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JAIPUR & AMBER:
Kacchawahas Rajputs of Amber and Jaipur trace their descent from Kush, son of Ram, incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The descendents of Kush moved from their origins in Bihar in eastern India gradually westwards. Dhulha Rai of Kachhwaha clan of Kshatriya caste took the area of Dhundhar some time between 966 and 1036 CE. He established his kingdom in Dausa and extended it to Manch (Ramgarh), Deoti (Rajorgarh in the Paranagar region) and neighboring territories. His descendent, Kakil Dev, established himself in Amber. From Maharaja Bhim Dev who was contemporary of Mughal Emperor Humayun, the Kachwaha Dynasty, has historical records of their time in Amber and later Jaipur.
The Amber Fort is perched on top of one of the hills. Overlooking it on its west is the Jai Garh Fort that served as royal treasury of the Maharajas of Amber. The tourists generally ride a traditionally decorated elephant up the hill to the fort. The first courtyard of the fort has a red sandstone and white marble pillared hall of public audience. In the middle of the south wall of this courtyard is the Ganesh Pol, the main gate to the residential area of the fort. In the next courtyard past the Ganesh Pol are two palaces on ground floor and one on rooftop with convex mirrors and plaster of paris decorations. Between the two palaces on ground floor is a garden laid out in Mughal geometrical patterns. This part of the fort was built under the patronage of Mirza Raja Jai Singh. In the furthest courtyard in the southern end of the fort are the palaces of Maharaja Man Singh.
Walled Jaipur – Pink City
Vidhyadhar Chakrabarti, a Pashchatya Vaidik by sub-caste and a Bengali Brahman was the chief architect of Sawai Jai Singh for the design and construction of Jaipur city. Sawai Jai Singh being very interested in Astronomy, the main roads in Jaipur were planned in a north - south grid. One-seventh area of the city in the north was reserved for the royal palaces. In the north of Chandramahal, the royal residence, there was an extensive garden and a lake within the walled city. Temple of Shri Govinddevji is located at the northern end of the garden. Further north there was a locality called Brahmapuri where only Brahmans were allowed to live. Chandramahal has seven floors that are private property of the present heir to the former royal family, Brigadier Sawai Bhavani Singh. The main residential palaces in Chandra Mahal are Sukh-Niwas, Ranga Mandir, Pitam-Niwas, Chabi-Niwas, and Shri-Niwas. In the top most floor is the Mukut Mandir. North of Chandra Mahal is the Jai Niwas Garden.
Sawai Jai Singh later added the Sarvatobhadra or the hall of private audience to the east of Chandra Mahal. This hall is very famous for the two silver urns that were built for the journey of Maharaja Madho Singh II to England. Further east of Sarvatobhadra is the Diwan-i-Am, the hall of public audience, which houses the gallery of paintings, miniatures and manuscripts section in the City Palace Museum. Its has original life size portraits of former Maharajas of Jaipur. Raja Monaka, the Persian translation of the Hindu epic Mahabharata written by Abul Fazl, the favorite courtier of Mughal Emperor Akbar, is one of many very rare manuscripts that are exhibited in this museum. There are two other manuscripts of Mahabharata in Bengali language written in beautiful calligraphy on Bhurja leaf.
South of Sarvatobhadra is a very beautifully decorated, arched gateway with polished brass doors. This gate leads to the southern courtyard of City Palace. The Mubarak Mahal or the royal reception hall is the most conspicuous building in the south courtyard. It houses the gallery of costumes, musical instruments and other artifacts of the many generations of Amber and Jaipur rulers. In a peripheral building is the Silehkhana or the section of museum dedicated to historical armaments, like jeweled daggers and swords as well as guns and pistols used by the armies of Amber and Jaipur. There are some rare personal daggers and swords of various Mughal emperors and queens in this section that also very ornamental and studded with precious stones.
It is not certain how long the entire construction of Jaipur took to complete. Six years after the founding of Jaipur city in November 1727, Sawai Jai Singh went in a ceremonial procession sitting on the Indraviman - a chariot especially built for this celebration. Four very beautifully decorated elephants pulled this chariot that was named after the Indra, the Hindu god of rain. After this first procession, Sawai Jai Singh, used this chariot quite a few times on the auspicious occasions of Hindu festivals to inspect the progress of construction. The Indraviman is still preserved in the City Palace.
