“It is so beautiful what the aridness of a region can bring about in the culture and people involved.”
Jaipur, also known as the ‘Pink City’ of India, is one of the most historically and culturally prosperous cities of India. It has been on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites since 2019. Jaipur’s flamboyance, vibrancy, heritage, architecture and maybe a chance of meeting the residing royal family are an attraction to both national and international visitors. A peek into the affluence and life of the royals; the chaos, hustle and noise of the markets and the roads; the colourful, happy and chattering people and the contrasting serene pockets and narrow lanes of shade from the summer sun all provide a majestic and fascinating experience to the traveller. The projection of Jaipur as a wealthy and social city is also seen in its involvement with the hosting of literary and other festivals within its folds.
Jaipur was strategically planned as the new capital of the 18th century Dhoondhar region as a strong political statement to the existing socio-political hot-pot with the Mughals, British, Marathas, Sikhs and the Jats. Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of the Kuchhwaha Dynasty at the time, conceived a new settlement to overcome the problems of population and drought that were being faced by the people of Amber at the time. He wanted the city to be unlike the common typology of town and city layouts in the region which were organic with the typical dhani (hamlets), village, town, city, forts and military defences.
“Jaipur was not a city of nostalgia or regret. It was clearly an innovative creation, a design for progressive thinking, demonstrating that the past was over with and the future held more splendour at the court and a more refined magnificence in creativity.”
– Aman Nath, (Jaipur, The last destination)
The foresight of the Sawai Jai Singh II for the development of the city of Jaipur is an interesting case. Several theories have been put forward about the planning of the city of Jaipur. To understand the ideology behind this, it is important to understand the influences on its patron and ruler. Sawai Jai Singh II lived in an era of heavy political instability and a lot of influence from foreign invaders. He was very well-read and intelligent with knowledge of ancient Vastu & Shilp Shastras, astronomy and astrology. Therefore, when Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, a Vastukar and mathematician was called from Bengal to create the city’s layouts, it reflected very strongly the ideologies and principles of the sovereign. It has not been possible to ultimately determine the conceptual layout of the Jaipur city plan. Several references have been made by academics about the layout reflecting the principles of Prastara or the cosmological mandala or the 9-grid layout pattern.
Whatever the concept was used for the city’s planning, today, Jaipur remains to be a prime example of one of the first well-planned cities of India. The site conceived and selected by Sawai Jai Singh II for his proposed city in 1727 AD was unique because it was located in a Valley instead of the typical Palaces at Amber and other precedents, which were prominently situated on a hill. The valley was surrounded by hills on the East, North and North-West with a ridge running West to East. This topographical condition resulted in helping align the entire city and its road networks as they stand today.
The original plan of the city shows a seven grid-layout; however, these grids are of varying sizes as per their land use. The planning follows a strong hierarchy in its road networks with strong East-West and North-south road Axis as through fare leading to the city gates and steep roads leading to the rest of the spaces in a grid pattern. Well defined public areas of varying degrees of privacy have been found at the junctions of these networks leading to very vital and dynamic spaces for the people.
During the planning of the city, all the essential buildings were marked in a central square which also consisted of the state buildings and palaces. This included 36 Karkhanas, which were state departments and factories, 56 Kacheries or government offices, the residential quarters of the Maharaja, the zenana and the public and private audience halls. The sites for temples and Havelis were also defined within the planning. The city was surrounded by seven gates. The town was built in less than six years with its extensive and accurate road pattern policies and corresponding widths, shop lines with specific streetscapes and ideas of back of the houses meeting each other creating layers of urban fabric and neighbourhood interaction.
Jaipur is coloured pink even today. The dwellers of the city love her and take pride in its identity. Today Jaipur stands as an excellent example of a well-planned city that has survived the test of time. Even today, the spaces envisaged by the two visionaries play a spectacular role in the life of the people residing there.
Jaipur is famous not only for its architectural heritage with the City Palace, Nahargarh fort, Hawa Mahal, Govind Devji Temple and Jantar Mantar but also The Jawahar Kala Kendra by Charles Correa, which is an added treasure for architecture enthusiasts and performers alike.
The city and the streetscape of Jaipur are famous for their peculiar characteristic and urban fabric, which cannot be found anywhere else. The stark contrasts of shadows on the structures and the pink hues of the buildings, along with the niches of intricate ornamentations and fenestrations, make Jaipur, a haven for photographers. With the color shades and the milieu of vibrant music, tasty food and the various bazaars, the streets of Jaipur have something for all.