Sunday, October 31, 2010

Shopping in the Markets of Jaipur


Vibrant with activity, shopping in the colorful Bazaars of Jaipur is a must and feature as one of the ‘To Do Things’ in the itinerary of a tourist. And, in the evening I did just that.

As I started walking past shops in Bapu Bazaar, one of the prominent markets of Jaipur, the shopkeepers persuasively called out, “Come inside Madam, have a look, what do you want?” And to lure you in, they spill enough of their stuff out into the narrow lanes…

Colorful Jaipur markets, Bapu Bazaar

There are narrow lanes dotted with tiny shops each showcasing a dazzling range of exquisite Rajasthani items catering to every pocket and taste. But Bargain is a must-have while shopping in Jaipur as the prices come down by even 75% in some cases!!

Fancy footwear known as mochris or jootis in Jaipur shops
Footwear known as mochris or jootis is one of the hottest selling items here. Handcrafted in exclusive designs and available both plain and embroidered they are surely a big hit among shoppers as they go with both traditional Indian wear and also with jeans and skirts.

Colorful glass bangles in Bapu Bazaar, Jaipur
Colorful glass bangles in Bapu Bazaar, Jaipur
The lac and glass bangles… traditional, trendy, shimmering in bright colors… I have plenty of these!

Lovely Quilts or Rajais in Jaipur markets
These light-weight Jaipuri quilts (Rajais) are striking indeed but not required in Mumbai much!!

Cloth bags or jholas of Jaipur
Cloth bags or jholas of Jaipur
Artistic cloth bags known as jholas… mirrored work, threadwork and added embellishments…

Colorful seats known as moodas - Shopping in Jaipur
These moodas or chairs are more fancy versions of the normal ones which I had purchased during one of my trips here and are now sitting comfortably in my living room.
Cane sticks tied up with colored strings for seating, known as moodas

Me, not being too bargain friendly, I left all these vendors disappointed and entered M. K. International, a fixed price shop as I was sure I won’t be cheated here.

Jaipuri Bedsheets at MK shop in Bapu Bazaar
Jaipuri Bedsheets at MK shop in Bapu Bazaar

Fabulous fabrics, available in various eye catching prints and designs, the traditional bandhni, batik and bandhej prints for salwar suits and block and sanganeri prints for bed sheets are very beautiful indeed. I picked up a couple of Jaipuri bedsheets and Salwar suits for me and my relatives back home.

Bandhini Chunris in Jaipur
Bandhini Chunris in Jaipur
Eye catching Jaipuri Salwar suits
Colorful Salwar Suits

Besides these, exquisite Rajasthani handicrafts, colorful pots, jewelry, antiques; an array of brass, ivory, wood and stone carvings, paintings and statues are some of the other things that one can look out for in various other markets like Nehru Bazaar, Indira Bazaar, Johri Bazaar and Badi Chaupar near Hawa Mahal.

As the sun sank down and the afternoon glow turned to somber dusk, I never realized how an entire day had flown by…

Birla Temple, Jantar Mantar, Amber Fort, City Palace, and so much more… there were so many places I wanted to visit in Jaipur but sadly was bound by time constraints. For now though, as my train whistled away, there was only one place I could go – HOME!!

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jaipur Pottery


    Rajasthan is renowned world over for its exquisite arts and crafts. There are still entire lanes in Jaipur where craftsmen can be seen displaying their artistic skills and shaping their products into items of great beauty.

A pottery shop on the streets of Jaipur
A pottery shop on the streets of Jaipur
[ A pottery shop at Chaura Raasta, Jaipur ]

    I came across one such group of traditional potters known as Kumbhars on the Chaura Raasta area of Jaipur, giving final touches to their wares. These earthen pots were being skillfully painted in bright colors, decorated with mirrors and golden frills finally giving them the most attractive forms.

