Jaipur – not really a pink city
Jaipur looks like the India of my imagination. Opulent, luxurious, and a bit of mystery.
We drove more than four hours through farmland and small villages of Rajasthan to arrive at the “Pink City.” It should really be called the Coral City since the buildings in the old city are all a lovely, soft terracotta color. Signs are all in black and white, resulting in a very organized look among the throngs of people crowding the streets.
After Indian independence in 1947, many aristocratic and royal families converted their properties to hotels and resorts, often living in just one section. Our heritage hotel was the city residence of a nearby royal family, built by a man who later was Prime Minister of Jaipur. Two of the brothers still live there. Bizarrely, we checked in to the soft sounds of Kenny Rodgers playing in the background on the hotel sound system.
With our guide Ajit, we spent a day exploring the Amber Palace, Jantar Mantar observatory, and the City Palace Museum. Built in 1592, the Amber Fort features one entire area, walls, and ceilings, covered in designs made with tiny mirrors. It was done to mimic starlight when reflecting candlelight and I can only imagine how magical it must’ve been. From the palace ramparts, you can see the surrounding Aravalli Hills.
The observatory was where we posed for pictures with school kids. The 12 gigantic instruments were built to be used by local residents for astronomy and astrology. Astrological information is a prominent factor in arranged marriages. The enormous sundial tells time to the second.
The City Palace is now part textile museum and it was very entertaining to see the clothing worn by the various rulers through the centuries, including one who weighed 500 pounds – that was one large piece of embroidered fabric. Still the residence of the royal family and the current college-age king, an art museum with artists demonstrating their work in also on-site. The royal family was immersed in scandals when the king’s daughter ran off with the palace cashier, it is their oldest son, who was adopted by his grandfather, and is now king. Most of the family’s very substantial wealth comes from their hotel chain, Taj hotels. The commoner husband has recently been photoshopped out of official family pictures, but I haven’t been able to get details on that topic.