In Jaipur the first architectural construction of Sawai Jai Singh was the establishment of the Temple of Govinddeoji. This idol was rescued from Mathura and brought to its new site by the traditional Bengali priests. Between 1714 and 1720, Sawai Jai Singh, had some constructions done in Amber and Jaigarh Forts. After finishing the construction of the Yantra Shala in Delhi, he built the Chandramahal in 1726. Around this time the plans for his most ambitious project, the new capital Sawai Jai Nagar started. It is now called Jaipur. One-seventh of the city in the north was reserved for the royal residential palace and official buildings. This area was originally called Nagar Prasad and is now popularly known as Jaipur City Palace.
The Yantra Shala, commonly called Jantar Mantar, outside the Jaipur City Palace is the largest astronomical observatory of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh. He built the Brihat Samrat Yantra, the largest sundial of the world in this observatory that measures local time with an accuracy of 2 seconds. The other very fascinating instrument that is used to locate the position of stars in Jaipur sky is the Jai Prakash Yantra. It is believed to be the favorite instrument of Sawai Jai Singh. There are 17 instruments in this observatory of which 16 are functional. One instrument was never completed.
Sisodia Rani ka Bagh
Sawai Jai Singh had this palace garden built in 1722 for his Rani who belonged to the family of Sisodia rulers of Udaipur and Chittorgarh. She was the second queen of Sawai Jai Singh. Coming from the powerful kingdom of Udaipur, she was very influential and other ladies of the household of the Maharaja were most probably jealous of her. There was a lot of conspiracy and slender against her in the Chandra Mahal. Sawai Jai Singh had promised the Udaipur royal family that her son would be the next ruler of Jaipur. For her safety the Maharaja built a separate palace set in magnificent gardens on the outskirts of the city. The garden is laid out in multi-levels to suit the hilly terrain. It has very scenic water channels with fountains and cascading waterfalls. The palace has wonderful murals adorning its interior walls. They depict the legends of Radha Krishna from the Vaishnav Hindu texts. Kunwar Madho Singh, her son, grew up in this garden palace. After the death of Sawai Jai Singh, his elder son, Kunwar Ishwari Singh did not honor the commitment of his father to the Sisodia royal family of Udaipur. There was a battle of succession between him and his stepbrother, Kunwar Madho Singh I. Kunwar Madho Singh I won this battle and ended the short-lived reign of Maharaja Ishwari Singh.
Vidhyadharji ka Bagh
Vidhyadharji ka Bagh is located five miles east of the Ghat Gate of Jaipur, the pink city.The final plan of Jaipur City may have some influence from many ancient writings but it was a very unique concept of the team of advisors led by Vidhyadhar and of Sawai Jai Singh himself. Vidhyadhar was later honored for his contribution to various projects of Sawai Jai Singh. The Vidhyadhar-ka Bagh palace, east of Jaipur, was built in his honor. Considering that it was very close to and just on the opposite side of the road from the palace of Sisodia Rani of Sawai Jai Singh, one can imagine the status that this scholar had in the court of the Jaipur Maharaja. It is a palace built with a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture with a formal and geometrically laid garden. It is located in an idyllic setting in a valley between two hills.
