This afternoon, we head back to the old part of Jaipur and do a little shopping. Clouds have come out, and it begins to rain and at one point, total downpour! Luckily, we dart in and out of shops to avoid it. I find a long, pretty skirt with peacock feather designs and sequins and I manage to get the vendor down to $10…which I think is still too high but I’m not unhappy. Picked up a few more fun knickknacks and jewelry before leaving the group to go explore on my own. A few people are getting massages, a few are going to the monkey temple (which does sound cool, but I have a couple of other sites I want to check out). My first stop is Jantar Mantar, which is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Now I don’t know a lot about astronomy but I’ll say these instruments are amazing! They allow one to see astronomical positions with the naked eye, and they are made of stone, marble, brass. They are based on ancient Hindu Sanskrit text.This observatory has 19 instruments and they predict eclipses, measure time, track positions of stars as earth orbits the sun, etc
Here you can find the world’s largest stone sundial (called Samrat Yantra) that measures time down to 2 seconds! It is 27 metres tall. Just crazy.It’s hard for me to comprehend how accurate the instruments are and how anyone figured out how to build these in the first place. Fascinating, but frustrating to my mind. I wander around the observatory, stopping to admire each instrument and reading the signs that explain how they work. And pretend to understand, despite the pained look of confusion on my face
. And apparently, a sunny day would have been more ideal for this visit. Damn!
Right across the road from Jantar Mantar is the famous City Palace. It consists of a few different palaces and other buildings, courtyards and gardens that still operates as a royal residence.
After entering, the Mubarak Mahal is the first thing I see; it is a large white palace that is now a museum that holds mostly textiles, prints, clothing and costumes worn by royalty. Part of the collection is clothes worn by Sawai Madho Singh I, who was 4 feet wide and weighed 550 pounds! But he still had over 100 wives..quite a charmer I guess(or just super rich).
Through the Rajendra Pol gate, I am now in the Sarvatobhadra Chwok, a large courtyard with pink walls. Inside the courtyard is the Diwan I Khas, Hall of Private Audience, with marble floors and crystal chandeliers.
It has two curious things inside; massive record holding sterling silver vessels. 5 ft tall, 750 lbs and made of melted Jaipur coins. The third courtyard features 4 gates that represent the 4 seasons; the peacock gate is the most famous and I can see why!
Next is the Chandra Mahal, a huge 7 storey palace. Only the ground floor is open to explore as royalty lives above. Then onto the Sabha Niwas, Hall of Public Audience.
Inside are red carpets, gold walls and ceilings adorned with chandeliers. Overall, the palace complex is pretty gorgeous, with many interesting treasures inside.
Normally I am great with direction, but as I leave the palace I am completely backward. I need to find the parking lot where my rickshaw driver is waiting. I wander around for about 10 minutes, amid curious stares from the locals and eventually find my guy.
Back to the hotel for a nice dinner with the group and Chandra has arranged a puppet show for us to enjoy. They are string puppets known as Kathputli. They have wooden heads and cloth bodies, in vibrantly colored dress. They are controlled by the performers fingers, with 2- 5 strings. In the past, this artform told folk tales and provided moral and social education.
Not sure what our story was, but the puppets dance around and at one point, charm a puppet snake. The performers were selling the puppets so now I have two that adorn my shelf at home. And they’re only a tiny bit creepy!