The Maharajah Jai Singh II was sometimes called "the Newton of the East" because of his intense interest in astronomy and all things celestial. In 1726, he constructed an incredible collection of astronomy-related buildings and facilities in Jaipur, at the time perhaps the most scientifically advanced items of their kind in the world. Even today, the technology assembled at Jantar Mantar is incredible.
OK, back to the "Does anyone really know what time it is?" tune for this tip....
There are two huge sundials constructed at Jantar Mantar. One of them (the largest, naturally) is THE largest sundial in the world. And in this case, bigger is also better.... this is one accurate sundial. Even though it was constructed some 270 years before the advent of atomic clocks, the larger sundial is capable of giving a time reading that is accurate to within 2 seconds. TWO SECONDS.
The sundials are set up as precision instruments, and the read-out scales look to be the fine scientific items that they are.... brass, with numbers and writings carefully etched at just the right points. They reminded me, in many ways, of 18th and 19th century nautical instruments I'd seen in maritime museums.
There ARE correction factors that must be figured into the reading coming from the shadow, usually based on the time of year. Remember, the angle of the sun hitting Jaipur (or anywhere really) will change as the year progresses, depending on the tilt of the earth towards the sun. This affects the sun's position in the sky, and therefore affects the angle of any shadows cast. Of course, it's impossible to pick up and move this giant sundial on a weekly basis to account for orbital variation, Jai Singh's scientists carefully figured appropriate correction factors to be added or subtracted, based on the day of the year.
I looked at my watch and then looked at the big sundial. There was maybe a disagreement of 8 seconds or so. After hearing Alok's presentation on Jantar Mantar, I'm inclined to doubt my watch. :)
Fondest memory: We were standing near one of the sundials, and I actually heard someone asking someone else, "what time is it"? Seemed kind of comical to me. :)
OK, here are the particulars for visiting Jantar Mantar...
The entry cost is an astoundingly low 10 Rs.
Using your still camera will cost you an additional 50 Rs.
(Note, remember.... you won't be able to take ANY photos inside many of the museums)
Using your video camera will cost you 100 Rs.
Jantar Mantar is located at Tripolaya Bazaar, which is very near the City Palace, within the "Pink City". (central Jaipur)
The city palace has museum after museum, display after display dedicated to the history of the royal family and its presence in Jaipur and Rajasthan. Unfortunately, you won't see many/any photos from within these museums as photography is prohibited.
One of my favorite museums had a collection of historic garments. There were royal wedding gowns and coronations gowns. There were fineries owned by the princesses and other ladies of the court.
There is also the Armory, which is dedicated to the military aspect of the maharajah and his armies. There is a huge collection of armaments.... guns, massive swords and scimitars. There are medieval-looking spiked hammers, shields and other devices that will remind you that torture is not a recent human development. All very interesting.
BTW, you'll see the the crowds tend to be larger in the armory sections best covered by the massive corner fans. Like many of the museum rooms at the City Palace, there is little or no formal airconditioning, so...... it IS hot.
Fondest memory: A couple of things.....
In the armory, seeing an 11-pound sword that once belonged to one of Akbar the Great's generals was impressive. Ladies and gentlemen, to quote Paul Hogan in the famous movie "Crocodile Dundee II"...... THAT's a KNIFE.
And, over at the clothing displays, we learned of one maharajah who was approximately 6'3" tall and weighed somewhere approaching 500 pounds. It was said that his waist was well over 60 inches. In short, this was one B I G man. We saw his royal robe and it was instantly easy to imagine him in person. There was so much wool in that robe, I'll bet it wiped out a herd of camels making it. And besides all the heavy heavy material (remembering that it was being worn in sunny Rajasthan), there were oodles and boodles of hand-sewn precious stones and other accessories added as decoration. Wow.
If you've seen the previous tips, you've already marveled at the Peacock Gate at City Palace. There is ZERO doubt that it's the most famous, the most photographed and the most admired. But all over the courtyard are gates and balconies, intricate decorations, golden and bronze doors. Grandeur and majesty everywhere you look. So, be sure to enjoy the Peacock Gate. THEN, go check out the other walls and corners of this incredible structure.
