Occupying the centre of Jaipur, the City Palace covers one seventh of the city area and the plan of the palace is exactly similar to the plan of the city. The palace has a high wall or the sarahad that surrounds it on all sides. It is a bit confusing to find the main entrance to the palace and can only be arrived at after going through various bazaars (Sireh Deori), past the Town Hall (Vidhan Sabha), passing through the arches of Sireh Deori (boundary gate) also known as the Udai Pol, Naqqar Darwaza (drum gate), the Vijai Pol, Jai Pol, Ganpati Pol and via the Jaleb Chowk. The Town Hall (late 19th century) once housed the State Council. It faces west over Sireh Deorhi bazaar and has a large terrace and verandah. Jaleb Chowk was previously the residence of the Palace Guards. The residential wing of the rajas that were modified in the 19th century by Sawai Ram Singh II surround the chowk on all sides. After crossing the Jaleb Chowk and proceeding through a narrow archway you will reach the Gainda ki Deorhi (rhinoceros gate) and the city palace complex.
Layout of the Palace
The City Palace is far in design from its other counterparts. In other Rajput fort palaces, the palaces are attached in one single structure while in the City Palace it is not so. It is separate from the main fort structure. This error in design made Tillotson comment that the Rajput style of architecture was already on a downslide.
The main entrance to the palace, the Atish Pol (stable gate) will take you into a large courtyard in the middle of which sits the white marble Mubarak Mahal (Palace of Welcome). The Mahal can be approached from either through Sarhad ki Deorhi or Gainda kiDeorhi. This two storeyed building was built in 1890 by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob as a resthouse for Maharaja Madho Singh II (1880-1922). It was later used as the Mahakma Khas (Royal Secretariat) and is now the Tosha Khana (royal wardrobe) of the museum.
The Museum Attractions
The first floor houses fine muslins, Benares silks, local handprinted cottons and embroidered coats from north India. The celebrity here is the atamsukh (long quilted robe) of Madho Singh I (1750-68). The coat was made from gold-encrusted raspberry pink silk and covered the huge frame (6.6 feet and 225 kilos) of Madho Singh I. Also on display here is the gold encrusted lehanga-choli worn by one of the Jaipur queens at her wedding.
The Textile and Costume Museum
The Textile and Costume Museum in the Mubarak Mahal has some of the finest Indian fabrics and costumes as well as musical instruments and toys from the royal playroom. The Arms and Armour Museum(Sileh Khana) in the Anand Mahal houses a fine collection of Indian antique weaponry - pistols, blunderbusses, flintlocks, swords, rifles and daggers. The weapon collection also includes the massive sword of Maharaja Man Singh I that weighs atleast 11 pounds, a turban shaped helmet belonging to Mirza Raja Jai Singh I and the unique dagger that has two miniature pistols built into its handle. This room was once the common room of the harem, and has a beautiful view of the Chandra Mahal from its first floor windows.
Rajendra Pol - The Gateway
Right outside this museum proudly stands the Rajendra Pol flanked by two elephants, each of them carved from a single block of marble. This gate leads into the inner courtyard where carved alcoves and their exquisite arches and jalis (pierced ornamental screen to a window opening) and a pair of designer brass doors await the visitors. The Sarhad ki Deorhi, popularly known as Singh Pol, follows the typical Hindu gatehouse architecture lavishly decorated with carved marble. It has ornate brackets, carved balconies, and brass studded doors. On either side of it also stand two massive white marble elephants. In 1931 they were brought here from the zenana (women's quarters) to mark the birth of Maharaja Bhawani Singh who was the first direct male heir to the Jaipur throne in two generations.
Purely To Cleanse A Maharaja
The Rajendra Pol or Deorhi Moalla, takes you to the Sarbato Bhadra Chowk and into the central building, the Diwan-i-Khas or Sarbato Bhadra (c1730). The Diwan-i-Khas, originally called Diwan-i-Am, graduated to its present status when the new Diwan-i-Am was constructed towards the end of the 18th century by Sawai Pratap Singh (1778-1803). The courtyard reflects the influence of the Islamic style followed by Mughal trained craftsmen who added in a few Hindu designs to satisfy their Hindu masters. The Diwan-i-Khas is a large marble pillared hall set in a deep pink courtyard. There are several arches that support its decorated pavilion roof. It is now known by its Sanskrit name Sarbato Bhadra and contains two huge silver urns once used by Sawai Madho Singh to carry water to England. Sawai Madho Singh was an extremely devout Hindu and staunchly followed the Hindu rituals. Any physical contact with a non-Hindu was defiling for him, and matters took an ungainly turn when he set out on a trip to England. There was a problem here, because where on earth would he find holy water to wash off his 'contaminated' palms after he'd shook hands with a foreigner and dined with them? This included the Viceroy, whom Sawai Madho Singh met wearing white gloves. The Maharaja took this cleansing bit mighty seriously, going to the extent of having his clothes burnt after each tryst with foreigners.
