Jaipur – the city of Palaces – Part 2 | Travelogue

From Jantar Mantar we moved to the City Palace also known as the Jaipur Palace. That was one of the most awesomest (if I can use a word like that by combining two superlatives) things I had ever seen. There were many halls and rooms all beautifully painted on the walls and ceilings. I was stunned when the tour guide told me that the colours used to paint not only included naturally extracted colours from fruits and vegetables, but also the paste made out of gems like ruby, emerald, sapphire, etc. It was really hard to believe that the paintings I was seeing on the ceilings were 200 years old. In few of the rooms, there were guns used for fighting and hunting. They were beautiful. There were also knives and swords of different shapes and sizes. One of the swords weighed 5.5 kgs and was even studded with precious stones!? (I mean, who would think of fighting with a sword studded with gems?) But a king had fought and won a lot of battles with this stone-studded sword. In a showcase was displayed the body armour and helmet used by the king. It weighed 35 kgs. Some guns that were used on camel backs weighed 25 kgs.

Inside, we went to the Diwan-e-khaas (the auditorium for private audience). It was being arranged for a wedding. Today, Diwan-e-khaas is also rented out for weddings. Inside the Diwan-e-khaas, there were three huge jars made of silver. Each of them weighed 345 kgs and were made of 14000 silver coins and could contain 900 gallons (4091 litres) of water. One of the kings used to drink only Ganges water which was brought and stored in these jars. Once when the king went to England, he took the jars along with him (now this is what we can call ‘to live like a king’). From there, we went inside more rooms where there were exhibits of dresses and stuff used by the kings and queens. One of them was a 9 kg sari used by a queen that was made of gold and silver. The cloth which was bundled into a turban was 12 metres long. But when folded into a square feet, the height of the folded turban wasn’t over 6 inches. Since camera was not allowed inside the City Palace, we missed the opportunity of capturing the pictures of the beautiful artifacts those were used by the royal family.

There was a king by the name Sawai Madho Singh under whose name a cricket stadium is there in Jaipur today. Madho Singh was a very huge king (probably that is why the title ‘Sawai’ suited him too, even though in a different sense). He was 7 feet tall and weighed 215 kgs. His chest was 4 feet broad. His breakfast would ‘weigh’ 10 kgs comprising of milk, jelebis and badam. His dresses were showcased inside the palace. Looking at it we could imagine how big he was by looking at the clothes he wore and his portrait. It did not come to a surprise for us when we were told that he died of diabetes at the age of 39.

There was another room, Diwan-e-aam (hall for public gatherings) filled with the portraits of the kings who lived in the palace at different times. There were rooms over the hall with grilled windows for the queens that enabled them to see the happenings in the hall but the people in the hall could not see the queens because of the grill. Diwan-e-aam also has a chandelier which was one of the largest of its kind. There were many life size portraits of the kings in the big hall of Diwan-e-aam. One of the paintings (if I remember it correctly, it was Raja Man Singh’s) was a special one. The eye, thumb and shoes would point at us from whichever direction we look at the painting. We were told that there was a time when 22 kings lived in the palace. So you can imagine how big the palace must be! The part of the palace that we were seeing was just a portion of the whole palace. The other parts are still used by the royal family.

Jaipur was named after Raja Sawai Jai Singh. He had 27 queens. The royal flag carries five colours which were the colours of the flags of five kingdoms that Raja Man Singh had conquered. After his conquest, he made his national flag as a combination of strips of those five colours. When we visited the palace, there was only one flag on the top of the palace. It means the king is out of town. If one sees two flags on top of the palace that it indicates that the king is in the palace. The present king is just 15 years old (a school going boy). After the end of monarchy, the royal army which comprised only of ‘Rajputs’ (a particular clan/caste in North India) joined the Indian Army under the name ‘Rajputana Rifles’.

From City Palace we went to a Govt. authorized art, handicraft and textile showroom where they showed us how they use natural colouring processes to dye clothes. They extract the colours from fruits and vegetables, and the water used for processing is also said to be brought from a particular river/lake which contains a lot of salts and minerals. After explaining to us the colouring procedure, they took us to their rajaai (blanket – a multi-purpose blanket in fact. They can be used in all seasons and also used as carpets.) section where the rajaai collections started from Rs.750/- onwards. It was hard to believe that a blanket that would make us warm weighed just 100 grams as we held it in our arms. They make it out of Australian sheep wool. There were other beautiful silk blankets costing from Rs.1,250 to Rs.1,850 which was quite cheap as compared to its quality. It came with a 4-5 years ‘guarantee’. So did the saris. Since I wouldn’t be using rajaai in Mumbai, I proceeded to the sari section. They showed me a few saris of Rs.1,250 which were printed with bright (natural) colours and looked beautiful. I bought two of them and stepped out of that section into the kurta section. There was a salesman pulling me to the ‘precious stones’ section but I didn’t go there. Kurtas started from Rs.650 or Rs.750. I bought one for me and one for my son. They had an option of sending the purchases by post to our address if we pay 50% of the price. The balance could be paid at the time of delivery. If I remember it correctly, there was some nominal (or nil) charges of delivering at home. I opted for this option and left the shop for the next stop – Nahargarh.