Fondest memory: It was actually kind of funny... we are and we look like tourists, and we attract people who are looking FOR tourists. Right before we took the posing photo you can find attached with this tip (it' s one of the additional photos), a man in a maharajah-style outfit walked up to us and "offered" to pose for a photo. I knew he was looking for a few rupees and we were taking family photos, so.... I said no thank you. He looked so incredibly shocked.
I guess I was just more impressed with the gate and balcony than I was with his "for the tourists" outfit. :)
Silly me. I thought "maharajahs" were a historical, if perhaps a bit mystical, entity. I imagined tales of the Arabian nights, so to speak. Aladdin and the magic lamp. Ali Baba and the forty thieves. Indian royalty of a past long gone.
Imagine my surprise to learn that maharajahs still exist, and Sawai Singh, the maharajah of the Jaipur/Rajasthan area, lives today in Jaipur. His official residence is the stunning and impressive City Palace, and you really do need to pay it/him a visit.
The complex in which the present maharajah lives was begun in 1727 by a Maharajah named Jai Singh. (technically, the initial builder of the City Palace was Jai Singh II) Subsequent maharajahs put their own personal stamp on the place, including the construction of the Guest Pavilion (Mubarak Mahal) in the late 19th century. (built at the direction of Maharajah Madho Singh) There are numerous museums and displays open to the public on the extensive palace grounds, and you'll find them quite interesting. Most of the museums and galleries prohibit photography. Video taping IS allowed, but I understand there's a hefty fine for video-taping without the "ticket of approval".
By the way, the actual building in which the present Maharajah (Sawai Singh) lives is called the Chandra Mahal, or "Moon Palace". It's seven stories high, and the royal family occupies the upper floors.
The City Palace is open daily from 9 am - 5 pm. Admission is 180 Rs, and still cameras are free. (Do remember, many of the museums prohibit photography) The video camera use ticket is 200 Rs.
Fondest memory: The day that we visited the City Palace included an unexpected treat. There was a reception hall, with huge historic significance, that was being opened for the first time in dozens of years. And my understanding was that it would be closed again very very soon. So, we got to visit the royal reception room. It was very cool being in the room as we saw video of royal visits past in the same locale. (There was an extended video of a visit by King George and Queen Mary in the late 1940s. One thing... the room was not air conditioned, and had very little breeze. I can only imagine - with abject horror - the notion of being in that room, wearing heaving ornamental robes and such, without the benefit of some climate control.
The inner courtyard of the Maharajah's City Palace contains several different ornamental and breathtaking "gates". They all have a different theme and color scheme. These are great places to pose for very colorful "remembering Jaipur" photos, for all of you (us) tourist photographers.
One of THE most beautiful and popular gateways is the "Peacock Gate", which features a stunning bit of inlay done in various shades of blue and violet, and festooned with various artistric representations of the peacock - India's national bird.
Fondest memory: Look at that grin on my daughter's face, posing in front of the Peacock Gate. :)
Perhaps I could have entitled this tip "the original bottled water", or perhaps "be careful to not drink the local water when you're traveling". One of the more interesting things that were on display in the City Palace were a pair of gigantic silver water urns. Each one was capable of carrying some 8000 liters of water. They were produced at the direction of the maharajah before a 1902 trip abroad. His plan was to take along his own water for his journey.
I don't believe his intent was to have a safe water supply, I think it was more a case of being afraid of not having ANY water, especially as he traveled into Asia Minor.
These were certainly impressive water vessels, and I'd hate to be responsible for keeping them polished. But then, if you're the maharajah I am sure that you have "people" to take care of that sort of issue.
