Jaipur: Jantar Mantar and the Pink City?

Good morning everyone,

Jantar Mantar, Jaipur (not to be confused with the lesser, non-working Jantar Mantar is Delhi) was our next stop after the Birla Mandir (we kind of did some backtracking as it is near Hawa Mahal and nowhere close to the mandir).

These are a collection of astronomical instruments, and unlike the ones in Delhi, these ones still work and climbing on or around them is not permitted (though that never stops people from trying).  Jantar Mantar means “instrument for calculation”.  They were built by a Rajput king, Sawai Jai Singh who also built the Jantar Mantar in Delhi.  He actually built five of these at various locations and this is the biggest and best preserved of all of them.

They are on the World Heritage List and were restored by Major Arthur Garrett, himself an amateur astronomer.

There are fourteen major astronomical instruments in here, all incredibly accurate since their last restoration.   They measure time, predict eclipses, track the various locations of stars as the earth orbits the sun, measure the declination of the planets, and determine various celestial altitudes.  The largest of the instruments is the Samrat Yantra (see in the picture of yet more pigeons murmurating) is roughly 27 m high and by using it’s shadow, you can tell the time of day.  It is angled at the same latitude as the City of Jaipur.

Subsistence of the foundations below these instruments have only misaligned the instruments very slightly.  The Samrat Yantra (one of the largest sundials in the world) is accurate to within roughly 2 seconds.

The place is incredibly interesting and tells you a lot about the astronomical knowledge available during the time of the Mughals.  Definitely visit here and the neighbouring Hawa Mahal and City Palace.

Okay, on to the secondary topic.  Jaipur is known as the pink city.  It’s companion city Jodhpur is known as the blue city.  Jaipur however… not pink.  Part of the old town is definitely pink and most of the defensive walls and battlements (but not the forts) above the city are made of sandstone and look red/pink but other than this small strip and the walls, there is no telling Jaipur (at the street level) from any other city in northern India.

This is the explanation for the pink city label I was given (copied from mapsofindia.com):

“Jaipur has been popularized with the name of Pink City because of the color of the stone exclusively used for the construction of all the structures. Anyone who has witnessed the city can substantiate the fact that all the buildings of Jaipur are pink in color. The pink color has its own history. In 1876, the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on a tour. Since pink denotes the color of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur painted the whole city pink in color to welcome the guests. The tradition has been sincerely followed by the residents who are now, by law, compelled to maintain the pink color.”

Ummm… nope, sorry.  Even if there is a law most people are  not complying with painting their buildings pink.  There is lots of white, beige, blue, yellow and concrete gray.

In the old city, near the Hawa Mahal, there is a small strip where the buildings are all pink in colour but that’s it.  Even Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal (in a previous post) as you can see are mostly yellow/beige with only some red/pink accents.

City Palace, seen behind the Jantar Mantar in some of the pictures is also not pink but yellow/beige with some red/pink accents.

I don’t really care that the City of Jaipur isn’t pink.  I’m all for individuality myself and I certainly didn’t travel this far just to see pink buildings.  I came to see the historical monuments, the temples, the forts and the palaces.

I just think it’s strange that it is still advertised this way even if, over 100 years ago, a visit from some British royals inspired painting the entire town.

So be prepared.  If you come to Jaipur, don’t expect to see it glow pink in the sunlight.  It’s just not going to happen.  Visit anyway though because this place is spectacular.

On a side note, it was just after the visit to Jantar Mantar that my auto-driver, Sameer Khan, decided to announce “I’m Muslim.”  So I thought I would return with “And I’m a Sikh.  Asalam alaikum.”  I’m not sure why he thought it was important to tell me his faith (unless I was offending his faith by eating a big old bacon sammie right there in his auto, which I wasn’t) but I did like that he returned my “Asalam alaikum” greeting with “Alaikum salam and Sat Sri Akal”.  That was nice.  I liked Sameer, he was a nice, fun guy – paan chewing and all (it’s not up to me to judge him for that after all.)  I respect the man for being so open and respectful.

He also got along well with Jagdeep, who was quite protective of me during this trip (as I trusted he would do given that I’m a woman travelling alone in India.).  He was a good brother to me and it turns out that we had no worries with Sameer.

Next time we’ll be at Amer Fort in Jaipur.  By the time this publishes I should be back from the Kashmir and busy writing again.  Wow.  Right now though, the sun has set and I can see my breath.  I’m going now to find out how it suddenly got so cold.  Until next time then,

Peace and love all,
Himmatpreet

PS Check out the bonus pictures – two painted elephants on the road up to Amer Fort (I think), one painted in vivid colours and the other with ash.  Awesome.

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