Bazaars, Cuisine and Craft of Old Jaipur
From its creation in 1727 the royal families and nobles of Jaipur patronised the craftsmen and artisans of the city. These traditions continue to this day and as a result modern day Jaipur is considered by many as the craft capital of India. Traditional methods are still used to produce many valuable and highly prized items. Using skills passed down through generations, artisans and master craftsmen can be seen in the areas of Ghat Darwaza and Vishveshwar ji.
On this fascinating walk mingle and talk with the locals whilst sampling some of the region’s culinary delights; try pakoras, aloo tiki, samosa and ladoo from some of the city’s most popular street food vendors. Observe local artisans in their workshops including jewellers and silversmiths, gold painters and tie dying experts as well as meenakari and kundan artists. Midway through the walk visit a local resident in his private haveli, which is beautifully decorated with gold painting, rich tapestries, carpets and rare artefacts, before finishing at Tripolia gate to enjoy the colourful and vibrant bazaar. The walk takes between 2 and 2 ½ hours.
Temples and Havelis of the Old City
An exciting walking tour of Jaipur, this is a unique way to explore the living traditions of the city. Experience the religious life of local communities by visiting colourful temples, interact with residents over a cup of tea in their homes and discover some of the architectural wonders of this fascinating city.
This walk has been carefully designed to offer a rewarding and enriching experience. Uncovering some of the best-kept secrets of the walled city of Jaipur the tour organisers take pride in sharing a warm association with the resident artisans, shop owners, temple priests and local citizens. This association makes the walking tour more engaging; it provides a genuinely interactive experience, allowing you to meet local residents and as a result gain an insight into traditional ways of life.
One of the historic chowkries in the 18th century planned city of Jaipur, Chowkri Modikhana gets its name from its association with the Modis (trader communities). With its havelis, temples, public buildings, museums and craft areas it is a unique representation of the living heritage of the city.
This walk provides an interactive, innovative encounter with the trading communities of the old city. With some story telling from the resident guides, it reveals the lifestyle, craft activities and historic buildings of this interesting area of Jaipur.
Birla Temple: a Short Evening Visit
The spectacular Birla Mandir, a modern temple surrounded by large lush green gardens, was built in 1988 by the Birlas (industrialists who have built several temples in India). Constructed in pure white marble, it dominates the skyline of the southern part of Jaipur, and looks especially stunning when brightly lit at night.
The Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu (Narayan), the preserver and his consort Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and good fortune and is thus also known as Laxmi Narayan Temple. The temple exterior has carved sculptures of various mythological themes and images of great historical achievers, philosophers and religious saints such as Socrates, Zarathustra, Christ, Buddha, and Confucius. The interior has a large marble panel portraying mythological events. The Temple also contains a museum, which showcases the ancestral valuables of the Birla family.
Take a fascinating 2-hour walk through the ancient town of Amber. Amber was originally occupied by the Meena, a caste who claim their descent from the Matsya Avatar or the fish incarnation of Vishnu. Older than the famous Amber Fort and Palace complex, the now sleepy town is rarely visited by foreigners. This walk, along narrow, cobbled streets and laneways, takes you back to the past as it explores historic temples, ruined havelis and a remarkable step well.
Highlights include visits to the 16th century Jagat Shiromani Temple, famous for its architectural beauty, with elaborate carvings and beautiful frescos featuring characters from Hindu mythology; the 16th century Ambikeshwar Mahadev temple, one of Amber’s oldest temples (legend also has it that Amber got its name from this temple); Parik Haveli, one of the largest of the town’s havelis which is still occupied despite now lying largely in ruins; and the 17th century Panna Miah Kund, a beautifully restored step well. End the walk with a visit to the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing; dedicated to the collection and preservation of the ancient art of block printed cloth, it houses an excellent collection of both traditional and contemporary textiles. There is a workshop here where visitors can watch demonstrations of block printing and even have a go themselves.
This walk can be combined with a trekking extension of approximately 1 ½ hours. Enjoy the lovely scenery and fresh air, with some gentle trekking in the surrounding Aravalli hills. Visit a ruined fort and hidden shines and meet the local Meena community to learn about their daily lives.
Jaigarh and Nahargarh Forts
Most visitors to Jaipur explore its famous Amber Fort. This half day tour takes you to Jaipur’s “other two” forts – Jaigarh and Nahargarh.
Of Jaipur’s three forts, Jaigarh (meaning ‘Victory Fort’) is perhaps the most imposing. Built by Sawai Jai Singh III in 1726, it stands amidst rock-strewn, thorn-scrub covered hills, on the premonitory called the Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles). A massive construction – it stretches 3 kms along the north-south direction and is 1 km in width. Its forbidding stone ramparts are visible from Jaipur. A steep road goes up to the main gate, the Dungar Darwaza, which affords wonderful views of the Aravalli hills and the Amber Fort below.