Fondest memory: After I took my photo of the Maharajah's glorious silver water urn, I noticed that there is a shiny reflection of ME on its surface. So, let's call this one my very special pchamlis self-portrait in silver. :)
The Hawa Mahal - which means "palace of the winds" - maybe be Jaipur's signature building. Almost any travel brochure that includes a stop in Jaipur has the image of the Hawa Mahal on its pages. Built in 1799 by Sawai Singh, it was intended as a safe refuge for the court women to view the outside world without themselves being seen. It's a common thread in much of the Mughal construction of the time, a wall with many small openings that allows an easy peek outside, while blocking the view from the street down below. Basically, the front wall of the Hawa Mahal is a perforated screen made of intricate stone work.
The Palace is some five stories high, and in reality, it's just a wall....not so much a building or palace. It wasn't meant to be living space, it's more of a viewing platform.
One interesting thing with regard the the screen design of the façade.... in addition to limiting the view from below, it also offered an 18 - 19th century version of airconditioning. Servants would throw water onto the screen so that the breeze passing through the lattice work would be cooled and thereby more comfortable. From what I've experienced of October in Rajasthan, ANY attempt to cool the breeze is a good idea.
We did not visit the inside of the Hawa Mahal... as I say, it's more a viewing platform than anything else. If you do choose to visit, entry is 5 Rs. Taking in a camera will cost you an additional 30 Rs, and a video camera fee is 70 Rs. HONESTLY, I can't imagine what, of any great interest, you'd be able to video from inside the palace. The better view is to be had for free from across the street. :)
Fondest memory: I set up to take a few photos of the Palace of the Winds from across the street. Being India and Jaipur being a large city, there was a LOT of traffic. I began to think I'd never squeeze off a photo without the backside of a lorrie in the corner of the shot. But all of a sudden and like magic, I had a few seconds of peace. You see the result of this pause down below. :)
Favorite thing: When I was queueing for my ticket, I turned round and there behind me was a guy called Rodriguez I sat next to and talked to on a bus back from Khajuraho to Jhansi a few weeks beforehand. He was now with his father and sister and they paid for a guide to explain to them how the instruments work which was very interesting otherwise you're not entirely sure what they are used for.
Favorite thing: There's a perfect place to view the famous facade of the Hawa Mahal from across the street. I got called too and offered the chance to view it by a young chap and then taken upstairs to a balcony where other tourists were standing and taking photo's. Word of warning though. You will be pestered to buy something from the shop but they didn't get anything from me!
Favorite thing: On the opposite side of the lake, I wandered further up the road. This is where the cows and water buffalo connected with the underpassage to the lake. Don’t ever take these beasts to be placid. On two occasions within minutes apart I was stared down by one of these beasts, so much so that I knew instinctively to keep moving. The last one was enroute underneath the road out to the lake area with a baby in tow. She stopped, looked up at me and made me grateful that I was on a level that I was, and she couldn’t get to me.
Favorite thing: One morning I went for a walk across the road from my hotel and along the foreshore of Man Sagar Lake. I was interesting to see the lake in the early morn. Unlike photos I had seen, the lake level was way down and in places reduced to mudflats. Charkris were reduced to bare looking structures buried in silt. Cows and water buffalos also strolled the flatland to wherever their fate led them.
Favorite thing: At the Rambagh Palace we came across this nicely dressed local chap. Although he looked nice, nad posed willingly for photographs, I did find his weapon rather disconcerting. I wouldn't like to argue with him!
Favorite thing: The chandeliers in the Hall of Public Audiences (Diwan-I-Am) in the Chandra Mahal, are covered up with a cloth in order to protect them from pigeons and other birds. I found this rather amusing, but also very sensible. Shame we couldn't see the chandelier though.
Favorite thing: I was really taken by the scaffolding this man is sitting on to reapint the walls of the Chandra Mahal pink. It looks very precarious and perilous, but I am sure it is every bit as safe as the steel constructed scaffolding we have back home.
In the lobby of the Clarks Amer Hotel was a beautiful stuffed tiger, and every time I walked past this magnificent animal, I dreamt that one day I would see one in real life in the wild.
Little did I know that some 17 years later, I would return to India and Rajastan and visit Ranthambore National Park and actually do see a regal tigress in her natural surroundings.