Diva Destination Spotlight: Jaipur!
India is a ‘go-to’ destination at Travelling Divas: we love this country with a passion. Just because we can’t go there right now doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the tales of a fellow, passionate ‘India’ traveller. Our guest blogger, Shona Sarquis (Born with Wanderlust), shares her personal experience exploring Jaipur and why she loves it. Enjoy!
Its November 2020, I am perched on the end of my seat in wide-eyed anticipation for the first sign that we are approaching Jaipur, “The Pink City”. I am rewarded as the red sandstone of the fairy tale Amer Fort rises on the rocky mountainside, hugging the Aravalli range overlooking Maota Lake.
Affectionately known as “The Pink City” (and as a lover of all things pink!) Jaipur has been a high priority on my “must go too” list. Entering the Old City senses are bombarded as we absorb the beautiful chaos and commotion outside our window, the men’s vivid coloured turbans, camel carts, cows, and dogs wandering the streets oblivious to the incessant tooting of rickshaw’s, the flamboyant Frescos and doorways of Jaipur’s Haveli’s and mansions.
It is as if the world has stood still in the days of old encompassing a rich heritage of a by-gone era.
Tucked away from the noise and bustle is our hotel, the magnificent Samode Haveli. We are greeted by the doorman dressed in immaculate whites, bright tangerine turban and a signature head wobble! Once the residence of the Ruler of Samode, the hotel is a romantic and intriguing warren of corridors and hidden staircases adding to the old-world charm. Important tip – take care with your mandatory afternoon G and T or you may never find your room again!!
Our Tour Guide is CS, with dashing Bollywood looks complete with maharaja moustache. We are on a walking tour of the old city, instead we run and giggle like schoolgirls to keep up with his commanding pace. All our senses are indulged from the rich aroma of spices, to the taste of sticky sweets from recipes passed down for generations, holding our breath as cheeky monkeys’ trapeze along lively narrow laneways. It feels like Aladdin’s downtown Agrabah!
Take it from me, Jaipur is shopping heaven! From precious stones, block printed fabrics, leather handbags, belts etc (Buffalo or Camel hide of course as Cow’s are sacred in India!). Be prepared to bargain hard but bear in mind how much a rupee is worth in Australian dollars, so you do not lose perspective.
Just 11 kilometres from Jaipur is Amer Fort, the ancient capital of Jaipur state. Outside the forts entrance is filled with Artisans spruiking their wares and crossed legged snake charmers hypnotise the elusive Cobra from their baskets.
Inside is an impressive series of lavish palaces, gardens, and temples, built during the 16th century where Rajput rulers commanded their Empire. The private quarters of the Maharaja and his family are embellished with mosaics, exquisite glass panels and mirrored ceilings. Each of his 12 Queens (Maharani’s) with their own room and a corridor connecting them to a rather busy King!
The City Palace sits in the heart of Jaipur and still the home of the Royal Family. Jai Man Singh II was the last Maharaja of Jaipur, a dashing renowned polo player, married to an Indian Princess Gayatri Devi. Together the glamorous couple attracted a glittering international crowd to India including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and fellow polo enthusiast Lord Mountbatten. A blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture, it is a complex of courtyards, gardens and elaborate buildings housing a host of rich imprints from the past.
Hawa Mahal (The Wind Palace) is Jaipur’s most distinctive landmark. An elaborate honeycombed façade of pink sandstone, with 953 windows allowing the women of the royal household to observe the bustling streets in anonymity, following the strict rules of “purdah”.
Our final morning is spent at Govind Devji Hindu Temple, CS has invited us to experience “Arti”, a ritual of worship himself and thousands of other devotees attend daily. Removing our shoes, we step barefoot onto the warm cobblestones smoothed and worn by the feet of followers over hundreds of years. The spiritual energy is electrifying, the temple is vibrating with joyful singing, chanting, and dancing in praise of their deity Lord Krishna. It is moving beyond words; an experience I shall never forget.
We leave Jaipur enchanted with its stunning pink walls, the magical world of Maharaja’s, Princesses and Palaces and of course luggage bursting at the seams!
Until next time.
Shona Sarquis xx
Born with Wanderlust!