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The City Palace came into existence pretty much around the same time as the city of Jaipur itself. The original palace was built by Sawai Jai Singh II, and over the years his successors brought about numerous additions to it. Clad in pink sandstone, the royal abode is one the city's most visited attractions; it's a treat for the travellers and pride of the locals. City Palace is more of a complex consisting of the Mubarak Mahal, Diwan-i-aam or hall of the audience, Sihel Khana, Chandra Mahal and Govind Dev Ji Temple. Even today a part of this complex is inhabited by descendants of the royal family, however entry to those section is restricted. The rest has been converted into museums, galleries, or shops. Today, the gallery displays paintings, pottery and various such art forms that can even be bought. Diwan-i-Khas still has on display, the humongous silver vessel that has found its way to the Guinness Records. The Buggy Khana, Shiel Khana or the house of weapons and Sabha Niwas still have traces of the glorious bygone Rajput era.
Jaipur's most prominent cultural centre, Jawahar Kala Kendra (JKK), pays tribute to the local culture. Although the construction began in 1986, the centre was completed in 1991 and has been a huge success ever since. The premises also houses a wonderful library, a cosy cafe and a small accommodation facility. The Center displays the works of famous artists and plays host to high profile dramas. If you thought all that was impressive, there's more to delight you! JKK also displays traditional Rajasthani artifacts to keep the soul of Jaipur alive. This place should definitely feature in your itinerary.
Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing is one of its kind museum that showcases block painted textiles that reflects the Rajasthani art-form. The fabrics on display come with exquisite designs, patterns and prints that will appeal to every visitor alike. The art of hand-printing and block painting is explored fully by traditional Indian artists here. The museum remains closed from May to July 15th for maintenance purposes. So, the next time you visit Jaipur, make sure to drop by this unique restored haveli or palace that houses some rare and interesting pieces.
If at all there was a ‘Jewel in the crown’ contest, as far as Jaipur is concerned, the Albert Hall would run away with all the honors. This hall still manifests British influences in terms of architecture, which incidentally, is a rare occurrence in a city replete with Rajputana designs. Built-in the late nineteenth century to welcome the erstwhile Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, it was actually envisaged as a town hall but was converted into a museum by Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II. Today, however, one can be audience to a mixed bag of exhibits that range from pottery, sculptures, musical instruments, weapons and scriptures. Look out for the Egyptian mummy that is on display on the ground floor. Not only the exhibitions but even the paintings adorning the walls of the entrance, the miniature fountain in the main veranda and the delicate marble work, speak of class and elegance that by far remains unmatched for its old-world elegance. With so much of history behind each carefully picked exhibit, it is best advised to get a guide to take you around, or perhaps opt for an audio guide that is available at the ticket counter in more than five different languages.
Jaigarh Fort was constructed more as a protective measure than as a palace, unlike the Amer fort that has extravagance written all over it. Built atop a hill, Jaigarh fort stretches for 12 kilometres (seven miles) and serves as an impenetrable fortress protecting both, the Amer Fort and Amer Village. Back in the day, it served as a cannon foundry. Though defense was its main purpose, the fort wins one over with its ornate palace complexes too. It further fascinates onlookers with its underground tanks that delineate the ingenious nature of the fort's foresighted architects. However, Jaivan, the wheel-enabled canon continues to be the most important feature of the Jaigarh Fort. With its 6.15 meter (20 feet)-long, ornately-carved barrel and a range of more than 32 kilometers (20 miles), this behemoth of a weapon is believed to be the largest of its kind in the world.
Nahargarh roughly means “Home of Lions”, and this fort is a part of the trio along with Amer Fort and Jaigarh Fort. Like the others, this one too has its share of myths and theories, for example, it is believed that the fort got its name from the fact that during its construction, a prince named Nahar Singh haunted the construction site. But other than that, Nahargarh has a history that ranges from the Rajput to the British era. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II had ordered for the construction of the fort somewhere in 1734 A.D. and subsequently got it extended to accommodate rooms for each of the king’s several wives. The main palace; the Madhavendra Bhawan, flaunts some delicately designed frescoes and paintings on the walls for which vegetable dye was put to use. Today most of the fort is undergoing restoration work, but one can still come up here for a glimpse of the breathtaking views of the “Pink City” below.
Foundations of the Amer Fort were laid by Raja Man Singh I in 1592, and expanded by successive generations of the Kachwahas over a span of 150 years. Flanked by the Aravali mountains and overlooked by Jaigarh Fort, this Rajput fortress reigns over the historic town of Amer with the Maota Lake sprawled at its feet. Inside, the fort is split into four individual areas, each with its own courtyard and palatial enclaves. Right from the Shilla Temple to the Sheesh Mahal, this fort is as monumental as it can get. Be it the paintings and glass work from Belgium, the vivid frescoes, or the traditional inlay and relief work that adorns the opulent palace, Amer Fort is a monumental jewel of historic art and architecture hewn from sandstone and marble; a fitting abode for the Rajput Kings and their household. The entire fort is equipped with ramps, which at one point of time were helpful in pushing around small buggies, used by the queens to get around as their heavy clothes and jewelry made it difficult to walk.
Hawa Mahal or “Palace of Winds” as it is also called, has been a cornerstone of Jaipur's architecture for centuries. Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh’s brainchild, Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 to allow the protected womenfolk of the royal families to catch a glimpse of the bustling city life without having to defy the then-prevalent pardah system. The total of 953 “Jharokas” or screened windows made of sandstone make for a unique honeycomb-like facade of the Mahal. The unique pyramid-like structure was a later addition to the original City Palace Complex. Standing five stories tall, Hawa Mahal, like any other palace is complete with a courtyard or Jaleb Chowk, as it was called back then. An ornate remnant of the Rajput Architecture, Hawa Mahal narrates fascinating tales of the city's aristocratic past.
Far away from the city centre, lies the historic Galtaji Temple which was a drought-stricken place in the past. Centuries ago an ascetic named Galav meditated for more than a hundred years to appease the Gods and Goddesses, who then blessed him and the fervent locals with a perennial natural spring in this region. In the 18th Century, this temple was built in honour of the selfless effort of the saint. Galtaji has many temples within its premises. The pink sandstone exteriors and spellbinding architecture of these temples might easily be mistaken for palaces. Situated atop the hill, this temple dedicated to the Sun God, is considered the most sacred of all the shrines here. On auspicious occasions, devotees cleanse themselves in the holy natural springs and offer their prayers to God. Positive vibrations of devotional hymns and expansive views of the city, contribute to the tranquility of this sacred space.
Jantar Mantar is a fantastic collation of astronomical instruments planned by the visionary ruler of Jaipur, Maharaja Jai Singh II. After a successful construction of Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the Maharaja built the same in Jaipur, which also happens to be the largest observatory in India. In 1901, the devices were restored with white marble and red sandstone for better clarity in denoting time. Jantar and Mantar mean instrument and calculation respectively. The Jaipur location comprises of 16 geometric instruments that measure time across various dimensions including latitude, longitude, position of the sun, planet inclination and declination. Starting from the small sundials, compass, Jai Prakash Yantra (instrument), Nadivalaya (Northern and Southern hemispheres), Yantra Raj, Rashivalaya Yantra (Sun Signs instrument) and moving on to the Rama Yantra, Digmasa Yantra, Chakra Yantra, all of which record accurate time. This biggest sun dial in the world standing 44 meters tall is the highlight of this center. Here, it is best suggested to book a guide who will provide a detailed insight into the center. A great place of interest for historians, scientists, artists and mathematicians, Jantar Mantar is highly educating and awe-inspiring for people from all walks of life.