Jantar Mantar is a testament to Indian astronomy built by Raja Jai Singh between 1727 and 1734. With these set of instruments, one could tell the exact time of the day to 2 seconds. This site is a World Heritage site and is a must see to not only appreciate ancient Indian insight into Astronomy, but also to understand the King’s interest in further the science.
The City Palace is the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur and was built around the 1730s. Most of the building is a museum now, but some parts are still occupied by the royal family. Areas are rented out for filming at 500,000 Rupees per day roughly $10k per day. It has many entrances and all of these have extensive art work. The peacock gate is unique in its brilliantly colored artwork of peacocks. All these art works on the palaces we saw have withstood the test of time (of over 300 years) which is remarkable by itself. Inside the palace, the Mubarak Mahal is now a museum of clothing used by the royalty. On display is one huge dress of Sawai Madosingh I, who was 1.2 m wide and weighed 250 pounds. The girth of his pajamas is over 2 meters! Chandra Mahal is still occupied and the entry fee is steep (Rs. 2000 per head). Our guide suggested the fee covers the viewing of be-decked carpets and nothing more and led us to view photos of the same.
The Diwan-I-Khas is the public audience hall and has in it two HUGE silver vessels officially recorded by the Guinness books of World records as the biggest silver vessels capable of holding 4000 litres. This was created by Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh for his trip to England to carry the holy Ganges water as he didn’t want to commit foul by drinking English water.
We said bye to our guide before lunch around 2 PM. The guides fee is either a half day fee (Rs 700) or a full day fee (Rs. 900). Thus they have incentive to do a half day tour and earn more. Our guide, while very informative, ensured we spent a little more than half-day and collected more than a days worth including tips. I wish guides in India soon become more honest like the ones we find in the US – tell the deal straight from the word go. The guides get commissions on purchases we make and hence they have an incentive to use part of the time to take us to some store. They hype the place as local craftsmen, pretty poor, highly skilled, state awarded, etc and make a emotional sales pitch. We also let our fine driver Mr. Singh head back to his home near New Delhi. He was one we were extremely happy with. In case you are interested, you can find his services as ‘Lucky Cab/Taxi’ or email me for his contact. We learnt he is more than a great driver running his own cable and zinc-coating businesses.
After lunch (High Tea as it was called) at the Jaipur Pastry shop, we had a short break. We visited Chowki-dhaani in the evening for dinner. This is a place modelled after a Rajastani village with lot of stalls and continuous entertainment. Dinner is served in a big canopy where you can sit cross-legged or on sofas. Food is unlimited and reasonably inexpensive. But it is more about the experience. Unfortunately, it was raining cats and dogs that night and whole of the village was closed. We had to settle only for the food. Rama wasn’t impressed. When you travel in India, make sure you don’t eat any cold food; any food that is cooked and served hot is okay.