Jaipur – the city of Palaces – Part 1

27th Nov 2013
It was my first visit to Rajasthan and I was pretty much excited about the Jaipur city tour that I was going to take the following day. My friend Shridhar (Shridhar is what he’s called by his dear ones…his real name is Hariharan) and I had come to attend a 3-day ‘International Conference on History and Development of Mathematics’ at JECRC University in Jaipur which was to start on 29th Nov. It had been almost a year that I travelled for the sake of travelling and I had decided that since I was coming here all the way to Jaipur, I should take out a day see the city. For the same reason, we got our tickets booked for arriving in Jaipur a day prior to the conference. The convener of the Conference, Prof. Dr. Ramprakash Sharma, was kind enough to arrange for our stay in Rajasthan University’s guest house – a pretty good place to stay. We had early dinner tucked ourselves into the rajaai (blanket, as it is called in North India) early and called it a day.

28th Nov 2013
Morning woke me up at 6 am and we both got ready to leave for the city tour by 7:30 am. We had thought of having breakfast and then making a move immediately. The receptionist had told us that we would get a bus for the city tour around 8:30 am from the Govt. hostel. The previous night, Prof. Sriram (Retd. Prof. from University of Madras whom I had met at a couple of occasions) had arrived in our guest house. He too was keen on seeing around the city. Hence we three decided to leave the place together. In the morning, I got a call from Krishna Panda, a young chap (whom I had met in another Conference at IIT Madras) who had also come for the Conference gave me a call saying that he too would like to join us and will meet us at Govt. hostel. So, Shridhar, Sriram Sir and I finished our breakfast and we took an auto to Govt. Hostel. There we met Krishna and we booked a ticket for the full-day city tour which was from 9am – 6pm. Luckily we reached there right on time. There were half-day tours also for 3-4 hours. The buses were run by Rajasthan Tourism. A full-day bus tour costs Rs.300/- per person and half-day (3-4 hours) costs Rs.250/- (both excluding entry tickets, camera, meals, etc. Basically, it is the normal bus charge that we pay). Since we four were the last to reach there, we got the seats at the back. However, the journey was quite comfortable (thanks to the good roads).

9:20 am: We started off from Govt. Hostel to our first spot – Birla temple (situated close to Rajasthan University) which was a 25-year old Lakshmi Narayan temple made of marble. We had a quick darshan (visit to the temple) and moved to our next spot – Jantar Mantar. On the way, the tour guide in our bus showed us Jal-Mahal (Jal – water, Mahal – palace. It is a palace in the midst of an artificial lake), which used to be the summer palace of the king. We were not supposed to stop our vehicle there so the driver just slowed down and allowed us to click pictures from the bus before we moved on. On our way, we saw a Golf Course constructed by Raja Man Singh, a very handsome king, who was a Polo champion. His queens also played polo. Unfortunately, when he was 59, he fell off the horse while playing polo in England and died. We also saw another palace on the way which was taken up by the Taj group of hotels. There were few other temples, Vidhan Sabha, cricket stadium and some more monuments that came on the way.
Our vehicle slowed down at the entrance of Old Jaipur. The tour guide told us that till now we were in New Jaipur and beyond the gate is Old Jaipur. The city of Old Jaipur is surrounded by walls from all sides and can be entered through nine gates (Indian scriptures talk about nine openings in the body – navadvaara. This was probably kept in mind while constructing these nine gates that lead into the city). As we entered, we saw uniformly coloured, designed and same sized buildings on either side. All of them had the peculiar shade of pink which is the only shade that we see for old buildings in Jaipur.