Women give finishing touches to the pots in Jaipur
A Woman gives finishing touches to the pots in Jaipur
A Man gives finishing touches to the pots in Jaipur
[ Craftsmen giving finishing touches to the earthen pots ]

The finished earthen pots being dried in the sun
The finished earthen pots being dried in Jaipur
[ The finished earthen pots being dried in the sun ]

These beautiful pots are then used during various festivals like Navratri, Teej and Deepavali and other auspicious occasions. Other stuff like statues, lamps, piggy banks, lanterns etc. were also on display.

    One thing that caught my eyes were these couple of beautifully carved, long necked, lion mouthed earthen pots known as Surahis, used for storing drinking water. With the state facing long hours of power cuts and the temperatures soaring as high as 48 degrees in the summers, these Surahis come to the rescue of the common man.

Surahis which keep water cool naturally
[ I brought these twin Surahis, 
known for its excellent cooling properties ]

They keep the water immensely cool naturally, easily rivaling the water cooled by  refrigerators!!
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Flavors of Jaipur - Where to Eat in Jaipur


    Jaipur remains packed with royal buildings and noble haveli’s. Thousands of tourists come visiting every day. And the city makes sure that all these people are fed very well too.

    Jaipur greets every visitor with a wide variety of tempting and mouth watering culinary delights to opt from. You could choose to hop in one of Jaipur’s well known restaurants like LMB, BMB or Chokhi Dhani to enjoy the traditional Rajasthani thali or head out onto the streets to get a heady slice of the local snacks and delicacies of the state.

Having already tasted the authentic thali of the desert state in Khatu, Jhunjhunu and Pushkar, I chose to get a bite of the latter. Continuing from where I left in Flavors of Rajasthan – 1, here I bring some of the flavors I relished in Jaipur, ‘My Favorite Food Stops’ which I have picked over numerous visits to the city.

Samrat Sweets, Chaura Raasta

    Situated on the Chaura Raasta (Shop No. 273/274), it is a place that is very famous with the locals here. The place is especially known for its Khasta urad dal Kachoris, Pyaaz Kachoris and Samosas.

Samrat, a famous Kachori shop in Chaura Raasta, Jaipur
[ Samrat, a famous Kachori shop in Chaura Raasta, Jaipur ]

The hot, crispy Kachoris all puffed up and flaky outside, fresh off the kadai. They taste wonderful with the chutneys that they have. It is a treat to watch them make it in front of your eyes.

Frying Pyaaz Kachoris at Samrat - Jaipur
[ Frying Yummy Kachoris at Samrat ]

Hot piping Jalebis, the best I have tasted so far, small, hot and very crisp.

Preparing hot,piping Jalebis at Samrat - Jaipur
[ A man artistically preparing Jalebis in the cauldron ]

Preparing hot,piping Jalebis at Samrat - Jaipur
[ Transferring the Jalebis in the sweet, sugary syrup called chashni ]

Rawat Misthan Bhandar

    Situated at the polo victory cinema, close to the railway station and the bus stand, Rawat Misthan Bhandar is the most famous sweet shop in Jaipur. A variety of sweets like katlis, ladoos, barfis, pedas, are all perfectly produced and neatly stacked up in the shop.

Rawat Mishthan Bhandar, a very famous sweet shop in Jaipur
[ Rawat Mishthan Bhandar, a very famous sweet shop in Jaipur]

Don’t forget to try out the local porous sweet dish Ghewar, topped with loads of pistachios and almonds… Wow it tastes so good!! They are mostly made during festivals.

Ghewar, a special sweet dish of Jaipur
[ Ghewar, a special sweet dish of Jaipur ]

Another specialty is their Pyaaz Kachoris and Mirchi Vadas, local specialties of Jaipur, both of them innovative, spicy and very tasty.

Lassiwala, MI Road

    Situated on the Mirza Ismail or MI road, it is the oldest and the best Lassi shop in Jaipur. Numerous other shops with same names have sprung up in the area. But nothing beats the original!