Attraction of The Silver Urns
The only place where the sacred water with 'purifying' qualities was available was back in good old India. When he went to England to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, he had a P&O liner, the S.S Olympia, redesigned to include a Krishna temple, and carried sufficient Ganga water with him. He was a Maharaja after all, and style would naturally be in his blood. The holy water was transported all the way England in two 309kg silver urns, enough to last him his visit overseas. These urns better known as Ganga Jali measure 5 feet in height and are listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest single silver objects in the world.
Diwan-i-Aam - The Hall of Public Audience
Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh (1778-1803) built the Diwan-i-Am (Diwan Khana) or the Hall of Public Audience, at the end of the 18th century. The ceiling was painted in the 1870s and is highly decorated with floral motifs in gilt, green, and red. This hall was designed for durbars and banquets and has jali screens behind which ladies in purdah could watch the ceremonies. It has a picture gallery with an exquisite collection of Persian and Indian miniatures, royal carpets and also an extensive collection of manuscripts. The Diwan-i-Am also houses one of India's largest chandeliers. To the north of this hall is the Carriage Museum inside a building. The last gate in here Amba Pol, connects this museum with the Diwan-i-Khas.
The Peacock Gate
The Ganesh Pol stands upright in the middle of the west wall of the courtyard of the Diwan-i-Am and leads into the Pritam Niwas Chowk through the Peacock Gate. The Peacock Gate, most famous of the four gates depicting seasons that lead into the Pritam Niwas Chowk, symbolizes the monsoon. Turbaned figures and painted stucco peacocks guard the entrance as well as surround the marble idol of a deity around which reliefs of lotus petals merge into the chevron motif mostly used for cloth screens.
Other Palace Structures
Towards north of Pritam Niwas Chowk lies the original palace building Chandra Mahal (Moon Palace), the Zenana (Queen's Palace) on its northwest and the AnandMahal on its south. The Zenana Deorhi adjoins the Mardana Palace (Palce of Men) and is a huge building. To the west of the Chandra Mahal just beyond a small courtyard is Madho Niwas built by Madho Singh I which was later extended by his successor. The mansion opens on the north into the Jai Niwas gardens. There is another gateway here in red sandstone known as Gajendra Pol.
The four storeyed Ridhi Sidhi Pol leads to the most beautiful courtyard in the complex - Pritam Niwas Chowk. This gate has a marble idol of Lord Ganesh attended by his companions Ridhi and Sidhi, placed in a stucco arch. Four other doorways (each named after a Hindu season) lead into the chowk. They are all adorned with stucco relief figures and painted motifs, more akin to tilework. Each door is crowned with a marble deity above it.
The Splendid Creation
The Chandra Mahal is the earliest building of the palace complex and dominates the Pritam Niwas Chowk. Originally Chandra Mahal was a single storeyed palace and the later kings added more floors. The building now has seven storeys and each floor is a luxurious, opulent palace by itself. The second and third floors comprise of a single two-tiered room called the Sukh Niwas. The Sukh Niwas or the House of Pleasure had been restored to suit the Victorian style. The Rang Mandir and the Sobha Niwas occupy the fourth and fifth floor and lie above the Sukh Niwas (Abode of Bliss). The Shri Niwas popularly called the Sheesh Mahal (Palace ofMirrors) is a huge seemingly bejewelled room whose walls and ceilings are coated with coloured glass inlay, floral designs in gilt and also has elaborate stucco patterns on its pillars and ceiling. Chhavi Niwas presents a calm and serene picture in turquoise, indigo and white. The topmost floor is a smaller open pavilion called Mukut Mahal, or the crown palace. It has a beautiful curvilinear Bengal styled roof from where visitors can have a breathtaking view of the city. The design of the Mukut Mahal has taken inspiration from Amber's Jas Mandir.
Pritam Niwas Pritam Niwas (house of the beloved) on the ground floor has a wide verandah painted in Italian wall paintings and faces the Jai Niwas garden which is accessed through the Naya Naka gateway. Built by Jai Singh II, the garden is a beautiful criss-crossed quadrant with shallow channels and ponds, surrounded by high walls on its east and west. Across the garden is a large indoor swimming pool which was originally the billiard room. It has been restyled with Italian marble pillars and high arches as a banquet hall. The garden also has a memorial built for a zealous dog that carried love notes from Raja Jagat Singh to the 1150 pretty ladies of his harem.
Pritam Niwas is an enclosed courtyard, recently restored and painted. Its four doorways are thickly decorated with elaborate polychrome inlay which has given it the name of Peacock Courtyard. It is as beautiful as the Hawa Mahal and was built by the same ruler, Pratap Singh. Each of its doorways represents a season and depict scenes from Lord Krishna's life. The interior of the Pritam Niwas is painted in Wedgwood blue and hung with portraits of the recent rulers. The main section of the ground floor is an audience hall. The Chandra Mahal starts from here, the inner sanctum and is usually closed to the public. The Krishna door, with its surface embossed with scenes of Lord Krishna's life, leads into the ladies chambers from the northeast corner of the Pritam Niwas chowk.
