An underrated Marvel
The king of Jaipur, Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II had some religious beliefs that needed him to use the water of River Ganga on a daily basis. The river is considered holy in Hinduism and carried a significant importance in Hindu culture. He was however faced with a challenge when he needed to undertake a voyage to England in 1902 for the Coronation of Edward VII.
How will he get the water in England? Thames River simply won’t do the job. Hence he decided to take two humongous Silver urns, 5 ft high 14 ft wide capable of holding 4091 Litres. Even the empty urns weighed 345 KGs. If that doesn’t speak royalty, I don’t know what does.
Now that I have described the story, let me give you some details about where to find this artefact and at the same time describe about one palace complex whose opulence and quirks wowed and overwhelmed me at the same time.
City Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan
The best thing about the City Palace of Jaipur is that it justifies its name with a very high level of sincerity. It is situated bang in the middle of the city. It is so easily accessible that we reached it by booking an UBER and the guy didn’t even needed to ask for directions.
The palace complex has multiple entries. The main gate is called Tripolia Gate and apparently it is very beautiful. ‘Apparently’ because I didn’t get a chance to see it. Tourists don’t get to use that gate. It’s reserved for formal occasions by the royal family, who still reside in one part of the complex. Tourists enter via Gate no 2.
The complex has an entry fee which is something like below:
For Indians – INR 130
For children – INR 70
Foreign tourists – INR 500
Photography Fee – INR 50
Videography Fee – INR 150
Sr. Citizen fees -INR 110
Audio Guides – INR 200
The palace opens around 9.30 am in the morning. For you to explore the entire place, it may take two hours to three hours.
Mubarak Mahal: A glimpse of the past encased in a layer of glass
Once you enter the Gate no 2, you end up in a huge courtyard bounded by high walls and canopies on all sides. A two storied building which seemed like a fusion of all kinds of architectural styles stands in the middle of the courtyard. It’s called Mubarak Mahal.
It had influence of both Mughal and Rajput Architecture and the interiors had some influence of British as well. We overheard one guide explaining to some tourists that it was originally designed to be a guest house by the king but now serves as a Textile museum. I never hire guides on such tours, and prefer eavesdropping on guides hired by other tourists (sic). One of the advantages of visiting crowded touristy places.
It’s a cute museum holding some of the elaborately embroidered and brocaded garbs that formerly belonged to the royal wardrobe.
“Wow! This is so beautiful” my wife eye’s had a twinkle in her eyes. Just like the ones that small kids have when they are in candy store. She is very fond of ethnic wear and the designs seem to resonate with her.
“Yeah”, as most men I am a man of few words (pun intended).
As we were making our way out of that museum we encountered a huge dress. A trouser almost 4 feet wide was staring at us from a glass pane. Yes 4 feet wide. The kurta was that big as well, but that trouser had taken my breathe away. That was the first time I felt bad that they were not allowing photography inside that Mubarak Mahal.
As per the description this was the dress of Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh ji. He was a big man, weighed 250 KGs. The Quarter Ton king had taken all our attention with just one trouser of his.
We left the Mubarak Mahal and started making our way towards a big gate made out of stone that had intricate carvings on it. It is called the Rajendra Pol.
Rajendra Pol: Enter the Opulence
To say that Rajendra Pol is just a gate would be a complete understatement. If was as big as Mubarak Mahal. It had intricate carvings along its surface, beautiful stone works all complete with two Monolithic Marble Elephants on each side of the pathway
We entered thought it to the next part of the complex which is where the real deal begins.
Sarvato Bhadra – The most beautiful courtroom
The first structure that you encounter once you have entered the Rajendra Pol is the Sarvato Bhadra, the Dewan-i-aam equivalent of the city palace. This is where the king used to hold his court. People from the city could come and plead their issues and the king would resolve them. Donning the typical pink colour that renders the name to Jaipur as the pink city, this monument has mostly open sides baring four rooms at the four corners.
Sarvato Bhadra houses two distinct artefacts. One of which is the Galgajalis, the silver urns that I have described when I started this post. The other is an impressive wall hanging made up of real guns and spears. This wall hanging serves from some amazing photos if taken properly. The photos remained our facebook profile pictures for a very long time.
