India – Jaipur

The city of Jaipur in India’s Rajasthan province was founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh II, who earned the honorific title ‘Sawai’ (meaning ‘one and a quarter’) at the tender age of eleven for his visionary intelligence and scientific accomplishment. Known as the ‘City of Victory’, its construction was a carefully planned effort, built in accordance with traditional Hindu rules of town planning which dictated the layout of streets, based on a mathematical grid of nine squares which represent the ancient Hindu map of the universe. In the central square of this grid is the sacred Mt Meru, the legendary home of Shiva. The wonder of Jaipur’s palatial pink sandstone buildings draws thousands of tourists yearly. The town is referred to as the ‘Pink City.’

A wealth of art and architecture is to be found in Jaipur, as well as a number of interesting museums, historic structures and monuments. Notably, the observatory is also the most magnificent of a series which Jai Singh built all over India, and offers visitors an excellent history lesson on the highly spiritual, yet accurate approach to astronomy taken by ancient Hindu scientists. Like all of Jaipur’s original buildings, the observatory is also an ornate example of Mughal architecture. All over the city, detailed facades, ornate pillars and inlaid sculpture and other elaborate decorations can be seen on its museums, numerous palaces and even its main fortress.

The metalwork and textiles of Jaipur are among the most famous in all of India, an excellent display of which can be found at the City Palace Museum. Among the hundreds of items on exhibit at the museum is a huge collection of traditional Rajasthani miniature paintings, ancient manuscripts, musical instruments, finely crafted Mughal carpets and a huge collection of royal costumes and textiles, which fills the entire first floor of the building. The splendor of the textiles alone is a tribute to Jaipur’s princely past, a dazzling array of intricate embroidery, gossamer-fine fabrics, superbly tailored wedding saris and other royal garments.

One does not have to be a royal to have a fabulous wedding. The Indian weddings are an elaborate visual treat. We saw one in Agra. A young man on a white horse paraded slowly through the city with a group of dancers, musicians and friends. They came to the hall where hundreds of guests are waiting all marvelously dressed in their best garments. The women wear the most beautiful Saris. The bride wears a formal red Sari encrusted with gold embroidery and the bridegroom wears a white ivory silk sherwani-cburidar (trousers with band collar shirt and long coat). Large wedding sari with ornate beadwork and three embroidered diamond patterns in gold, silver and red silk thread (228)

Across India, one can also find images of Ganesh, the elephant-headed God figure. He is one of the most famous and worshipped deities for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. He embodies intellect, wisdom and is the remover of obstacles. Bronze elephant God figure (Ganesh) (229)