Lassiwala - The oldest and most famous Lassi shop at MI Road in Jaipur
[ The oldest and most famous Lassi shop at MI Road in Jaipur ]

A great summer beverage - Lassi
[ Taking a scoop of sweet curd to make the great summer coolant - Lassi  ]

    There is no better way to beat that scorching heat of Rajasthan than a cool glass of refreshing Lassi. Served in traditional earthen glass or kulhad, the lassi is sweet, a bit sour at the same time with a thick creamy topping… Definitely makes you feel much better, especially when the temperatures are soaring as high as 45 degrees.

Churans and Suparis

    After some heavy eating, what one needs is a good digestive. And Jaipur has got these special shops selling a variety of them like hing goli, anardana goli, aam papads, jeera goli etc. lined up in the markets of Jaipur.

A variety of Churans and Suparis at Bapu Bazaar, Jaipur
[ A variety of Churans in a shop at Bapu Bazaar, Jaipur ]

    Besides these, the small hole-in-the-wall shops in Gheewalon ka Raasta and Haldiyon ka Raasta, entire streets dedicated to eateries, and pushcarts spread across the city carry no name as such. But what they lack in name, they amply make up for it in the food they serve and definitely deserve a mention.

A sandwich pushcart at the Bapu Bazaar entrance near the Saraogi mansion
[ A sandwich pushcart at the Bapu Bazaar entrance near the Saraogi mansion, 
a favorite with shoppers ]
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hawa Mahal - Jaipur


You just can’t be in the Pink City and not pass by this imposing and charming structure of yore.

Magnificient structure of Hawa Mahal  - Jaipur
[  The tall, imposing structure of Hawa Mahal, Jaipur ]

    This is the Hawa Mahal or the ‘Palace of the winds’. It was built in 1799 by the poet-king Sawai Pratap Singh for the royal ladies to enjoy the various processions or day to day activities from the cool confines of this splendid structure. That was the era when women were not allowed outside and used to maintain ghunghat (purdah system). Built in exquisite Rajputana architecture, this 5 storied semi-octagonal and honeycombed structure comprises of 953 niches and 152 windows.

Delicately carved niches and windows of Hawa Mahal, Jaipur
[ The windows of Hawa Mahal encrusted with domes and spires ]

    There is crazy traffic all around; still tourists stop by to relive the opulence of the bygone era. No wonder then, it has become the hallmark of Jaipur and also the most recognizable and photographed monument of this city.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

ISKCON Temple - Jaipur

He is the source of light in all luminous objects. He is beyond the darkness of matter and is unmanifested. He is knowledge, He is the object of knowledge and He is the goal of knowledge. He is situated in everyone’s heart – Bhagavad Gita 13.18

Apart from the Govind Devji Temple, there was one more temple we were keen to visit – the Sri Sri Girdhari Dauji ISKCON Temple of Jaipur. The temple is located in a reclusive location in the southern part of the city and not many people know about the place.

The temple is still under construction and is very well managed by the ISKCON devotees residing there.

[ Sri Sri Girdhari Dauji Temple, ISKCON, Jaipur under construction ]

I had the good fortune of attending the aarti which was followed by a Shrimad Bhagvadam lecture conducted by a foreign resident devotee.

[ ISKCON bhakta's singing devotional songs to the Lord during the Aarti ]

The idols of the two brothers, Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama are very beautifully decorated and depicts the loving bond shared between them.

[ The beautiful idols of the two brothers, 
Lord Krishna in dark hue and Lord Balarama is fair ]

[ A westerner devotee at the ISKCON 
giving Srimad Bhagvadam lectures after the aarti ]

Lord Krishna loved cows hence, the bhaktas here also maintain a gaushala or a cowshed to provide shelter to the abandoned cows and raise awareness about cow protection.

[ Cows taking shelter at the ISKCON Cowshed ]

The quiet atmosphere and the tranquil setting was just like any of the other ISKCON temples I have visited so far (to read about them click here).

