Pol or the Nakkar Khana ka Darwaza or the Dhruv Gate. Jantar Mantar Observatory: The Jaipur observatory is the largest of the five, erected by Sawai Jai Singh early in the eighteenth century. The observatory with a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments was completed in 1734. Jantar Mantar features the world’s largest stone sundial and it is a UNESCO World Heritage. The official language of Jaipur is Hindi, and the additional official language is English. The primary language of the city is Rajasthani. Marwari, Hindi and English are also spoken in the city. Epilogue by B.L. Dhama Visitors, who have seen the palaces and other relics of old at Amber and Jaipur, must have visualised the past pomp and splendour of the State of Dhundhar. What awe-striking picture it must have been of those times when Pajun, the mighty fighter, the dashing and gallant Man Singh, who carried his ally’s arms throughout the length and breadth of India; Jai Singh (Mirza)-a dread to Aurangzeb and Jai Singh (Sawai)-the scholar and soldier king surrounded by all the wit and erudition of the country, were living amidst their gallant horsemen ever mounted on their hardy and prancing steeds, vast company of courtiers and retainers, richly caparisoned elephants, horses and camels, daring soldiers jealously guarding, with their naked swords, their apartments and the harem filled with rarest beauties, Nakibs, Chaubdars, bards and the naubat (music) ever eulogising their chivalrous deeds! All these strong and mighty people unable to stem the order of Kala (Time) have passed away forever from the scene leaving behind their magnificent structures and carved fanes (which they had built to satisfy the artistic desires of their manly souls) for the doves to sit on their battlements and to utter what is expressed in the following Rubayi of Umar Khayyam: Aun qasr ke bar charkh hamizad pahlu, Bar dargah-i au shahan nahadandi roo, Dedeym ke bar kanguraash fakhtai, Ba nashishta hami guft ke “kii ku ku” That palace which was built lofty in the sky, On the threshold of which kings laid their eye, Seated on the battlement of which doves now cry,

‘Where is all that glory, and where all who built this has passed by?’ Union minister for culture (IC), Prahlad Singh Patel, expressed his happiness for the inclusion of the Pink City of Jaipur in the world heritage list and congratulated the people of Jaipur for this prestigious tag. The minister thanked the global community for recognising the historical and cultural importance of Jaipur. Source: UNESCO, PIB, ‘A Guide to Jaipur and Amber’ by B.L. Dhama Published in The Dance India magazine

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