A Capital City – Then and Now

“The view of Jaipur city from the hill behind it is ravishing…The city, while it is new, is assuredly the most beautiful among the ancient cities of India, because in the latter everything is old, the streets are unequal and narrow. This, on the contrary, has the splendour of the modern with equal wide and long streets. The principal road, which begins at the Sanganer Gate, and goes on to the South Gate, is so broad that six or seven carriages can drive abreast without difficulty and without having to touch each other or turn aside…”

Jose Tieffenthaler in Description Geographique…De I’lnde, Bernouli, i. 314-317.


Hawa Mahal
The Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds is one of Jaipur’s most recognisable and iconic landmarks. “Aladdin’s magician could have called into existence no more marvellous abode”, wrote one observer.


Early mornings are the perfect time to head out for an exploration of Rajasthan’s capital and what better way than to exercise those limbs than touring the city by bicycle.
SUJAN Rajmahal Palace
A view of the British Residency (Rajmahal) from a photograph from the last century. Built in 1729, Rajmahal was granted to the British to use as their Residency. This palace of the Maharajas of Jaipur is now SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace.

The Jesuit Father Jose Tieffenthaler came over to India in 1729 and was a frequent visitor to Agra. His description of Jaipur suggests the city impressed him more than Agra – which he knew well. Even as late as the 1820’s, by which time some element of decay may have set in – a hundred years after its foundation – visitors from Britain observed they were, “disposed to think that, in point of neatness and beauty, the Grand Chawk (sic) would scarcely be surpassed by more than half a dozen streets in England.”


The British in particular, formed an affinity with Jaipur long before they established a permanent Residency in the city, the Residency itself being what is today SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace – an organic and delicious example of the architectural styles of this, “the most beautiful city in India.”


marble carver district
A Capital in slow motion – a view of the Marble-cutters market – easily approached by cycle. (Photo credit Cyclin’ Jaipur)

Today, Jaipur is the capital of India’s largest state, Rajasthan and retains its pink hues and palaces and visions of “daring and dainty loveliness, of storeys of rosy masonry and delicate overhanging balconies and latticed windows.” The carriages may have been replaced by cars but the lanes, chowks, fortifications, and bazars are as colourful as before. These days one cannot fly a kite without overlooking an exhibition, a concert, a bargain, or an exposition on something enriching.


If experiences were items, to be stolen and nestled away, Jaipur would be a Magpie’s delight and as it turns out, visitors to the city find the sheer volume and diversity of experiences mindboggling. The summer heat may keep some away but the ‘quieter period’ is a brilliant opportunity for escapades into bazars and museums. The quiet early mornings make for crisp cups of chai that set you up for the day, the balmy breezes in the evening are simply perfect to round up a few friends for exquisite sundowners on the lawn. The spaces in between afford you time for invigorating swims followed by long bibulous lunches and periods of relaxing nothingness in the palatial oasis of Rajmahal.


 SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace
The swimming pool at SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace is the perfect location to wind down – with a gimlet or two perhaps – followed by a long luncheon.

People often ask; ‘What is the best way to get around Jaipur’? Quite frankly, it is whatever you prefer it to be. Nevertheless, one of the most unusual, interesting and – if you really want to experience the DNA of the city first-hand – exciting ways to unearth the secrets of Jaipur’s charms is to explore it by cycle! But for that you will have to await our next blog on SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace, where we take you through the streets of Jaipur in a way you have perhaps not thought of exploring the Pink City.


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