We had to get up super early as we had to catch a 9am flight to Jaipur. We were sad to say goodbye to Hari and Pari, but were excited for our next adventure. We were met by our guide. Kush and our driver, Brij. Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan and was founded in 1727 by King Jai Singh. It is a very well planned city. It was built on a grid system, and also has divided highways. One thing we noticed, was that in Jaipur, most people wore motorcycle helmets while in Udaipur, hardly anyone did. The current population is around 3.5 million people.
Jaipur is know as the Pink City because there is a bylaw that all buildings need to be painting with a particular Terra Cotta shade which glows pink in the sunshine. The main buildings downtown were originally painted pink to welcome H.R.H. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VII, Emperor of India), in 1876. There are many beautiful buildings all over India that used to belong to the royal families, however, after Indian Independence in 1946, the royals lost their status and gave much of their property back to the government. Many of these places are now historical sites, some converted to hotels and museums. Most royal families have still held onto some of their assets, and many live in smaller parts of their palaces, not open to the public.
One artifact that stood out in the City Palace was the largest silver object in the world – a water vessel made of 14,000 melted-down silver coins. He made two of these vessels to take with him to England when he went to visit because he only wanted to drink water that came from the Ganges River.
In the “audience room” there were portraits of all the kings of Jaipur with a small blurb about who they were. There were many interesting stories. First of all, if the current King did not have an heir, he would adopt an heir. This of course would result in many power plays from different branches of the family. Only two of the kings were sons of kings, the rest were adopted.
Some noteworthy stories: Jai Singh lived in the 17th century and was very interested in Astrology and Astronomy. He built all sort sorts of instruments to measure things in the heavens which still stand today. For example, he built several sundials, and was able to measure the exact time by the longitude and latitude specifically of Jaipur which is not the same as Indian Standard time. There is a notice everyday based on his formulas how much IST is off from the “real Jaipur time”. he also built instruments to measure the earth’s rotation, and specific measurements for every one of the zodiac constellations.
Another of the kings, Maharaja Ram Singh II was interested in photography and is credited with introducing photography to India in the 1850s. He set up many self portraits, (the first selfies?) as well as photographing many of the members of the court. He also took many photographs of places in India, and now they serve as a historical record.
One king was actually declared King in utero. His father died while his mother was pregnant, so they declared him the king as soon as he was born.
Next stop was the Dera Amer Camp. This family homestead hosts several elephants who used to work at the Fort giving people elephant rides up the ramparts. there are 400 elephant giving rides there. This family rents the elephants so that instead of working, they can hang out at their homestead and relax. They are there for tourists to feed and interact with, as well as go on nature walks. Our elephant’s name was Rangmallah, which means colourful necklace. When we went on the nature walk, Rangmallah came with her handler. He rode her to keep her on track, but we were content to walk beside her and admire her beauty. At the rest stop we were given non-toxic paints to decorate her with like the local people do. I was not 100% comfortable with this, but our naturalist guide assured us it was not harmful to her, and the colours would come off in the morning when she bathes. The boys painted her for a bit and then Rangmallah headed back to her home. the staff prepared a beautiful dinner for us starting with appetizers by a bonfire.
Another great day…