The construction of Sudarshangarh Fort began in 1734, seven years after Jaipur was built. It was named Sudarshangarh after the discus like weapon that was used by Lord Vishnu in the Hindu mythology. The idea was that Sudarshangarh would protect Jaipur like the Sudarshan Chakra that defeated and killed the demons. The fort was located at a strategic location overlooking Jaipur and the mountainous region to its north and east. It has a panoramic view of Man Sagar Lake that had an island in its middle and was used for duck hunting. Sawai Madho Singh II ordered Raj Imarat, the department of royal constructions, to build a monsoon pleasure palace inside the fort. The main architect of this palace was Thakur Fateh Singh. The new palace was built in about 1880 and named Madhavendra Bhavan. It has fresco mural paintings on its walls. The Maharaja lived in one side of a central courtyard. On the other three sides there were the palaces for the ladies of the royal household. It was specially designed for privacy so that when one queen visited the Maharaja or he visited her, the others in the palace did not know about it. The palace was designed in the typical Rajasthani architecture with some modern conveniences like European style bathrooms and rectangular windows. Much of the original construction from the period of Sawai Jai Singh in the interior has crumbled with age. The cannons on Hazuri Burj are from the original construction but they were never used to defend the fort or Jaipur City because there was no war after it was built. They used to be fired at ceremonial occasions to signal the time. It was used by the royal family as a retreat apart from its function as treasury until the last ruling Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai Man Singh II moved the treasury to Moti Dungri, located on a hill south of the walled city in 1940s.
Jai Mahal Palace: The site where Jai Mahal was built was a garden called Natani ka Bagh. Hargovind Natani was a very successful commander of the army of Sawai Ishwari Singh. Ishwari Singh built the Ishwari Lat, a tower inside the Tripolia Gate and near the house of Hargovind Natani to commemorate his victories. Natani later betrayed the trust of his patron and sided with his brother, Madho Singh in the battle of succession. Ishwari Singh committed suicide in 1750 and Madho Singh finally ascended the Jaipur throne fulfilling the promise of Sawai Jai Singh to the Udaipur royal family of his Sisodia Queen. In December 1955 it became the first princely palace in India to be converted into a hotel. Maharaja Man Singh II retained the original staff of the palace and employed an eminent architect, Durga Lal Nandiwal to make the necessary alterations for its use as a luxury hotel. For many years it was the premier hotel in Jaipur. The Soviet Leaders, Nikita Krushchev and Nikolai Bulganin were the first guests in the Jai Mahal Hotel. In 1957 Sawai Man Singh II converted the bigger Ram Bagh Palace also in to a hotel. Both Jai Mahal and Ram Bagh Palaces are now managed by the Taj Group of hotels. In 1984 the Taj Group of hotels took over the management of Jai Mahal Palace Hotel expanding it to 100 rooms and suites. The garden of Jai Mahal Palace was styled on the basis of a contemporary description of the Lotus Garden of the first Mughal Emperor Babur in Dholpur near Agra. It has multi-tiered waterways with beautiful canopies and pavilions at every level. The water channels fall over ornamental red sandstone cascading waterfalls into pools with fountains in the middle.
Sawai Pratap Singh became the Maharaja of Jaipur at the Age of 14 after the death of his brother Prithivi Singh. He ruled from 1778 to 1803. His 25-year rule witnessed many spectacular achievements and some strategic failures. He is known for his devotion to Lord Krishna. The fountains behind the temple of Govind Devji are credited to him. He was a great patron of artists and artisans, poets and scholars, and was himself quite a talented poet. His one architectural contribution to the city is now a landmark of Jaipur, the Hawa Mahal. He commissioned Lalchand Ustad in 1799 to design this unique Palace that was not intended as a residential building. It was placed on Johari Bazaar, the street for the ceremonial parades at the prominent crossing called Badi Chopad (the large square). It is five stories high and is made up of two sections. The first section has two floors that have large courtyards from where the ramps and stairs lead the way up to the upper three floors which form the second section of this palatial building that was not intended as a residence. In these three floors are about three feet deep balconies that have very fine latticed screens facing the street. The ladies of the royal household would be carried in wheeled or hand held carriages to these balconies, where they sat to watch the royal processions in Silehdeori Bazaar. Because the balconies had screens in front and open doors behind, there was cross ventilation and cool breeze would flow through. That gave the building its name Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds.
