Jaipur – Pink Cities, Palaces and Primates

The Hawa Mahal in Jaipur

The ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur completes India’s touristic “golden triangle.” Jaipur is the capital of India’s most flamboyant and colourful state of Rajasthan. The old city was northern India’s first planned city, founded by Jai Singh II in 1727, and is an exercise in symmetry with streets laid out in grids and surrounded by walls with large gates.

The gates to the old city

In 1876 the buildings of Jaipur were painted pink (the traditional colour of hospitality) for the Prince of Wales’ visit (later King Edward VII) and they are still required by law to keep the pink facades although on an overcast, drizzling February day the city looked more of an orange and amber colour rather than pink.

In the streets of the old city an aloof sandy coloured camel with a red fluffy bobble on it’s nose strolled past down the road pulling a massive cart piled high laden with sacks and driven a man talking on his mobile phone while rickshaws and buses buzzed and swerved round it. 

Camels are a daily sight on the roads of Rajasthan

The most iconic and distinctive attraction in Jaipur is the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds built in 1799 with its towering pink stone honeycombed bee hive of 953 small windows decorated with intricate latticework that enabled the ladies of the palace to see out to the city and across to the desert and fort beyond without being seen.

The iconic Hawa Mahal or ‘palace of the winds’

Once inside there was a lot more to explore than just the iconic pink honeycomb facade. The palace opened up in front of us into yellowy coloured courtyards topped with elaborate archways, cupolas, turrets and domes.

Inside the palace was a maze of courtyards, turrets and domes

Around each corner of the 5 floors of palace were different elaborate details; small latticed windows with tiny little opening shutter doors and elaborately decorated doors and beautifully vibrant windows made from coloured panes of glass.

Elaborate windows and archways frame stunning views from the palace of the winds

We wandered through the maze of old courtyards and found a beautiful, intricately decorated, mosque like dome on the corner with beautiful patterns and details on the roof and surrounding the pillars and archways.

Looking through the little shutter doors we watched the street life bustling and honking down and saw a white horse dressed in an elaborate embroidered and bejewelled rug being riding down the road, weaving in and out of the buzzing rickshaws, by man dressed in white wearing a red turban. Maybe he was a maharajah, maybe a tourist attraction or maybe just mad! In the distance an elephant weaved between the tourist buses and herds of goats ambled around the city palace complex.

Climbing higher up to the top of the honeycombed beehive of the Hawa Mahal gave as incredible view back down as the palace complex spread out below us.

Looking back down over the Hawa Mahal

 We gazed out over the golden topped turrets, across the bustling pink streets of Jaipur and over to the desert and the imposing fort on the top of the hill in the distance. 

The Monkey Temple

Next, we hired a rickshaw to take us outside of Jaipur to a temple known as the monkey temple. As the rickshaw buzzed, revved and rattled its way out of the city bare, rocky hills started to rise up on either side in the distance. We rattled past grand buildings that looked like palaces, through small decrepit villages where cows lounged all over the road and passed through desert scrub landscapes until we reached the temple.

Monkeys have made themselves at home in the grounds of the temple

The monkey temple is actually called the Galta temple and is an ancient Hindu pilgrimage site. It is more of a complex of havelis than a traditional temple and these buildings perch between the cliff faces of a rocky valley where the water for the sacred springs comes from and gathers in several holy tanks.

The temple perches in between the rocks over tanks of holy water

A golden coloured palace-like temple surrounded by water is squeezed in between two rocky cliffs. Walking up the steps along the side, dodging the snake charmers and beggars, brought us out at another pond where high in the cliff water spouted out from the source and below a couple of pilgrims splashed around, dunking in the water or filling up little silver jugs.

From the next level up, over another tank, the view stretches back over the palaces, temples and ponds across the scrub to the city of Jaipur.

At the top a dusty, crumbling collection of buildings seemed to be occupied only by packs of monkeys scampering across the rooftops, through the bushes and playing in the rubbish while a couple of cows, wild boars and goats lounged around. 

The monkeys didn’t attack us or clamber over us like we had been warned but we enjoyed sitting beneath the crumbling palaces and ponds; watching them tumble around and play with each other, steal our water bottles and perch on the turrets of palaces surveying their landscape.

A monkey surveys his temple

The temple is not in a great state of repair and we didn’t see many pilgrims or tourists. The elaborate, sandy coloured buildings are crumbling, the paint work and details are faded and worn. Combined with the sparse, scrub like landscape the place has a desolate and evocative feel but I liked the quiet, crumbling, atmospheric way that the palace perched between the rocky cliffs and the way that the monkeys seemed to have taken it over.

The crumbling temple has a desolate feel and has been taken over by monkeys

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