Rajasthan, the legendary land of Rajas and Maharajas, is the second largest State of the Indian Union, comprising a number of former principalities. With an area around 3,42,239 sq. km. and population around 5,64,73,122 this land offers a wide variety of life. It is a country of sand dunes, desert and rocks, interspersed with wonderful palaces, impregnable forts, myriad colors, placid lakes, secluded sanctuaries, gardens, fertile tracts, forest and superb scenery. The Aravali mountain range, one of the oldest in the world, divide the country into ruggest south-east and sterile north-west. It is herein exotic and spectacular Rajasthan, that time seems to stand still at some places while moving fast at other places. The spectacular best of Rajasthan can be seen at its fairs and festivals. Each season has its plethora of fairs and festivals, is an occasion of artistic expression of the spirit of its people.
Jaipur: Fantasy in Pink
This capital city of Rajasthan, thc fantasy in pink sandstone is one of the finest planned cities of India. Not long after ascending the throne, Maharaja Jai Singh 11(1699-1744) felt the need to shift his seat of administration from Amber to a new site and so laid out the foundation of Jaipur city in 1727. Jaipur, the modern capital of Rajasthan is noted for its six rectangular sections with its broad well paved roads and streets and spacious Bazaars. The ideal time to visit it from Sept. to March though even during the rains this city has its own. ineffable charms. It has the following spots of tourist interest.
In the centre of the sprawling old walled city stands the City Palace with its ornate entrance gates, arches, projecting balconies and a series of courtyards. This former royal residence is a fine synthesis of traditional Rajasthani Mughal art and architecture. The ground and first floors of the seven storeys Chandra Mahal houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum. The museum has rare and rich collection of ornaments, arms, royal costumes, carpets, and decorative art objects. It also has some excellent miniature paintings of the Mughal and Rajasthani schools and illustrated Persian and Arabic manuscript. Here in the halls of Private and public Audience have a huge silver vessel, perhaps the largest in the world. This vessel used to contain pure Ganga Water for royal consumption when the king would go to visit UK and the continent. In those times the devout refused to take anything but Gangajal. The adjoining Jal Niwas Gardens with ornamental fountains and pools add to the beauty of the palace. The closely artificial lake abounds in fish and keeps the gardens cool and delectable even in the oppressive summer months. The palace is open to the visitors against an entrance fees.
The Jantar Mantar or the Observatory, Closely the city palace, is the most famous and elaborate of the five Maharaja Jai Singh built in different cities. The observatory best reflects the passion of its founder for astronomy and his scientific genius. It is anexcellent example that could be achieved in those times in concrete, the stupendous Samrat Yantra (King of Dials) is still unrivalled in its accuracy and preciseness. The observatory is open daily from 9 in the morning till 5 in the evening and the entry fee is Rupee one only.
Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds is another highlight of Jaipur. This five storey elaborate facade overlooking the main road, with projecting balconies, was built in 1799 for royal ladies to witness the processions and bustling activity of every day life of the city without being seen. The top of the honey comb like frontage of Hawa Mahal offers an excellent view of the surroundings. It was originally built by Maharaj Pratap Singh. A nominal entrance fee is charged and the entrance is from the rear.
The Central Museum
The two-storey Central Museum amidst the sprawling Ram Niwas Garden is an impressive building. It has an excellent collection of brassware, ivory carvings, jewellery, textiles, pottery, sculptures, miniature paintings, costumes and clay models depicting the scenes of rural Rajásthan. It is open on all week days except Fridays. Admission fee is Re I. There is also a zoo in the garden. The zoo houses a variety of birds and beasts including crocodiles.
This luxurious palace, once a royal garden resort, is today a luxury hotel with its over 100 beautiful rooms, corridors, terrace, banquet halls, golf course, terrace, banquet halls, golf course, tennis courts and an excellent covered swimming pool. Its Chinese Room and bright red and gold tapestry and antiques exude an aura of the exotic.
Believed by many to be the fort containing the fabulous treasure, this ‘Tiger Fort’, atop a hill approachable by jeepable road, was built in 1734 by Sawai Jai Singh and was later enlarged by Sawai Ram Singh II in 1868.
Said to be the hermitage of the sage Galava in ancient times, the picturesque george of Galta, with its sacred water tank, spring and temples can be reached by ascending a 2.5 km. climb through Suraj Pole (the Sun Gate) in the extreme east. Hundreds of visitors come to have a dip in the holy tank and to perform puja in the temples.
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