Sawai Ram Singh II was quite different from his immediate predecessors. He was an ardent worshiper of Lord Shiva. He also ushered in the modern era with his interest in photography. He was also a great connoisseur of classical Indian music and himself played the Veena – one of the oldest classical Indian musical instruments with multiple strings. He was also a social reformer who abolished slavery officially, child infaticide and the horrible, inhuman custom of Sati, the self-immolation of widows on the cremation pyres of their dead husbands in 1839. Among his other great social changes was the improvement in public water supply, the gas lighting of streets and better roads. He also established Sanskrit Colleges, the Maharaja School of Arts and Crafts as well as the Medical College. His very good relationship with the British facilitated all these developments. Colonel Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob (1841-1917) was a very admired architect for many royal families in Rajasthan. Sawai Ram Singh used his services for the Ram Niwas Gardens and the Albert Memorial Hall. The hall was especially constructed for famine relief and to honor the visit of Prince of Whales, Albert Edward to Jaipur. Swinton Jacob blended various elements of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture to create this building in 1876. In 1878 it was open to public as an archeological museum with an exquisite collection of sculptures, paintings, decorative wares, natural history specimen, an Egyptian mummy and many celebrated Persian carpets. The gardens surrounding it now have a zoo, an aviary, a greenhouse and even a herbarium. Later Rabindra Manch, an auditorium, a modern art gallery and an open air theatre were added in the Ram Niwas Gardens.
The other grand building of the period of Sawai Ram Singh II is the now world famous Ram Bagh Palace. It was originally a garden belonging to Kesar Badaran, the chief maid of the Rani Chandravatji and the governess of her son, Sawai Ram Singh. It was called the Kesar Badaran ka Bagh, the garden of Kesar Badaran. Sawai Ram Singh was only 15 months of age when he was crowned. The royal traditions in Jaipur demanded that the young Maharaja should not leave the Zenana or the female quarters of his mother and her entourage. The British administrators of the East India Company wanted to educate the Maharaja in modern European manner. They influenced the senior Rajput elders in the royal family to allow the Maharaja to be out of the palace of his mother for at least some time every day. It was decided that a palace should be built away from the influence of the ladies. In the vast Kesar Badaran ka Bagh, an enclosure with a four-room pavilion was especially constructed to serve as the royal school for Sawai Ram Singh II. Kesar Badaran died without an heir and the vast garden reverted to the pool of royal properties of Sawai Ram Singh II. Because of his childhood association, Sawai Ram Singh II would often retreat to it to enjoy the seclusion and nature. The buildings were later used as a hunting-lodge, a royal rest house and even as an official guesthouse for royal visitors. From this period the garden got the popular name of Ram Bagh. Sawai Ram Singh assisted the British to suppress the first war of Indian independence in 1857 and was adequately rewarded for his loyalty. Sawai Ram Singh II had a long reign and died in 1880.
Madho Singh II was a very orthodox and devout Hindu. He is best remembered for his historic visit to England in 1902 to attend the coronation of King Edward VII. He was the first Jaipur monarch to go overseas. But he did not wish to compromise his very orthodox Hindu lifestyle. He chartered a P&O liner, the S.S Olympia that was specially redesigned to include a Krishna temple and carried every thing for his personal use for the entire journey. He carried the water for his personal use in two Gangajalis, gigantic silver cisterns. He employed Govind Ram and Madhav, two master silversmiths, to cast two jars without any soldering. These were 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 761 pounds. The surface outside and inside these jars is smooth and polished. 14’000 silver coins had to be melted to cast these two cisterns. Water was hauled from the holy river Ganga and carried in these cisterns to England. Both these cisterns are displayed in Sarvatobhadra, the hall of private audience, in Nagar Prasad (Jaipur City Palace).
