Rajasthan’s architecture is a unique blend of Rajput and Mughal styles. All over Rajasthan, you can dine a profusion of delicately sculpted arches and balconies.
The dozens of forts of Rajasthan, exquisité sculpted temples and havilies are the highlights of Rajasthan’s architectural heritage Moving out of the hill-fort (also spelled Amber) in AD 1727, Jai Singh descended to the plain below, planning a grand capital for himself with the able assistance of a Bengali architect Vidyadhar.
Jaipur has been laid out in nine grids according to the tenets of the “Shilp Shastra” – and ancient Hindu treatise of architecture. Each grid consists of a square and these have been planned in such a way that the city palace is the heart of the city. Spread out around it are public building, neatly arranged in rows – these are the houses of the noblemen, the living and trading quarters of the merchants and artisans and of course, temples straight wide roads run through the city while a high, crenellated wall encircles the town, served with its seven gateways. Today these walls may be a bit difficult to spot, but they are ample proof that though-Jaipur saw no great siege; it was adequately prepared for it.
Vidyadhar was a strict planner and even the drawings for the private residences and trading establishments had to be submitted and met with his approval. This is the reason for the homogeneity of the facades of the buildings in the bazaars of the old city. However, a myth links him to the characteristic autumnal pink color. This was dome much later. While preparing for the visit of the Prince of Wales (Later king Edward VII) in 1876, it was decided by the maharajas to paint the entire city in pleasing sandstone-pink since it came closest to the color of the sandstone used in the buildings. To date, this tradition has endured, though the highlights and picked in white.
A look at the city palace complex gives you and idea of the blend of Mughal and Rajput styles of architecture, over a period of time. In the Mughal tradition, the durbar hall or court area became much more open, characterized by a series of arched pavilions held on delicately crafted pillars. Ornamentation, which had always been a part of Rajputana’s heritage now, became more pronounced. The private wings of the palace extended their areas used for entertainment with the tie-up with the Mughals, defense was not the primary concern and so, larger, more ornamental windows were built to overlook the streets or courtyards outside the wings. Gardens were no longer planned within the internal courtyard only but were added to the external vistas. In came fountains and canals.
Some of these experiments had started in the Amer itself. Here it must be noted that a distinguishing feature of Mughal palaces was the use of marble and pietra dura inlay. Amer and later Jaipur achieved the same results on polished wall surfaces using a mixture of lime and eggshell, in a style called “arayish”. Rather than stone inlay, the masters of arayish work preferred the delicate art of wall paintings, especially religious and historical themes, which is incidentally forbidden in Islamic art. The concept of sheesh Mahal or palace of Mirrors was favored in both architectural traditions. It has small, even sized mirrors embellishing the surface in such a manner that when a match is lit in a darkened room, its tiny flame bounces off them, producing a starlit night effect.
Amer represents the early phases of kachhawa architrave. Maharaja Man Singh laid the foundations are impressive. A steep ramp leads to the Jai pol or Gate of Victory. Today tourists can go up the incline on top of an elephants. Even after the establishment of Jaipur, the royal family would come here for ceremonial occasions and to pray at the Kali shrine. The image of kali was carried all the way from Bengal by Man Singh during one of his expeditions.
Amer had reasons to be concerned with external with threats and the builders had taken adequate precautions. Like other Rajput palaces, it consists of narrow passages and staircases that can be defended by a couple of swordsmen, ridge ramps to allow cavalry to move within the fort, high walls that can’t be scaled easily and windows at only the highest levels. While the exterior is forbidding, the interiors are lavishly decorated more so since the royalty, especially the women spent almost their entire lives inside the palace.
In Jaipur, the facades of the building are particularly notable especially in the Hawa Mahal. Part of the city palace complex, this is a familiar landmark- its pierced window overlooking the street below. Its purpose was to allow the ladies of the family to view the ceremonial procession seated behind the windows, without being seen themselves.
Jaipur has much to offer visitor – everything from pageants and festivals, museums, cuisine, handicrafts and sightseeing – that will occupy their time. However, should the simply choose to walk around the streets of the old city, they will not regret it. All of jaipur is an architectural gem and no scheduled sightseeing can do enough justice to this rare city.