This attractive German work features, as its main attraction, a pleasing map of Jaipur, Rajasthan, which was built according to an Indian Enlightenment plan during the 18th Century. The colorful work labels all of the city’s major architectural wonders, amenities and tourist attractions. On the verso are two maps of other great sites in Rajasthan. The map on the left depicts Udaipur, the capital of the historical Kingdom of Mewar, the beautiful ‘City of Lakes’. The map on the right features Chittorgargh, a site of spectacular Medieval Indian architecture.
Jaipur: India’s Enlightenment City
The present map of Jaipur provides an excellent perspective upon the original plan of the old city, founded in 1727, featured in orange (upper right). Jaipur’s urban planning was predicated upon a radically enlightened Indian conception of urban design, albeit one largely based on the interpretation of Ancient Sanskrit texts.
Jaipur State, previously named Amber State, had existed since the 12th Century. Traditionally, a very wealthy and culturally advanced kingdom, it reached it apogee during the first half of the 18th Century. The heir to the ruling Rajput Kachwaha dynasty, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II (1688 – 1743) assumed the throne in 1699 at the age of eleven. He had to contend with the gradual disintegration of the Mughal Empire (of which Amber was a client state) and the rise of the Marathas who threated Rajputana (modern Rajasthan) from the south. He proved to be a wily diplomat and an excellent organizer, who managed to augment his territory and increase his political independence, even in such a challenging political climate.
Jai Singh possessed a fierce intellectual curiosity and a sophisticated cultural awareness. He spearheaded the revival of many Hindu customs in his kingdom and fostered an appreciation for ancient texts. In 1719, while visiting the Mughal Court of Mohammed Shah in Delhi, he overhead a heated argument concerning the determination of the most auspicious or correct timing for events and religious festivals based on astronomical observations. Regretting that he, let alone anyone else in his circle, did not possess these capabilities, Jai Singh set about building five astronomical observatories in the region, located at Delhi, Mathura, Benares (Varanasi), Ujjain and at his new capital, Jaipur. All
of these facilities featured sophisticated equipment for observing the stars, planets and eclipses. While primarily concerned with traditional Indian astronomy, Jai Singh warmly welcomed European visitors, notably Jesuit missionaries, from whom he gained a thorough appreciation of Western science.
In the early 1720s, Jai Singh decided to move the capital of his kingdom from Amber to a newly planned city named, Jaipur, in his honour, which also meant ‘City of Victory’
Jai Singh appointed the brilliant Bengali Brahmin scholar Vidyadhar Bhattacharaya (1693 -1751) as the chief designer of the new city. While many Indian cities had started out with a plan of some kind, they ended up taking on a life of their own as they grew and developed. By contrast, Jaipur would be built with great discipline on a comprehensive rational model that would establish a template for its future development.
In formulating their designs for Jaipur, Jai Singh and Bhattacharaya relied heavily on the ancient Sanskrit texts on design, architecture and spatial planning, the Shilpa Shastras and the Vastu Shastras, as well as their own interpretations of the best placement and quantity of features predicated on traditional Indian astronomy. The city plan was to be as orderly as a temple, but taken to a macro scale. Additionally, they also displayed an appreciation of both European Classical literature and recent urban planning models in designing Jaipur’s large thoroughfares and plazas, arranged on a geometric plan. As Jai Singh maintained extensive contacts with European intellectuals, such as the Jesuits, he would have had ample opportunity to acquire maps and texts.
Construction of Jaipur is thought to have commenced in 1725, although Jai Singh chose the astronomically auspicious date of November 18, 1727 to officially lay the foundation stone for the city. Over the next several years, thousands of workers laboured feverishly under close supervision as the city took form. Jaipur replaced Amber as Jai Singh’s capital in 1733.
As evident on the present map, the city was built on a rational precisely measured grid, composed of nine chokris (here labelled as ‘Chaukris’), or sectors, which were named: ‘Ganga Pol’, ‘Purani’, ‘Sarhad’, ‘Ramchandar’, Topkhana Desh’, ‘Modikhana’, ‘Biseshar Ji’, ‘Ghat’ and Topkhana Hauri’. The chokris were separated by broad straight thoroughfares that interested at seven great ‘chauks’ (chowks), or squares.
