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India: Jaipur the Pink City


Inner Courtyard, Amber Fort

Popularly known as the Pink City, is the capital of the state of Rajasthan. It is the third corner of India's Golden Triangle, the others being Delhi at 300km northeast and Agra 200km east. It is a city with a timeless quality to it, a city where the ancient and the modern co-exist in complete harmony. The label of 'pink city' applies specifically to the old walled quarter of Jaipur while the glorious palaces and temples are in the urban area.

There is a story behind how Jaipur became pink. For the visit of Prince of Wales in 1905/6, the city needed a paint job. The contractor could find only pink paint in the required quantity to do the facelift. Since then the pink colour is associated with hospitality in Rajput culture.


Jaipur of the Golden Triangle

The city owes its name to the great warrior - astronomer Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II who founded it with careful planning. Raja Jai Singh and his predecessors had kept good relations with the Mughals. In 1727, with Mughal power on the wane, Jai Singh decided to move down from his capital hillside fortress at Amber, to a new site on the plains.

A Bengali architect Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya designed Jaipur the pink city, using the principles of town planning, as laid down in the Shilpa Shastra, an ancient Hindu treatise on architecture. It was the first planned city of its time, the earlier planned city in Northern India having been built near Taxila sometime in the 2nd century BC. He also built the City Palace, and the largest stone observatory in the world, employing the same principles.

Jaipur was planned in a gird system with wide straight avenues, roads, streets and lanes and uniform rows of shops on either side of the main roads, all arranged in nine rectangular city sectors. The old city of Jaipur is partially encircled with seven gates - the major gates being Chandpol, Sanganeri and Ajmeri - to protect the city from invaders. Jaipur has a timeless appeal in its colourful bazaars that delights for its Rajasthani handlooms and trinkets. Beautifully laid out gardens and parks, attractive monuments and marvellous heritage hotels, once the residence of Maharajas are worth admiration.