The floor of the Sarvato Bhadra is made of marble and all the arches holds a chandelier. A guide was saying that during the actual court, there will be heavy curtains drawn in style between the arches and the pillars. I can see were Sanjay Leela Bhansali movies get there styling inspiration.
On the left side of the Sarvato Bhadra is something called Baggi Khana. This is where the chariots of the royal family are kept. I believe they are taken out for ceremonies. I didn’t pay much attention to it as it didn’t seem interesting to me.
On the right side of Sarvato Bhadra, exists the Sabha Niwas.
Sabha Niwas: Conference hall of the kings.
As the name suggests this place is meant for ‘Sabhas’ or meetings. The insides are strict no photography zones, so we had to content ourselves with posing with these two canons guarding the entrance.
The insides of the walls were all decorated with Jaipur Monarchs of the yesteryears. There was a grand hall with a maroon carpet covering every inch of the floor. Chairs placed in two neat lines leading up to two thrones. I was itching to click a few pictures here, but the fact that the security of the place is maintained by private security guards of the Royal Family, deterred me from trying any such stunts. I can manage police; have had my fare share of scuffles with them. Private security, I didn’t want to mess with.
I did however find a picture on Wikipedia, so here is a sneak peek into the Sabha. Feast your eyes.
We came out of the Sabha Niwas and went towards the eastern side. I thought we had seen it all that the complex had to offer. Little did I know that unknowingly I had kept the best for the last.
Pritam Niwas Chowk – Take the crossroad to Royalty:
We entered the gate named Pritam Niwas chowk and found ourselves in a lobby dotted with Pictures of kings and queens. Once out of the lobby we reached a place called Riddhi Siddhi Pol.
Ridhi Sidhi Pol – Seasons & Gods:
The first stage of the Pritam Niwas Chowk is known as Ridhi Sidhi Pol and is undoubtedly the most happening place of the City Palace complex. Tourists clamouring for a free place to take pictures with one of the most beautiful gates built by human beings. The best thing about Ridhi sidhi Pol is that it doesn’t have just one such gate, but four gates. The four gates in the Ridhi Sidhi Pol represents one of the seasons and are also dedicated to one of the Hindu deities.
Mor Gate – 3D Peacocks:
This gate has a distinctive motif of Peacocks on it and dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is emerald green in colour and represents Autum. This gate was the most sought after gate in the whole arena. We managed to click this picture just before it was taken over by a dozen Chinese tourists.
Lotus Gate – Petals of Summer:
Next up the gate that is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The Lotus gate represents Summer and has this beautiful repetitive pattern of lotus petals all over it. It wasn’t 3D but the closed door provided for this undisturbed photograph. My wife here looks like she is standing right outside her home. I felt like royalty for some minutes just y looking at this picture.
Probably the most underrated of the gates, the Laheria Gate is marked by pattern of waves. This green coloured gate is dedicate to lord Ganesh and Represents the season of transformation. The Spring Season. The design wasn’t appealing to many tourists so we were left alone at this gate.
Rose Gate – Love blossoms:
They sat winter is the most romantic season. Winter is also represented by flowers those are used to covey love like nothing else, flowers like rose. This is why the architect chose Rose as the motif of choice when he was asked to represent the Winter season. This gate is dedicated to Goddess Devi .
I was looking for the monsoon season but didn’t find it there. Not sure why they missed monsoon, or may be they are angry because of the low rains in the area. I would have asked this if I had hired a guide, unfortunately I didn’t and would be having this question with me forever.
The Ridhi Sidhi Pol also is the gateway to Chandra Mahal. The actual palace where the Royal Family Resides.
Chandra Mahal – Home of Royalty:
This palace is seven stories high and in off limits to tourists. The descendants of the Royal Family, that I had mentioned earlier, resides in a part of this palace. Tourists are allowed to visit Chandra Mahal if they have an invitation or if they are part of a delegation on special visits to the palace complex.
We could only marvel the palace for outside. It did look great, entering it would have been the cherry on top for us.
Every nook and corner of the palace provided for some amazing sights. Might not be as huge as the mighty Amber Fort, not as ornamental as the beautiful Hawa Mahal, but the city palace merges beauty and practicality in the most seamless of ways. It deserves to be much higher on the must do list in Jaipur.