In Mughal times, the Jaipur region was a major weapon-producing centre for the Mughal and Rajput rulers, several of the weapons being on display in the fort’s museum. It is one of the few military structures of medieval India preserved almost intact, containing palaces, a granary, a well-planned cannon foundry, several temples and a tall tower. One of its main attractions is a giant mounted cannon, the Jaivan; constructed in Jaighar’s foundry in 1720, its barrel weighs close to 55 tons. The display includes a collection of canons, many of which are exquisitely decorated and were used in the Mughal campaigns led by the Rajput King, Raja Man Singh.
Another feature of the fort is the wide water channels. These are part of a very efficient system for rainwater harvesting, bringing in water from across the hills and into Jaigarh’s three underground water tanks. The largest of the tanks stored 6,000,000 gallons of water enough to feed 10,000 troops for two years. The fort is now privately owned and the museums offer a brief but grand look in to the mighty military power of the Rajput dynasties.
Nahargarh Fort, also known as the Tiger Fort, was built by Jai Singh in 1734 in order to bolster the defence of Amber. It overlooks the city from a sheer ridge to the north and is spectacularly floodlit at night. An 8 km road runs up through the hills from Jaipur, and the fort can be reached along a zigzagging 2 km path. You may like to top off this climb with a chilled beer on the ramparts of the Fort as you enjoy views of the city of Jaipur below – it presents an especially lovely view at night with its glittering lights – great for photographs.
The fort contains a lavish palace, Madhavendra Bhawan, a maze of terraces and courtyards, which has a unique cluster of 12 identical suites for queens and at the head a suite for the king himself. The rooms are linked by corridors and retain some delicate frescoes. The palace was used by members of the royal family for summer excursions and is now a favoured picnic spot.
Jeep Safari to Samode
Set out on a jeep safari for charming and romantic Samode Bagh; built 250 years ago, it is modelled on the geometric style of a Mughal garden and provides an idyllic and unusual retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. The 1 ½ hour drive takes you through the remote and scenic countryside north west of Jaipur – past open fields, rocky hillocks with imposing forts and village hamlets. Stops along the way – at an old Hindu temple, a local primary school and a home in a small village – allow you to view and experience life in the Rajasthani desert. The main entrance to Samode Bagh, now a grand heritage hotel filled with antiques, art and artefacts, is approached through the local village. Enjoy lunch here in a luxurious open sided dining tent set amidst expansive gardens replete with pavilions, fountains, waterways, lawns and flowerbeds. After a leisurely lunch return to Jaipur by the main road.
Located in the Amber Hills near Jaipur, Nahargarh National Park covers an area of 50 sq kms and was established in 1980. Covered by dry deciduous forests, the sanctuary has different varieties of flora such as dhok, churel, salar, khair, palash and date palm. The fauna includes panther, leopard, hyena, jungle cat, wild boar, fox, jackal, blue bull, crocodile and many migratory and land birds.
The Elephant Trek trail was created to promote eco-tourism. It provides a unique opportunity for visitors to appreciate and enjoy nature in a very non-intrusive and exciting manner. (Birds and wild animals are rarely disturbed by elephants, which are wild animals, even in captivity). The route is about 2 kilometres in length passing by hutments, agricultural fields, hills and ancient monuments. The thick forests contain a thriving birdlife population. Though panthers do inhabit the jungles, it is very rare to see them; however, occasionally the hyena and the wolf are sighted, and antelopes and jackals are sighted in abundance. A climb to the hills on elephant back is further enriched by the superb views of the surrounding jungle and hills. There is a mid-way halting station at Sura-ki-Baori – an ancient step well – and view points near a waterhole where animals and birds can be seen in large numbers. The sunset elephant treks are magical.
Birds of Aravali
The Nahargarh National Park, with its diverse eco-system, has an amazing array of avi-fauna; the total number of birds, resident and migratory, in the Park is 122. The resident birds include the rare White naped tit, Peacock, Black-partridge, Short eared owl, Grey hornbill, Tree-pie and various falcons. Other birds commonly sighted here include the Red-headed merlin, Black-winged kite, Barn owl, Crimson-breasted barbet, Green bee-eater, Grey shrike, Fantail flycatcher, Long-tailed nightjar, Great-horned owl, Spotted owlet, Golden-backed wood pecker, Pied King fisher, Golden Oriole, Common crow pheasant, Large cormorant, Shikra, Crested serpent eagle, Indian Pitta, Grey-hornbill, Indian-roller, Asian Paradise flycatcher and White eye. In winter the area is visited by a number of migratory water birds such as the Large cormorant, Grey leg-goose, Coot, Pin-tail, Teal, Golden back wood pecker and Indian pitta.