On our left side came Hawa Mahal. Hawa Mahal is not a palace, but a structure with a lot of windows. The vehicle slowed down but didn’t stop here. In a short while, we reached Jantar Mantar – what I would call as a Laboratory for learning practical Trigonometry! Jantar Mantar is really famous for its sun-dials that are exhibited in a huge open ground. We took a composite ticket of Rs.70 which could be used for entry to few places at a discounted rate. We were told that we could spend 45 minutes or so in Jantar Mantar. As we went in, the tour guide started explaining about every sun dial. But we went so crazy seeing such large sun dials some as big as a three-storied building, that we didn’t listen to him much and started exploring on our own (a mistake that we did for, we missed the explanations). We took some pictures and came back to our tour guide who was explaining about one of the sun dials that had a big arc with its ends facing north and bisected by a rectangular block in the middle. The arc had time measurements written on its left side for morning and right side for afternoon. When the sun rays would hit the block in the middle of the sun-dial, its shadow would fall on the arc (left or right side, depending on the time of the day). The spot where it falls will show a particular time. We need to add 15 minutes to get the present IST. We asked him why to add 15 minutes. He said, ‘In 1905 when the Govt. decided to give a standard time for the whole country, the time of Allahabad was chosen. Since the actual time of Jaipur was 15 minutes behind Allahabad, we had to add 15 minutes to the time shown on the sun dial. This was the case with every sun dial in the complex for the obvious reason that Jantar Mantar was built much before this rule was passed by the Govt. There were other structures on every star sign which we didn’t get much time to check out. These structures on star signs can be seen only in the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur and not in other four Jantar Mantars situated in Delhi, Mathura, Ujjain and Varanasi.

The history of Jantar Mantar is really interesting. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh-II (1688 – 1743) was the founder of Jantar Mantar. Jantar comes from the word ‘Yantra’ (instrument) and Mantar comes from the word ‘Mantra’. Jai Singh was a great scholar, especially in mathematics and astronomy. The title ‘Sawai’ was bestowed upon him by the Mughal ruler Aurangazeb. ‘Sawa’ in hindi means, one and a quarter. By this title he meant that Jai Singh was 25% more intelligent than a normal man. Mostly the rulers of Jaipur were allies of the Mughals which allowed them to rule peacefully and enjoy the royal life. Jai Singh had become the king when he was just 11 years old. He discussed with Portuguese scholars in 1729 CE for construction of Jantar Mantar. The first one of its kind was constructed in Delhi (probably offering it as a token of love to the Mughal emperor who stayed in Delhi). The work of Jantar Mantar started in 1728 and was completed (in five different cities) in six years. There are 17 or 18 instruments in Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar:

1. Laghu Samrat Yantra (small sun-dial)
laghu samrat

2. Chakra Yantra (circle instrument)
sri yantra

3. Nadivalaya Yantra Dakshin Gola (equatorial instrument southern hemisphere)

4. Nadivalya Yantra Uttar Gola (equatorial instrument northern hemisphere)
5. Ram Yantra (altitude instrument)

Ram Yantra

6. Brihat Samrat Yantra (large sun-dial). In this sun-dial, local time can be known accurately upto 2 seconds. The reason they didn’t think of constructing one where the time could be accurately calculated upto 1 second is because human eye cannot see such minor change. Hence, it would be useless to do so. This is the largest sun-dial.
Brihat Samrat Yantra

7. Yantra Raj (the astrolabe)

Yantra Raj

8. Rashivalaya Yantra (zodiac sign instrument)

rashi valaya

9. Digansha Yantra (azimuth instrument)

Digansha Yantra

10. Dhruvdarshak Pattika (pole star viewing plate)

Dhruva darshak Pattika

11. Jai Prakash Yantra (the Master instrument constructed by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh himself)

Jai Prakash Yantra

12. Krantivritta Yantra (the ecliptic circle instrument)

Krantivritta Yantra

13. Bhitti Yantra (meridian wall instrument)


Close up of Bhitti Yantra

14. Kapali Yantra (hemispherical bowl instrument)

Kapali Yantra

15. Palabha Yantra (horizontal sun-dial)

Palabha Yantra

16. Unnatansha Yantra (altitude instrument)

Unnatansha Yantra

17. Sashthamsha Yantra (sextant instrument)

Sasthamsa Yantra

One can spend 2-3 hours easily if he’s interested in mathematics, trigonometry and the working of sun-dials. But our time was limited. Time flew and I could see my group walking out of Jantar Mantar. I quickly called out Shridhar and Prof. Sriram (who was trying to find the place where he could see the declination of the sun on the biggest sun-dial, the Brihat Samrat Yantra). As I walked out, I looked back at all those mathematically crafted artwork which would bring a lot of sense and purpose of practical implementation of trigonometry that is usually dumped into our heads in high school. How I wish I could bring a batch of students for a study tour some time to this place and explain something on trigonometry and astronomy!