The capitol city of the state of Rajasthan, Jaipur was built in the 18th century as the first planned city of India: it is one of the most visited places in the tourist haunt called the “Golden Triangle,” along with Delhi and Agra. This place, named after Maharaja Jai Singh, is called the Pink City on the account of all buildings painted in pink, inspired by the color of sandstone used in the construction of the Babur buildings. Jai’s city is one of the most touristic places in India today with the city palace, the Palace of Wind, the astronomy observatory of Jantar Mantar which owes its existence to the interest of the Raja who was himself an astronomer, and the amazing Amber Castle on the outskirts of the city.
Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Wind
This is a building that looks like a fan inside out. Its front façade features many windows. It is a palace built for the Raja’s women so that they might stay inside and watch the outside without being seen by others because the women of the time were secluded from men and strangers as the practice of purdah dictates. The word ‘purdah’ is Farsi in origin: it is a tradition practiced in North India as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan. The part of the house allocated to Hindu or Muslim women is called zenana in South Asia. The master architect Lal Chand during the rule of Maharaja Sawai Pratap designed this palace in the form of the crown of the Hindu God Krishna.
Amber Castle, Jaipur
Amber Castle was built on a hill around ten kilometers away from the city. From the outside, you will first notice the pinkish-yellowish high walls. Composed of a complex of palaces built in the 16th Century in a hybrid style of Hindu and Islamic architecture, such as Divan-ı Azam (High Court), Divan-ı Has (Royal Court), Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace), Jai Mandir, and Sukh Nivas each with a courtyard, the castle was then the residence of the Rajas and their families.
Before I leave the city center of Jaipur, I visited another important attraction not very far from the Palace of Wind and shops. Built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh in the 18th century, this complex of buildings is also a place where 19 astronomy apparatuses used for measuring celestial movements are exhibited outdoors. These instruments are used to measure the time, anticipate the dates of eclipses, and observe the movements of stars. The name of the observatory is Sanskrit in origin: “Mantrana” means to consult and to calculate whereas “yantra” means instrument, machine. These instruments are used for naked eye observation of astronomic events. They were constructed taking into account both texts in Sanskrit and the knowledge of astronomy available in the Muslim Babur period. The world’s biggest sun dial is also here.