Given the title “Sawai,” a man and a quarter, his descendants still honor their family's historical prowess by flying two flags--one full- and one quarter-sized.
The Jaipur royal family still live here and, according to their museum's audio guide, take an active interest in promoting their city and its tourism.
On our first full day here we took a look at the public portion of the regal City Palace, a giant compound constructed in red sandstone and cream marble in the middle of the pink-painted Old City.
Entering the gates of the palace was like walking into one of the books about British India I'd read as a teenager. Turbaned guards stand at attention (beside a metal detector, nowadays), and the 20-foot-tall wood and steel gates open wide enough to allow an elephant through (or at least a minibus full of tourists).
The rooms inside the Jaipur palace aren't ancient. The city was built in the 1700s, but some of the courtyard buildings were finished in the last century. Whatever century they were built in, they still impress today. Delicately painted archways, gold and silver inlay on the ceilings and plush Persian carpets are awesome in any time period.
After the main palace, we walked around to one of the most famous landmarks in Jaipur, the Hawa Mahal. Built on a smaller scale than the City Palace, the 'Palace of the Winds' was dedicated to Krishna.
Almost a whimsical construction of sandstone arches fluffed up like foamed milk, the palace's front rooms were a favorite of the women at the turn of the 19th century. In a time when women, especially the royal family, were expected to keep purdah behind a veil or screen at all times, the Hawa Mahal has several stories of latticed windows where the women could watch the street below without being seen.
After spying down on the markets and traffic, we decided to check it out in person and wandered for awhile.
It's a beautiful city and deservedly famous, but it's fame has brought about a harder line of competition in the tourist industry.
The sales people and rickshaw drivers here are the pushiest we've encountered yet in India. The first driver we chose to drive us back to our hotel stopped twice to try to bully us into visiting tourist shops. This would have been exasperating enough if the shops weren't the same ones whose touts we'd had such a hard time getting past on our walk. So, we abandoned that driver, which didn't make him very happy (he came after us and pulled Dan's hair, which precipitated a few choice Aussie words from Dan) but really, how many times can we say, "No shopping?"
Our hotel's manager, who seems like a conscientious and kind-hearted man, has warned us three times already in our short stay that we shouldn't trust any shops or rickshaw drivers and that unless we wanted to be cheated we'd be better off doing our shopping in another city. In his words, "Don't go shopping and you'll have a happy trip." No problem for us since we're really only interested in buying postcards at the moment, but what a pity for tourists who only have a short time in India.
**Click here to see our photos from Jaipur!**