Although he had five official Ranis and eighteen official mistresses, he did not have a male heir to the throne. Like his father, Madho Singh II also decided to break the family tradition and adopt his nephew, Kunwar Mormukut Singh. Mormukut Singh was born in a village in the aristocratic family of Thakur of Isarda on August 21, 1911 and was eleven of age at the time of his adoption. He was the younger of the two sons of Thakur Sowai Singh of Isarda. After his adoption he became the Yuvraj (crown prince) of Jaipur. Just like Sawai Madho Singh II he was also schooled away from the traditional female quarters in the modern European style. Sir James Roberts, acting as a guardian appointed by the British, decided that the prince must be given a proper education away from the royal female influence and converted the same, Ram Bagh Palace, once again as a school. Even before he was a legal adult, Man Singh II decided to make Ram Bagh his official residence because of his childhood memories. On January 20, 1925 the garden manor that had served as a guesthouse and a royal school earlier, became a royal residence of Jaipur. The palace was decorated extravagantly with a majestic red and gold Chinese room, chandeliers, crystals, fountains and illuminated dining tables all of Lilac imported from Hammonds of London, the famous furnishing shop. The palace gardens were once featured by Peter Coats as the Most Beautiful Gardens of the World. It is also the only residence in the world that has a polo field attached to it. Later even an aircraft landing strip was added to the palace grounds. After his schooling in India he went to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in UK to acquire the knowledge of latest in military technology. He was enthroned already in 1922 but was invested with full ruling powers on March 14, 1931. He developed the army of Jaipur State to a very high standard based on his knowledge from the Military Academy in UK. He was one of the first Maharajas to offer not only to his army during the World War II with the allied troops but also personally enlisted to serve in active combat duty.
He married Marudhar Kanwar, sister of Maharaja Sumer Singh of Jodhpur. His second marriage was to Kishore Kanwar, the niece of his first wife. His relationship with Gayatri Devi, daughter of Maharaja Jitendra of Cooch Bihar in east India with his Rani Indira, who came from the royal family of Baroda, is the most famous. Gayatri Devi was only 19 years of age when she fell in love with the Maharaja of Jaipur. Her parents opposed the marriage initially. She was determined and finally the families consented to their marriage in 1939. Man Singh II had a daughter who married the Maharawal of Baria while his three younger sons married the princesses from Jubbal, Tripura and Lunawada. After independence of India, Jaipur was merged with other royal states of Rajputana into the new state of Rajasthan and Sawai Man Singh II was appointed as Rajpramukh of this new state. During his tenure as Rajpramukh from 1949 to 1956, Ram Bagh Palace became the official government residence of Rajpramukh. He was later appointed as Ambassador to Spain.
After the office of Rajpramukh was suddenly terminated, Sawai Man Singh II converted the Ram Bagh Palace in to a luxury hotel and it was officially opened on December 8, 1957. In 1968 Ram Bagh Palace was expanded from the original 26 rooms to 80 rooms. The Taj Group of Hotels took over its management in 1972. The most luxurious suites in the Ram Bagh Palace are the Maharaja Suite, the Maharani Suite and the Mountbatten Suite and they are always in demand by tourists. The hotel has also retained the original dining room, Suvarna Mahal, built in the 18th century French style and has huge crystal chandeliers. The Polo Bar still has some of the trophies and memorabilia of the Jaipur polo team on its counter.
Near the Ram Bagh Palace perched on a hilltop is the Moti Dungri Castle. During the reign of Maharaja Man Singh it served for a short period as the treasury of Jaipur State. Later he renovated it in the style of a Scottish castle and used it as a personal residence. His eldest son, Brigadier Sawai Bhawani Singh succeeded him after his death on June 24, 1970 while playing polo on horseback at Cirencester, England.
His Highness Brigadier Sawai Bhawani Singh MVC, of Jaipur is the eldest son of late H.H. Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur. Born on 22nd October 1931, he received education in Kashmir, Dehradun and then in United Kingdom. In 1951, he was commissioned into Indian Army in the 3rd Cavalry regiments as a Second Lieutenant. He was the bodyguard of the President of India in 1954. In 1963 he was posted to HQ 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade. From January 1964 to 1967, he was selected and posted as Adjutant, Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. In June 1967, he volunteered for the new Parachute Commando Unit and was posted to 10 Parachute Commando as the second-in-command. The following year he became the commanding officer. In 1970, he helped in training the Mukti Vahini before the commencement of the Bangladesh war. In 1971, in Indo-Pak war he led his Battalion into action. For his gallantry and extra ordinary courage he was awarded the second highest gallantry award, the Mahavir Chakra. His Battalion also got 10 gallantry awards in this operation. He took voluntary retirement in 1974. When Indian Army was in action in Sri Lanka under Operation Pawan at the request of the then President and the Prime minister Sawai Bhawani Singh went to Sri Lanka to boost the morale of his old unit (10 Parachute Commando). He was successful in boosting the morale of the unit and for his success, the President of India bestowed upon him the rank of Brigadier for life. It is very rare that a retired Indian Army officer would be promoted in rank. Brigadier Sawai Bhawani Singh has also served as the first Resident High Commissioner to the State of Brunei from July 1993 to January 1997.
