Thursday, 4 February 2016

Jaipur part two - expect the unexpected!

Little did we know it when we set off this morning, but we were in for a surprise.

Bet you have no idea what these structures are: 

Modern art sculptures perhaps?

House facades in a strange film set?

Giant gongs?

Gaudi in India?

Cart wheels for long gone Giants?

Maybe this will give you a clue? There's a scale along the edge of the white marble ...

Or this?

And this?

This place is Jantar Mantar, the observatory of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, constructed in the early eighteenth century - and it blew our minds!

To think that these huge, beautiful structures were precise astronomical instruments, built to calculate the time, and the positions of the stars and planets, in a time when there were no computers, only painstaking calculations and trial and error, is incredible. It is still possible to tell the time (Jaipur time is 40 minutes different from India time) with this instrument, accurate to 20 seconds

Not content with the accuracy of that, he scaled it up ten-fold to create the largest sundial in the world (it's in the Guinness book of records) - accurate to 2 seconds.

And these use the same principle to look at the position of the sun in the various zodiac constellations for astrological calculations

Not a hundred percent sure what any of these do, but they are amazing, particularly the ones split into two halves for the astronomer to walk into (left) - the two halves fit exactly into each other. Look at the detail of the lines and the shape of the bowl: how did they make them that big and that accurate? As the shadows move round the readings are taken from first one and then the other.

 If you're interested this is the website - .

The observatory is not always on the main tourist trail, but our guide was keen to take us there and we could see why. After all this, just a short walk away, past the local meeting place,

the City Palace, still home to the Maharaja's modern family, had a lot to live up to.

Same richly patterned decorative architecture,

same colonnades

and terracotta pink walls and ceilings

but this time even more opulent. 

This is a bit like visiting Buckingham Palace, complete with state rooms with thrones and golden ceilings and portraits and photographs of Maharajahs past, a Royal amoury - loved the intricately decorated bone gunpowder horns (no photographs allowed).

The palace is home to a museum of textiles showing examples of the attire of Hindu royalty throughout the ages - fascinating stuff (and after explaining all about the exhibits, whilst we took in he small details, Himmat our guide looked exactly like men in the UK do at quilt shows!).

But the showstopper was this courtyard with four stunning painted gates, all different

This pair were round the corner from the peacocks ...

And on the way out a collection of Royal carriages - the two on the right to carry ladies in public, the one on the left to carry the image of a God; they would be pulled by oxen -

and the story of the Maharajah who was snubbed by the Rolls Royce showroom in London when he went in wearing ordinary dress; incensed and bent on revenge, he returned in full Royal regalia and ordered six cars, paying for them to be delivered to India. Then he gave them to the city council to be used as refuse collection vehicles. Can't imagine that went down well with RR!

Finally huge gates and still more pattern - gold for the inner and patterned brass inlay outer.

After this we set off for lunch again (same place as yesterday, it was so good) and then to the Anokhi Museum of block printing and a couple of 'factories' in Sanganer, an industrial village/ suburb of Jaipur well known for its hand-made paper, block printing and blue pottery.

More in the next instalment.

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