Address
Sri Sri Girdhari Dauji Mandir,
Village Dolai, ISKCON Road,
Opp. Vijay Path, New Sanganer Road,
Mansarovar, Jaipur – 302020.

Contact No: 0141 – 278765, 2781860
E- Mail:  jaipur_iskcon@yahoo.com

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Govind Devji Temple - Jaipur


This monkey sitting on the parapet was so engrossed in feasting on his banana that he didn’t mind me clicking his snap.

A monkey at the Govind Devji Temple, Jaipur
[ A monkey at the entrance of the Govind Devji Temple, Jaipur ]

    As I entered the ‘Govind Devji Temple’ in Jaipur, the sight of these monkeys besides the usual security officers was a refreshing change. Situated in the heart of the city, The City Palace complex, this is “the temple” of Jaipur, adored and revered by one and all. Not surprising then, my trip to Jaipur always starts with a visit to this temple.

The entrance to the Govind Devji Temple, Jaipur
[ The entrance to the Govind Devji Temple ]

    Bathed in the golden rays of the blazing sun, this spireless temple looked beautiful. The number of people coming out of the temple were far more than the number trickling in, a clear indication that the deity room had just closed. The temple is known for its unusual timings, the darshan opening and closing every few minutes.

    The temple room is quite huge and airy. The finely carved floral patterns on the walls, washed in what else but pink with sunrays filtering in from small dents in the roof was accentuating the fascinating beauty of the temple.

Finely carved ceilings and walls of the Govind Devji Temple in Jaipur
[ Finely carved ceilings and walls of the Govind Devji Temple ]

The deity door was shut, as expected. A few devotees were sweeping the floor, Engaged in selfless service to the Lord… I walked towards the back of the temple facing directly opposite the sanctum sanctorum, and gazed at the view outside…

The Chandra Mahal Palace directly overlooking the sanctum sanctorum
[ The Chandra Mahal Palace directly overlooking the sanctum sanctorum ]

    Originally from Vrindavan, the idol of Lord Govind Devji (another name of Lord Krishna) was brought to Jaipur by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II to save it from the destructive hands of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Inspired by a dream, the king later installed the deity in his own royal residence, ‘Surya Mahal’ as the principle deity of Jaipur. Not only that, he later built his new palace, ‘Chandra Mahal’, right across it so that he could take the blessings of the Lord from his balcony the first thing in the morning. Till date, it stands there far away in the background exactly opposite the temple and narrates this fascinating history to thousands of devotees visiting every day…

    After many minutes of gaze, I was interrupted by the beautiful kirtan that was going on in the temple room. There were these women sitting together in a group singing devotional songs. “When will the darshan open,” I enquired one of them. “Have patience,” she replied with a smile, “the fruit of patience is sweet”.

The room had filled in by now and the place was abuzz with activity. Everyone was anxiously waiting for a glimpse of Radha Govind.

People wait for the deity room to open at the Govind Devji temple
[ People waiting for the deity room to open ]

    A few more minutes passed by… the temple room was packed to the rafters now… Chants of ‘Radhe Govind’ filled the air and finally, the priests came out, the conch blew… the doors opened… the curtains pulled… and the room echoed with a huge roar…
Jaya Jaya Shri Radheeeeeee Govindddd

The deities of Lord Govind Devji along with His beloved Radha glittered as the priest lit the aarti lamp.

The Govind Devji temple deity room is just opened
[ The temple deity room is just opened ]

    All the people present there joined together in song and became one – one group united in devotion, with smiles and tears – so many varieties of dance. The joy on the faces of the ladies as they raised their arms and danced; the bespectacled men, smiling with their missing teeth, clapping their hands and crying out, made for a blissful sight. You could feel your heart tugged along through so many emotions, joy and pain, wonder and regret, all sublime, all so nourishing, satisfying and edifying the experience. I was there somewhere in the middle of the crowd and it was such a joy to see everyone take such delight in the aarti. There was hardly any jostling and people were trying to look over the shoulders for a better view. Slowly, I made my way through the crowd to get a closer look of Him.

