Stunning Coloured Cities of India's vibrant RAJASTHAN
Yes, we are not travelling now because of the Covid19 pandemic, but once the situation normalises Sandip Hor recommends losing yourselves in the colours of three vibrant Rajasthan cities in India
Rajasthan in India is perhaps the only region in the world that can boast of cities that are identified by their distinct colourful tints – Jaipur by its pink aura, Jodhpur by the blueness and Jaisalmer by the golden fascia that glitters in the sun. Travellers from around the world visit these places to get mesmerised by their coloured appearance.
However, the colour is not their only lure.
There are many other attractions to make these enclaves world famous – most significant are the palaces and the forts that were built by the Rajput Kings who since medieval times ruled their princely states from these cities until India became independent from the British in 1947.
Though King Jai Singh II built Jaipur in 1727 the city’s pinkish flair came later in 1878 to commemorate the visit of Prince of Wales, pink being an emblem of welcome of Rajasthan tradition. Over time pink and Jaipur became synonymous, with newer buildings also opting for the same tint. .A generous splash of pink welcomes everyone as soon as the entry is made through one of the arched gates inside a walled city where buildings flanking both sides of crowded thoroughfares are all dyed pink.
Though the formal status of the princely states have been abolished in India, the scion of the Jaipur royals are still treated with awe and respect in the city. Referred to as His or Her Highness, they live in the City Palace, a sprawling complex comprising of several imposing gates, buildings, temples and paved courtyards that showcase nothing but opulence. Their Rolls Royce’s always have the right of way and their guards seem to be more powerful than the police. Part of the City Palace is open to the public and stands as Jaipur’s top tourist attraction. However, the first stop for most visitors to Jaipur is the Hawa Mahal or the “Palace of Winds”. Honeycombed with 953 intricately designed sandstone latticed windows and ornate balconies, this multi-storied and bowed shaped edifice is the city’s most distinctive landmark, the image of its pink façade featuring in countless tourism brochures.
The blueness of Jodhpur, Rajasthan’s second largest city after Jaipur comes from a series of blue painted houses that stretch along the walls of the 500 years old historic walled city. It’s said the houses were painted blue to indicate that a Brahmin-the highest of the Indian caste system - lodged there, but over time the shade became a mark of identity for others as well. Other theories that vouch for the use of blue is its insect-repelling abilities, it being the colour associated with Hindu God Lord Shiva and without doubt bringing a soothing effect in a warm environment .
The best spot to gaze the blue is from the ramparts of the 15th century Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur’s biggest attraction besides the Umaid Bhawan Palace – the home of the Jodhpur Kings since built almost 70 years ago. A part of the complex now is a museum open to the public and a luxury hotel operated by the Taj Group and voted by Conde Nest as the world’s best.
While only parts of Jaipur and Jodhpur display their distinct hues, the entire city of Jaisalmer appears to be gold plated because of every old and new building in this desert domain has been built with yellow stones which bestows the golden tinge. Again being a former royal city, the main attraction here is the 800 year old fortress which is touted as the world’s only living citadel.
TOP: Pink tinted Jaipur
ABOVE LEFT: Blue City Jodphur
ABOVE CENTRE: City Palace Jaipur
ABOVE RIGHT: Golden City, Jaisalmer
RIGHT TOP: Inside the Golden City
RIGHT BOTTOM: Mehrangarh Fort
BELOW: Jaipur Hawa Mahal
Getting There: Singapore Airlines (www.singaporeair.com) has regular flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth to New Delhi from where there is good air (Indigo – www.goindigo.in and SpiceJet – www.spicejet.com), rail and road connections to all three cities.
Stay: Being filled with royalty, Rajasthan offers visitors the rare occasion to sleep like a Maharaja or the King as many of their former palaces and noble houses have been converted into heritage hotels. At the top end, Taj Group (www.tajhotels.com) offers luxury accommodation choices at the properties like Rambagh Palace or the Jai Mahal Palace in Jaipur and Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur , while at the other end some affordable heritage accommodation choices are Pal Haveli (www.palhaveli.com) in Jodhpur and Sonaar Haveli ( www.sonaarhaveli.com) in Jaisalmer.
Tour Operator: Exotic Heritage Group (www.exoticheritagegroup.com) is specialised for tailor-made Rajasthan itineraries.
Visa: Australian passport holders need visa to enter India. Check www.vfsglobal.com for information