Govind Deo Temple
The Govind Deo Temple, the most popular spireless temple of Jaipur built in the early 18th century is towards the north of the Chandra Mahal. There is an interesting story behind the temple coming into being. It was previously a palace called Surya Mahal and was the residence of Jai Singh. One night he dreamt that the deity wanted to come to the palace. He apparently believed in dreams, so he moved out to the Chandra Mahal and the palace was converted into a temple. The verandah has a portrait gallery of past Kachhwaha kings. This temple has been restored by an age-old technique using curd, coconut water, molasses, fenugreek, rope fibres and lime. Jai Singh brought back an image of Govinda (Lord Krishna) from Vrindavan and installed it in the temple palace in 1735 as the guardian deity of Jaipur rulers. After the installation of the patron deity the maharaja started his public speeches with 'subjects of Govinda Deva', in order to imply that they were humble servants of the all-mighty lord. The interior is simply breathtaking with European furniture, Bohemian glass chandeliers coupled with Indian decorations. The steps around will take you to a mandala (circular diagram of the cosmos), made of rifles taken from the royal crest of Jaipur. Gold work decorates the entire ceiling of the hall.
Royal Jai Niwas Garden
Apart from the temple there are the Mughal styled fountains in the Jai Niwas garden (1727) laid out in four tiers, the Tal Katora tank and the Badal Mahal (c1750). Built by Jai Singh I, the tank is a small lake that was once surrounded by dense forests and lies just below the Badal Mahal. The view from here will take you across to the Maharaja's Krishna Temple and beyond the compound walls to the Nahargarh (Tiger Fort) and to the hills further on.
Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum
In 1959 the Diwan-i-Am was converted into the Sawai Man Singh II Museum. It has eight exotic mid-17th century carpets, four at each end, brought from Agra, Lahore and Heart. The museum has three main sections: the Arms Gallery, the Textile Gallery in Mubarak Mahal and the Art Gallery in the Diwan Khana.
The Arms Gallery
The gallery contains some antique Indian weapons and the cabinets containing them are distinctly marked by their owner's name. One of the displays is the katar, a two-sided blade with a grip handle that has an outer covering. It was hitched to the waistband worn by the men over their tunics. Other green and white daggers with jade hilts and animal motifs are also displayed. These were often set with precious stones and gold. These ornamental daggers with their handles were worn on formal occasions with ceremonial costumes. Apart from the weapons, horn shaped gunpowder containers are also beautifully carved and were originally made from animal horns which were decorated with mother of pearl. The gunpowder containers were later made out of shell, ivory and wood. The room itself has lovely painted ceilings and walls decorated with showcases of all kinds of weapons, swords, shields, spears, daggers, knives and other ornate but deadly instruments. There is also a display of the pictures taken by the photographer king, Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II, in the late 19th century.
The Textile Gallery
Several rooms form the textile gallery. The first room contains brocade garments of the Jaipur royal family, and the star amongst these is the atamsukh, the clothes worn by Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I (1750-68). There are also the wedding robes of Pratap Singh, Ram Singh's riding outfit and an impressive Diwali dress in black and gold. Most of the displays are from Varanasi, which was and still is the most famous region for the production of silk brocade. In two other rooms cotton hand printed fabrics from Sanganer are displayed. Sanganer is still the famous centre for delicate wood block-printed cloth. Besides textiles, a few cabinets contain samples of hookah bases, glassware, bowls, rose water sprinklers, and cups.
The Art Gallery
The Art Gallery is housed in the painted Diwan Khana. The roof of the hall is beautifully decorated and its walls are covered with an exquisite collection of old Mughal and Indo-Persian carpets. The gallery also has some carved palanquins and elephant howdahs, paper and palm leaf books, scrolls with religious texts and various other books on astronomy, falconry and other subjects. The manuscripts include Sawai Jai Singh II's treatises on astronomy and Abul Fazl's translation of the Mahabharata called Razmnamah. The main hall of the gallery features some lovely paintings belonging to the Mughal School including the unique Lovers at Night (Mughal, c.1725), Princess on the Terrace (Mughal School, early 18th century), and Jahangir and his Courtiers (Mughal, 1750). The others are Madonna With Child (Deccani School, 1627) the portrait of Sawai Madho Singh I on a boat (Jaipur, 1750-67), Princess and Musicians and Lady on a Swing (Amber, 1675-1700). Some exceptional paintings housed in the gallery are the one with figures of women that combine to form the body of an elephant - Nari Kunjam (Jaipur, 1770-1800), the Ragini series (Jaipur, 1770-1802), the Baramasa series that reflect the changing colours of the seasons and the Lady with a Crane (Hyderabad, 1728-40).