PINK CITY: Explore the architecture of Jaipur, India, one Palace at a time
The capital of India’s majestic Rajasthan region, Jaipur is a chaotic mix of old and new, abundant with historical gems and arresting visual beauty. From centuries-old fortresses to dusty pink palaces oozing fairy-tale grandeur, Jaipur evokes a whimsical, old-world charm. Read on to discover the top five architectural highlights of the ‘pink city’. Ros Brennan shares her favourite palaces and local hotels to match.
Built by Jai Singh II during his reign, the ruler of the of the kingdom of Amber (later called Jaipur), the City Palace is a large complex of palaces, courtyards and gardens, the greatest part of it still being a royal residence. Dating back to the early 20th Century, it is a striking blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture located in the centre of the Old City, which has been enlarged and adapted over the centuries.
The Hawa Mahal (also known as ‘Palace of Breeze’) was built in 1799 as an extension to the Royal City Palace of Jaipur. It allowed the royal ladies who at the time strictly observed ‘pardah’, to be able to watch any processions and activities on the street without being seen by the public. Its five stories of red and pink sandstone loom over the city in a dazzling display of ancient Indian architecture. The top offers stunning views over Jantar Mantar and the City Palace in one direction and over Sireh Deori Bazaar in the other. There’s a small museum with miniature paintings and some rich relics, such as ceremonial armour, which help evoke the royal past. A tourist composite ticket is the most cost-effective option, allowing you entry to a number of key sites.
The former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur, the Rambagh Palace is a grand five-star hotel located 8km from Jaipur and evoking the royal grandeur and decadent architecture of days gone by. The first building on the site was a garden house built in 1835 for the wet nurse of prince Ram Singh II. In 1887, during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh, it was converted into a modest royal hunting lodge, as the house was located in the midst of a thick forest at that time. In the early 20th century, it was expanded into a palace to the designs of Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob. While the property primary operates as a hotel today, they are dedicated to honouring the rich history of the palace with a number of historical experiences such as heritage tours and architectural tours.
Located in Amer, approximately 11km from central Jaipur, the Amber Palace was originally the residence of the Rajput Maharajas and their families. With its large ramparts and series of gates and cobbled paths, the palace overlooks Maota Lake and is known for its artistic Hindu style elements. Constructed of red sandstone and marble, the attractive, opulent palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. It consists of the Diwan-i-Aam, or ‘Hall of Public Audience’, the Diwan-i-Khas, or ‘Hall of Private Audience’, the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace.
Possibly the most serene sight amidst the chaos of Jaipur is the beautiful Jal Mahal Jaipur, the Water Palace. This low-rise symmetrical palace, that once was a shooting lodge for the Maharajah, appears to float in the centre of Sagar Lake. The light sand coloured stone walls of the Jal Mahal Jaipur are at a stark contrast to the deep blue of the waters of the lake. Unfortunately, exploration of the actual palace is off limits to the majority of visitors as it is to be transformed into an exclusive restaurant. A rickshaw from Jaipur to Jal Mahal will cost between 50-100RS while the return journey should cost less than 150RS.
Stay nearby: Escape the heat and luxuriate poolside at the Hotel Trident Jaipur (above).
On The Radar
Savista, a luxury eco retreat about two hours from the city centre with farm to fork practices and a cool, white interior.
Escape the city and head to the luxurious Oberoi Rajvillas. If you’re travelling with a group, check in to the Kohinoor Villa, a private enclosure spread across 1,057 square metres, around a 20 metre long swimming pool.