Excerpts from 800-word article


by Pam Hobbs

..... Elephants like Mina are commonplace in Jaipur, 261 kilometres southwest of Delhi. So are oxen, camels, sacred cows, horses and monkeys ambling about streets already crowded with humanity day and night....

Jaipur is what the visitor expects of India. Its roads are chaotic with rickshaws, and oxen pulling everything from lawn cutters to carts piled high with "garden cakes" made from cow dung and used as fuel. Mischievous monkeys stare down from walls and rooftops. Street people curl up on the pavement. Merchants sit cross-legged on the ground, alongside spices and veggies, toys and T-shirts, antique jewellery and handicrafts for sale.

In the shade of trees, barbers have set up shop and tailors work at old treadle machines. Shoemakers deftly cut and sew sandals while we wait. The "lug-ole" man offers to clean out my ears, so I can better hear the din of horns and hooters. Beggars, mostly women with babies in their arms, see me coming. This is 18th century Jaipur, the Pink City established by that most flamboyant of maharajahs, Jai Singh 11. A rough and tumble community with all the excitement of a frontier town, it is also the picturesque capital of Rajasthan.

Amber is referred to as the Palace of a Million Mirrors. Now in its pitch-black Hall of Mirrors, the curator lights two candles, then waves them about for wondrous effect on thousands of mirrors no bigger than a thumb-nail, set into the walls and arched ceilings.

The importance of old Jaipur in its heyday is obvious from the city's many palaces, some restored as museums, some converted to hotels, some decaying while waiting for rebirth. An incongruous sight is the five-story Hawa Mahal Palace, little more than a facade resembling a fancy pink cake sandwiched between bazaars and craftsmen's cubbyholes on the main street. Actually its site was chosen with care, for here behind more than 950 filigreed windows, women of the court could watch their men go off to battle and march in victory parades when they returned.

IF YOU GO: Most of Europe's national airlines will get you there via their capital cities. Getting around: Indian Airlines has frequent flights to Jaipur from cities throughout India. This airline's Discover India Pass allows 21 days of travel anywhere in India, gives unlimited air travel for 7 days within north, south, east or west India. Unlimited travel Rail Passes are also available. Accommodation is offered in all categories. The ever-popular hotels converted from palaces are in the region of US$120 per day for a double room.