Sunday, March 18, 2018

Incredible India, part 7: On to Jaipur--The Pink City

Tuesday morning  we left our hotel near the Ranthambore park at 8:30 for our four-hour drive to Jaipur, a distance of only 100 miles (166 km) but much of the time on slow roads.  We took pictures along the way including a celebration in a town to honor a special god 
A lot of bright orange colors in the festivities
 And people we saw along the way:

Women squatting in fields near the road

A man pumping water

A flower planter, just before a toll booth, made from painted recycled barrels, with watering pipes on top

A common sight:  highway expansion sending our bus onto side roads

and circles of cow poop on a roof, some drying to be used for cooking later.
Fields along the way.  We often saw these tall plants dried and tied up

A home along the way, and maybe a business too?

And a new large building along an empty stretch of highway

Getting close to Jaipur
On the way, Bhanu told us a lot about India..  He said that Indians only began to drink tea in 1929.  Before that they drank water with lime in a copper jar and told us of the benefits of drinking from a copper jar.  He gave us a recipe for making masala for tea, which included a mix of pepper, cardamom, cloves, and ginger, I believe.

We saw some pigs in the street.  He told us that they were not for eating but to keep the streets clean.  95% of Indians do not eat pig because they think the taste of pork is too strong.

A lot of young college graduates in Jaipur get their first jobs working in a call center.  Now they can earn $1000 a month.  If they live at home, that is an excellent salary.  The salary in the US for the same job would be at least $30,000.  However, now some of the call center jobs are being shifted to the Philippines as the wages there are lower than India.  

People in Rajasthan have good medical care with all generic medicines, medical tests and dialysis free since 2009.  Also people with psychological illnesses get free treatment. People enjoy keeping their vehicles clean and often decorate them too.  We saw tuktuks and cabs lined up to be washed in different places.

The area of Jaipur has been populated for at least 5,000 years.  The Indus Valley civilization is the oldest continuing civilization on earth.  The Indus River is in Pakistan but flows down in part through this area.  There were lots of small monarchies in around 2500 BCE until Alexander came to the bank of the Indus River where he camped for six months.  While he was camped, Ashukar united many of the small monarchies including through political marriages.  Ashukar was one of the greatest rulers of the world.  He promoted peace.  The Ashukar emblem of three lions is on the Indian Rupee.  

Jaipur ruled Afghanistan for over 200 years.  It is one of the few countries that ever did rule Afphanistan! 

Islam made itself known early in India and by the 11th century, it was a strong force in the area, causing massive changes in culture.  The Mongolian Islamic wave followed, from Central Asia from 1526 to the 1850s.  Literacy was strong in India and only decreased under British rule.

Jaipur (pronounced Jay-pur) is the capital and largest city in the state of Rajesthan. Three and a half million people live in Jaipur, including Bhanu's family.  Many are from a cultural business background.  Manufacturing, gem stones, textiles (especially block print) and rug making are specialties of the area.   Jaipur is the cultural capital of India and also considered the wedding capital.  It was India's first planned city, created in 1727. Jaharaja Sawal Jai Singh II ruled this area from 1699 to 1743 and built Jaipur (named for him) as his new capital.    He was fascinated by astronomy.    Every home was laid out so that it would get proper sunlight.  

We arrived  around 1 p.m.  at our hotel the Holiday Inn in Jaipur and braved crossing the street to go to the modern upscale mall, which had international stores including Benneton and Nike. Two kids ran after us, trying to get money and a young boy hit me with a stick several times when I didn't look at him.  (Our guide had told us that  ignoring them was the best thing for us to do.)

 The elevator seemed like it was not working until we got close and the stairs started to move.  They were activated by people approaching--what a great way to save energy!

 Three of us shared a delicious Indian lunch of vegetable Biriyani and a thali with three small dishes, naan and yogurt in the food court costing us about $3 each. Even though we asked for it to be mild, it has a kick.  Others went to a different tiny mall next to the hotel to the MacDonalds.  Of course they do not serve beef at MacDonalds in north India!  We were told the food wasn't great.  

After lunch, our group  headed out to the famous Raj Mandir theater, one of the few remaining elegant cinemas in the country as people now prefer more modern movie complexes.  

The owner/founder of the theater

 Educational ads before the movie!
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 To get a taste of Bollywood movies, we saw about a half hour of one that jumped from one suspense scene to another and included a love story, a US journalist killed, terrorist attack on a hospital and the kidnapping of Indian and Pakistani nurses, and re-recruiting a former super-agent to rescue them.

From there we went to the Bapu Bazaar  (Bapu is a name given by locals for Gandhi), a large market with small stalls.  We shopped some and felt overwhelmed.
I think Nava bought some scarves here....or pants?

Bikes pulling carts filled with packages, oh my!
When we returned to hotel, wedding festivities were beginning  with an elephant for show and power and a white horse for the groom to ride in on. Vegetable dye/powder was used to color the elephant's face.  