While seven of the nine chokris were made up of densely built blocks, Jaipur’s north- central sector, the ‘Sarhad Chaukri’, featured palaces amongst the Jai Niwas Garden, while to the north it opened up to the lake of Tal Katora. The city was enveloped by walls featuring ten gates.
Appropriately, within the splendid urban plan of Jaipur, fabulous edifices were erected, influenced by diverse Indian architectural styles, including Rajput and Mughal motifs, as well as designs from the Shilpa Shastras. The map’s exceedingly detailed list of ‘References’ notes dozens of landmarks within the city proper, categorized by chokris. Some of the highlights labelled within the ‘Sarhad Chaukri’ include the ‘c. Chadra Mahal’ (City Palace) complex, built for Jai Singh between 1729 and 1732, and much expanded in subsequent years; and the Jantar Mantar, Jai Singh’s observatory, identified as ‘v. Jantar or Observatory’, completed in 1738.
Guarding the city from the hills above is the Nahargarh Fort, completed in 1734. Jai Singh spent vast resources shoring up the defences of his new capital and employed a standing army of 17,000 troops. His priorities seemed justified: especially after Delhi was sacked in 1739 by forces under the Persian emperor Nadir Shah.
Other great buildings completed in the ‘Sarhad Chaukri’ during the generations after Jai Singh’s death include the ‘a. Badal Mahal’ (Cloud Palace), built in 1750, and the famous ‘Hawa Mahal’ (Palace of the Winds), finished in 1799.
Beyond Jaipur proper, the landscape is dominated by the dramatic topography, expressed in finely lithographed orange contours, notably the Aravalli Hills. ‘Amber’ (Amer), the kingdom’s old capital can be seen amidst the hills a short distance north of Jaipur, with the town dominated by the ancient Amber Palace. On the height above rests the impressive Jaigarh Fort, built in 1726 for Jai Singh.
In between Jaipur and Amber is one of the most famous buildings in all of India, the ‘Jal Mahal’ (Water Palace), which lies on a manmade island within the lake of Man Sagar, built for Jai Singh in 1734, but renovated over subsequent generations.
While the enlightened urban plan of Jaipur City and many of its greatest architectural wonders were devised both by and for Jai Sing and his immediate successors, Jaipur State was noted as being amongst the best-governed jurisdictions in India during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Following a period of Maratha hegemony, Jaipur State solidly came under British protection in 1818. Jaipur enjoyed political autonomy and stability, as well as excellent cultural and economic relations with the rest of India. In many respects, Jaipur served as a positive model of how an Indian region could be excellently governed by Indian leadership without undue foreign colonial interference.
Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II (reigned 1835-80) founded many institutions that ensured the Jaipur remained one of India’s most culturally and materially sophisticated cites, all of which are labelled on the map. He established the Ram Prakash Theater (1879), the School of Art (1868), a public library, the Maharaja’s College (1844), the Noble’s School (1862), Sanskrit School (1865) and the Girls School (1867). In 1865, he appointed the English military engineer and architect Samuel Swinton Jacob (1841 – 1917) to become the chief engineer of Jaipur State. With his assistance, Ram Singh placed a priority on establishing modern infrastructure and facilities, including the Jaipur Water Works (1875), the Gas Works (1878) and the Mayo Hospital, named after Lord Mayo, the Governor-General of India, who was a personal friend of the maharaja. He also sponsored the creation of the Ram Niwas Gardens, located immediately to the south of Old Jaipur’s walls, and commissioned Swinton to build the Albert Hall Museum, an Indo-Saracenic wonder that was not completed until 1887.
It was also due to Ram Singh that Jaipur has since been known as “The Pink City”. While some edifices were already made of pink sandstone, to honour the visit of the Prince of Wales (later the King-Emperor Edward VII) to Jaipur in 1876, Ram Singh had many more buildings painted pink, which also served to reduce the sun’s reflective glare.
Notably, just before the present survey was conducted, the city hosted the Jaipur Exhibition of 1883, the largest fair of the decorative and industrial arts ever held to date in India. The extravaganza was sponsored by Maharaja Sawai Madao Singh II (reigned 1880 – 1922) and was inspired by the Great Exhibition of London (1851). It drew spectators from all across India and put Jaipur on the map as one of the subcontinent’s best tourist destinations – a role it retains to this day.