A local tribal guide will take you through the jungle hill tracks and – by jeep safari – into the Nahargarh National Park. Meals/beverages will be provided at a picnic location in this serene environment.
Naila Bagh Gourmet Tour
Naila Bagh Palace, now a heritage property, was built in 1872; it is one of the oldest Bagh (garden palaces) in Jaipur and still maintains its original architectural features. The home of a Royal Rajput family, it has played host to many dignitaries and famous people.
On arrival at Naila Bagh, you will be welcomed with ‘aarti’ and ‘tikka’, garlanded with flowers and offered a welcome drink. You will then be escorted to the main mahal, where you will be shown around and given a short introduction and a little of the palace’s history. Following this proceed to the courtyard/poolside for a cooking demonstration of traditional royal Rajasthani cuisine, during which you can enjoy conversation with other guests and the Naila family, whilst sampling snacks and wines. (You will be given recipes to take home). Afterwards dinner will be served. Eat what the family would normally eat for dinner and in the way they would eat it.
This ‘Insight Activity’ provides you with an authentic heritage experience, which brings out the essence and character of old world Jaipur.
Sanganeer, located 16 kms from Jaipur on the Tonk Road, is an important centre for crafts and hand-printed textiles; it is also known for its exquisite Jain temples.
The town’s handmade paper industry was started during the rule of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1728. Today it is famous for its high quality hand-made paper and mostly screen-printed fabric in traditional small floral designs. Some of these traditional designs were produced under the patronage of the royal family. Brightly coloured fabrics drying out in the sun near the river makes for a lovely sight. Explore the Kagazi Mohalla, home to the expert artisans known as ‘Kagazis’ and observe as they create lovely patterns on fabrics with block-prints. Their prints are unique, in that the patterns in bright colours are always printed on white backgrounds.
Tucked away in the old walled town of Sanganeer is the 11th century Shri Digamber Jain temple, which contains fine carvings, similar those of the magnificent Dilwara temples of Mount Abu. The beautiful nij-mandir (inner temple) is a stone shrine with three pinnacles. At the centre lies the idol of Parshwanath with seven serpent hoods surrounded by carvings of lotuses and creepers, and elephants pouring water from pitchers held in their trunks.
Pay a visit to the small village of Bagru. Located 30 kilometres from Jaipur, it is known for its traditional natural dyes and hand block printing. Wander through the Chippa Mohalla (printers’ quarter) where you can observe artisans engaged in keeping alive the three-centuries-old tradition of block printing. Cloth is smeared with earth obtained from the riverside and then dipped in turmeric water to get the distinctive cream colour background. It is then stamped with beautiful designs – usually ethnic floral patterns – engraved on wooden blocks, using natural vegetable dyes (the colour blue is made from indigo, green from indigo mixed with pomegranate, red from madder root and yellow from turmeric). These Bagru prints, which form an essential part of the block printing industry of Rajasthan, are renowned for their eco-friendly processing and exceptional quality.
Dawn Balloon Ride
A balloon ride at sunrise is a spectacular way to see Jaipur and the surrounding rural area, including the picturesque Aravalli hills. Can be followed up with a champagne breakfast at one of Jaipur’s magnificent heritage hotels or private picnic breakfast
Dinner at the Rambagh Palace
With its high ceilings, gilded mirrors and Florentine frescos, Suvarna Mahal at Rambagh Palace offers one of the most opulent dining experiences in India. The menu is as rich as the setting, sampling royal cuisines from across India.
Dinner at Amber Fort
Stunningly located at one of the highest levels of Amber Fort, 1135AD is a new concept restaurant that recreates the splendour of the maharaja’s court. This royal aura is created in many ways. Firstly, in the massive citadel’s looming ramparts, hidden alcoves and beautiful murals and frescoes. In its antique silver furniture, crystal chandeliers and silk rugs. In its silver crockery and coordinated cutlery. Of course, in its cuisine – largely traditional Rajasthan regal food served on silver thalis. And, lastly, in the impeccable service provided by waiters dressed in embroidered sherwani jackets and huge saffron coloured turbans with long, flowing tails.
Adding to the ambience – diners are greeted by a group of musicians playing classical Rajasthani folk and Sufi music in the entrance courtyard.
For those seeking a romantic experience, the restaurant has exclusive ‘table for two’ flower and candle-filled courtyards with spectacular views, their own musicians and a private chef.