People at the Govind Devji Temple
People at the Govind Devji Temple
[ People taking a glimpse of Him after the darshan opens ]

The Lord looked beautiful and pleasing in His entire shringar splendor, ornate with sparkling jewels, long flower garlands touching the bunch of Tulsi leaves covering His feet…. What a divine darshan I had!

Lord Radha Govind giving darshan at the Govind Devji temple - Jaipur
[ Lord Radha Govind giving darshan ]

    Have patience, the fruit of patience is sweet. Indeed it was! Having spent a good 1.5 hrs it was finally time to leave. Those times were incredibly precious – the beauty, the love - sitting in the presence of God...
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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pink City - Jaipur

    Time ticked by, since I had left Ajmer… the craggy hills, the village shacks soon started making way for concrete structures, the earthy browns replaced by lovely pinks. The landscape had changed dramatically… Yes, I had entered the ‘Pink City of India, Capital of Rajasthan – Jaipur’.

    Entering the ‘Walled City’ through one of the many arched entryways, it feels like having entered an epic movie set or a fairyland – looking resplendent in a fascinating garb of pink.

Only the Royal family are allowed entry into the City Palace through this gate - Tripolia gate
[ Only the Royal family are allowed entry into 
the City Palace through this gate - Tripolia gate ]
Ajmeri Gate, Street of Jaipur
[ Ajmeri Gate ]

The color with its warmth and affection, which had once been used to welcome Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria, today charms millions hopping in the city.

Pink City - Jaipur
[ Pink City - Jaipur ]

    The ancient rugged fortresses, that have withstood the test of time, mesmerize every explorer with its bewitching beauty. With a treasure trove of rich architectural heritage and culture enveloped within them, they enthrall every visitor with captivating royal tales of the bygone era.

Central Museum/ Albert Hall, Jaipur
[ Central Museum/ Albert Hall, Jaipur
(taken from moving car) ]

    The broad roads and rectangular layout of streets in Japiur can be traced back to 1727 when art lover King Sawai Jai Singh II together with his trusted engineer, had laid its foundation. The streets which once accommodated the royal horses, carts and elephants are today almost completely taken over by the ever increasing number of vehicles. Still even today, there is a place for that odd camel that will stop by your side at the traffic signals.

A camel at the traffic signal on the streets of Jaipur
[ A camel at the traffic signal 
In the background - famous Golcha theatre]

    The traditionally attired people of Jaipur – women in their swirling ghagras (skirts) and men in their equally multicolored turbans – provides for another colorful link with the past. This blend of old world charm coupled with modernity, air of regal atmosphere infused with an effervescence of simplicity adds to the timeless appeal that has made this city one of the ‘Must visit places in India’.

Traditionally attired Rajasthani womenfolk
[ Traditionally attired Rajasthani womenfolk ]

    Finally, I had reached the last leg of my Rajasthan yatra – Jaipur. With only one day to spare before I caught the train back to Mumbai. But then, even one day can be just about enough if you know the things that you really want to do!!

Where to Stay in Jaipur

    Since Jaipur is one of the most sought after destinations not only in India but also on the map of a world tourist, accommodation is abundant catering to all budgets and needs. During my numerous visits to this city, I have stayed at various hotels and guest houses, two of which find a mention in this diary. Both of these are equally good, comfortable, affordable and peaceful and differ only in their budgets and locations.

Janpath Guest House

How to Reach Jaipur

    Reaching Jaipur is not at all difficult. It is easily accessible from the major cities of India and is very well-connected by all three modes of transport - rail, road and air. By road, It is 265 km from Delhi and 86 km from Pushkar. The nearest airport is at Sanganer, 15 km from the city centre.
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