A flamboyant showcase of Rajasthani architecture, JAIPUR has long been established on tourist itineraries as the third corner of India’s “Golden Triangle”. At the heart of Jaipur lies the Pink City, the old walled quarter, whose bazaars rank among the most vibrant in Asia, renowned for their textiles and jewellery. For all its colour, however, Jaipur’s heavy traffic, dense crowds and pushy traders make it a taxing place to explore, and many visitors stay just long enough to catch a train to more laidback destinations further west or south. If you can put up with the urban stress, however, the city’s modern outlook and commercial hustle and bustle offer a stimulating contrast to many other places in the state.
Jaipur’s attractions fall into three distinct areas. At the heart of the urban sprawl, the historic Pink City is where you’ll find the fine City Palace and the Hawa Mahal along with myriad bazaars stuffed with enticing Rajasthani handicrafts. The much leafier and less hectic area south of the Pink City is home to the Ram Niwas Gardens and Central Museum, while the city’s outskirts are dotted with a string of intriguing relics of royal rule, most notably Nahargarh Fort, the cenotaphs at Royal Gaitor, and the temples (and monkeys) of Galta.
Established in 1727, Jaipur is one of Rajasthan’s youngest cities, founded by (and named after) Jai Singh II of the Kachchwaha family, who ruled a sizeable portion of northern Rajasthan from their fort at nearby Amber. The Kachchwaha Rajputs had been the first to ally themselves with the Mughals, in 1561, and, by the time of Jai Singh’s accession, the free flow of trade, art and ideas had won them great prosperity. Jai Singh’s fruitful 43-year reign was followed by an inevitable battle for succession, and the state was thrown into turmoil. Much of its territory was lost to Marathas and Jats, and the British quickly moved in to take advantage of Rajput infighting. Following Independence, Jaipur became state capital of Rajasthan in 1956.
Today, with a population of more than three million, Jaipur is the state’s most advanced commercial and business centre and its most prosperous city – some estimates put it among the world’s 25 fastest growing cities, with an annual population growth of around 4 percent, and gleaming new high-rises springing up on an almost weekly basis. Evidence of Jaipur’s severe growing pains can be seen in older parts of the city, however, with creaking infrastructure and traffic-choked roads frequently approaching gridlock during the morning and evening rush hours.