Tickled pink in Jaipur.
Horns beep, tuk tuk drivers call out to us from the road, weaving artfully out of the way of cars and bicycles and the occasional lumbering elephant. We smile at it all, even at the touts who are trying to show us their wares. Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is known as the Pink City, and as we wander though the charismatic streets of the Old City, we’re submerged in a visual symphony of vibrant colour.
Founded in 1727, the area now known as Jaipur is rich in red and pink sandstone. For almost 300 years now, buildings in the city have been constructed out of this kind of rock, infusing even the lightest of walls with a pinkish hue. As if this wasn’t enough, in 1876, in preparation for a visit from the Prince of Wales, the ruling Maharaja of the time had the entire city painted the Indian colour of hospitality – pink. It’s a tradition that continues to be held up to this day – both the colour and the hospitality.
Within the Old City’s walls lies the Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds. One of several architectural feats to be found in Jaipur, the palace was designed to resemble the crown of Krishna, and built for the women of the royal family. Here they sat in little bay windows, peering through the geometric latticework, watching the city’s festivities, their faces hidden from the people below.
The mountains just outside the city are pink in pallor. Tracing their undulating shapes are the fortress walls of Amer Palace. Loping down slopes and cresting peaks, it’s impossible to tell where one wall starts and another ends or what they’re even leading to. Surrounding the entire palace, we can’t help but marvel at this defence system, no doubt designed to confuse an invading enemy. Its pink hue offers a certain softness to what is otherwise a sinister spectacle.
Inside Amer Palace we walk through courtyards, past vibrant frescoes and under ceilings covered in intricate mosaics. Ducking inside we pick up the pace, moving swiftly though narrow halls, up dark winding staircases and down steeper ones. All sense of direction is lost in this 16th-century palatial labyrinth, and then we burst out of the darkness into a small circular room. Sunlight streams through the latticework of large Mughal arches, we press our faces up against it, gazing out at the world, aglow in a wonderful soft warm pink.