And so we arrive in Rajasthan, formerly known as Rajputana – Land of the Rajput princes.
Unlike the Mughals, the princes here were Hindu princes, and almost all had sworn fealty first to the Mughal Emperor, then to the Marathas when they displaced the Mughals in this north-western part of the Subcontinent, and subsequently to the British.
When India became independent, the name of the region was changed to Rajasthan (“Land of the Kings”), and many of the princely families retained their titles though not all of their privileges.Our first stop in this princely state is the city of Jaipur, one third of the so-called “Golden Triangle” that also takes in Delhi and Agra. The city is also known as the Pink City, because the facades of the city’s downtown area is quite literally pink, or rather, salmon pink.
Jaipur was established in 1727 by the Raja Jai Singh II of Amer, who shifted his capital city from the imposing hill-top Amber Fort (still standing) to his new capital city, which would bear his name: Jai-pur = Jai’s City. Within his city he would build his spectacular new City Palace, as well as one of five Jantar Mantars, or astronomical observatories.
The city’s other claim to fame (besides being pink), is the fact that it was entirely planned based on the traditional Hindu principles of architecture. The rational grid structure and wide boulevards that seem European are actually based on ancient Indian traditions!
The city itself was only painted pink in 1876, during the reign of Sawai Ram Singh I, to commemorate the visit of the Prince of Wales at the time – the future Edward VII. The colour stuck.
Over the next few posts, we will take in the major sites of the city, and the stories of its illustrious Rajas.