Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Pink City

Some of the architecture I saw on my recent three-month around-the-world honeymoon was just incredible. There was Gaudi in Barcelona, Bernini in Rome (we'll get to those later), and in India: Jai Singh.

Jaipur, in Rajasthan, India, is known as the Pink City because of an 1876 decree that the whole city be painted pink, the traditional Indian colour of hospitality, in preparation for the visit of King Edward VII, then the Prince of Wales. To this day the pink facades must be maintained by law. The city is remarkable for its pink, wacky architecture, built under the direction of the maharaja Jai Singh.

The majestic five-story honeycomb structure of the Hawa Mahal towers over the Old City, which is divided into districts by the type of craftspeople who work in each area: the sari district, the resin bangle district, etc. The Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 as a nearly two-dimensional facade structure backing onto a large courtyard, with 953 small windows for the royal ladies to look out onto public life in the city streets while maintaining purdah (keeping themselves from being seen). 

The windows on the lower floors mimic the honeycomb structure of the facade, and are glazed in primary colours, clashing delightfully with the pink and yellow walls of the interior courtyard.

As you make your way up the building, the windows and staircases become smaller and narrower with each successive floor, in an almost Alice-in-Wonderland experience.These tiny shuttered windows at the top are barely bigger than a person's face. 

Just near the Hawa Mahal is the City Palace, still used as a residence by the current maharaja and his family. The City Palace is home to two silver jars (below), thought to be the world's largest silver vessels. These were once used to carry and store water for the royal family. At the time I visited, the palace was swarmed with people setting up for an elaborate wedding at a remarkable speed.

Jaipur is also home to the Jantar Mantar, a veritable playground of huge astronomical equipment, including a giant sundial accurate to 2 seconds when read from the top of a giant staircase leading to nothing.



What an incredible city. Even the local cinema is famous throughout India for its majestic meringue-and-marshmallow style pink architecture both inside and out, reminiscent of a time when a night out at the cinema was a major social event.

No comments:

Post a Comment