Sunday, March 29, 2009

India: Jaipur - The Pink City

One of the world's first planned cities, Jaipur was laid out beginning in 1727 by the ahead-of-his-time ruler Jai Singh II on a geometric grid. In 1853, when the Prince of Wales visited the city, all the buildings within the old city walls were painted pink as a welcoming gesture, and this tradition has continued ever since. It's not cotton-candy pink like our hotel, but a mellow rose-red which is very attractive.

Today, most of the heavy traffic is confined to broad streets entering through gates in the old wall. Crowding the traffic towards the centre of these roads are produce merchants with their wares spread out along the verges.

The remaining streets are narrow and house a number of bazaars, each specialising in particular merchandise. Although off limits to cars, they are awash with a medley of motorbikes, tuktuks, camel carts and an occasional white horse in jewelled trappings with a proud rider sitting very straight in the saddle.

Shops line the sides of the streets, bright with saris, blankets, shawls, bedspreads and rows of glittering bangles. Salesmen greet us as we pass: "Pashmina, madam?" "Only look!" "Come inside, just looking only!" We were amused to see several shops displaying their wares on vintage, very blonde mannequins

We step around small children cavorting on the high but narrow walkways outside these shops, over squashed fruit or dribbles of unidentifiable liquid, tin pots, cardboard boxes, old men in dhotis with shoeshine equipment, piles of men's shirts in cellophane wrapping, banks of multi-coloured fabrics.

While most of the activity happens at street level, the upper storeys reveal glimpses of more leisurely, often more domestic pursuits.

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