Kachhwaha Rulers of Amber-Jaipur:
Ratan Singh 1537-1548
Bhagawan Das or Bhagawant Das 1574-1589
Man Singh I 1589-1614
Bhao Singh 1614-1621
Mirza Raja Jai Singh I 1621-1667
Ram Singh 1667-1689
Vishan Singh 1689-1700
Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II 1700-1743
Maharaja Sawai Ishwari Singh 1743-1750
Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I 1751-1767
Maharaja Sawai Prithvi Singh 1768-1778
Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh 1778-1803
Maharaja Sawai Jagat Singh 1803-1819
Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh III 1819-1835
Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II 1835-1880
Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II 1880-1922
Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II 1922-1970
Maharaja Sawai Bhawani Singhji 1970 to April 16, 2011
Maharaja Sawai Padmanabha Singh 2011 to present
Excursions to nearby sites:
Galta: This is a gorge in the Aravali mountains east of Jaipur where a natural spring emerges in to an upper and lower pool for pilgrims to bathe. Nearby are some ancient temples with traditional religious motifs painted in the Frescos on their facades. The narrow valley is also a haven for Rhesus and Langoor monkeys who are well fed by the pilgrims.
Harshat Mata Temple and Chand Baori: The Harshat Mata Temple dates from 9th. or 10th. century and is now an archaeologically preserved site. The nearby Chand Baori is the world's deepest step-well. These two amazing monuments are located in Abhineri village near the town of Dausa. The best place to stay or for a stopover for lunch or dinner is the Umaid Lake Palace Hotel in Dausa.
5-star deluxe hotels:
Taj Ram Bagh Palace Hotel – 85 luxury rooms & suites
Oberoi Raj Vilas Palace Hotel – 54 luxury villas
Taj Jai Mahal Palace Hotel – 100 rooms including 6 suites
Sheraton Rajputana Palace Hotel – 218 rooms & suites
Le Meridien Hotel – 126 guest rooms & villas
Trident Hotel – 138 rooms
Marriott Hotel - 317 rooms
Shiv Vilas Resort Hotel – 96 rooms & suites
Golden Tulip Hotel – 108 rooms
Jas Vilas Hotel - 14 rooms
Samode Haveli – 29 rooms
Lemon Tree Premier Hotel - 108 rooms
Carlson Country Inns & Suites – 84 rooms & 16 suites
Clarks Amer Hotel – 211 rooms & suites
Raj Palace Hotel – 38 rooms
Raj Mahal Palace Hotel – 20 suites
Chowki Dhani Resort – 65 cottages & 8 Haveli Suites
Royal Heritage Haveli - 13 rooms
Devi Niketan Hotel - 14 rooms
Ikaki Niwas Hotel in Jawahar Nagar - 12 rooms
Hotel Anurag Villa - 20 rooms
Hotel Nahargarh Haveli - 30 rooms
Megh Niwas - 5 suites
Umaid Mahal - 40 rooms
Umaid Bhawan Heritage House - 41 rooms
Holiday Inn Hotel – 84 rooms
Alsiser Haveli – 36 rooms
Man Singh Towers – 45 rooms
Narain Niwas Palace – 31 rooms
Park Plaza Hotel – 83 rooms
Days Inn – 60 rooms & 6 suites
Distance from Jaipur in Kilometers and Miles:
Delhi: 258 Kilometers or 160 Miles
Agra: 232 Kilometers or 144 Miles
Bharatpur: 172 Kilometers or 107 Miles
Ajmer: 131 Kilometers or 81 Miles
Jodhpur: 331 Kilometers or 206 Miles
Udaipur: 405 Kilometers or 252 Miles
Kota: 242 Kilometers or 150 Miles
Devgarh: 143 Kilometers or 89 Miles
Sariska: 107 Kilometers or 67 Miles