Men wearing special celebratory head coverings
 Nava and I  again walked across the street for dinner and got a delicious mushroom and pea dish as well as a garbanzo and spinach dish, the latter a local dish. And they did make it mild!!!

After dinner, we returned to the hotel and saw a small procession of women holding a large scarf over the bride as they walked down the lobby area.

The next day Wednesday, marked a week since our arrival in India, and we have seen and experienced so much in this short period of time.
We departed from our hotel and drove through old Jaipur where many of the buildings are painted pink or a soft rust color.  In 1876, the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on tour.  Pink was considered the color of hospitality, so the maharajah of Jaipur had the city painted pink to welcome the royalty. Much of the city is built with pink stone and the old sector is still kept pink.

 Along the way we passed a building whose facade is called the Palace of Winds, with delicate latticework and honeycomb windows.

We also saw from afar a palace in a lake called the Jahl Mahel.

Below is a photo of most of the Red fort from afar and a picture of a camel by our side on the road.

We soon got to the Amer Red fort   It was finished in about 1560, built of sandstone and marble. We traveled up the road to the top of the hill on elephants. The hawkers around us were overwhelming. One even spoke to Nava in Hebrew. First we were surrounded by them as we waiting in line for our elephants.  Then others chased us to get our pictures taken and then buy them at the end. Sadly, some of the photos were not great.

Our elephant was called Bobbie and she was 38 years old. Her mahoot was Raj and he has been working with her for four years.  We gave him the tip suggested by Bhanu.  Raj was disappointed and pushed for more.


 The elephants only make three such trips a day. The paint on their faces is also made of natural vegetable powders so is not dangerous to them. The mahouts decorate the faces of elephants for special events like weddings.

Looking at the elephants from above

The fort with palace inside was formidable—Nava got lost at one point as did someone else

With stunning art work on the walls and ceilings!

Look at the elephant heads at the top of the columns!

And the wonderful bathing area with a great view from the windows:

We  especially were entranced by the palace of mirrors, added in the 18th century.  The mirrors came from Belgium.    Oil lamps reflected in the mirrors and provided more light when needed. 

The rulers and inhabitants of the palace were generals in the Mughal army so were often away for four to six years at a time. Security for the women and young children was in the hands of eunuchs.  If the fort was attacked, they had stored rain water than could last for years.   The general who built the palace had 12 wives, and an area for each one.

Pictures from the inner section with residences for the 12 wives:

We saw a bride and groom getting wedding pictures taken there and they kindly allowed us to take a photo.

Oops!  I almost forgot to show you the large goat lazing at the entry!

We were kept busy all day long!

Our next stop was at Jaipur Handicrafts.  The owners have 4,000 people who work for them, many in their homes.  The store sells textiles, rugs, and handicrafts.  

First we saw a demonstration of block printing, which is one of the specialties of Jaipur..  The worker had amazing hand eye coordination and very steady hands so as to be able to put several layers of the same vegetable dye print but of different colors on top of the original design.  Usually the process takes three to four days to complete . They dyes used are all from vegetables.  

After being dipped in vinegar--the colors changed!!!!
As I was leaving, the young man who made the print offered it to us for whatever we would I gave him a dollar and will eventually frame it at home.

Then we watched a rug weaver at work.   Tying knots as he wove was a huge, labor-intensive part of the work.  Depending on the type of rug, there can be anything from a minimum of 250 to 900 knots per square inch!!  Nine hundred families in a nearby village work with looms like this one.  They start learning at age 18.  It takes them three to four years to learn the process of knotting and weaving.  

After the rug is woven, a woman then separates the knots and trims them.  The women work for ten minutes and then rest as it is very hard on their hands to trim.  It is done once before washing the rug and twice afterwards.  A blow torch is then used on the bottom to rough up the bottom so that it does not slip on the floor.  The rug is washed with baby shampoo.  Each rug is unique.  Amazingly, dust stays on top of the rug and can be wiped off.  It does not sink into the rug.  

Then we went to the show room, had a drink  and some snacks,  and saw some of the rugs of varying sizes for  sale.  They were stunning. 
We saw a 9x12 foot dark red camel hair rug with 400 knots per square inch.  It took 1.5 years to make.

A 9x12 foot rug that is 80% pure silk and 20% cotton would take 2.5 years to make and has 600 knots per square inch.  

Rugs that are made of silk on silk take four years to make by three women, with 900 knots per square inch.  Women's hands are smaller and more delicate and, therefore, are used to make these very fine rugs.

A Kashmir wood rug sells for $36 per square inch so a 4x6 foot rug would sell for $734.
Camel hair rugs sell for $40 per square inch.  Silk with cotton sells for $110 per square inch.
Silk on silk sells fore $250 per square inch.  
(Is it per square inch or square foot???)

  I've been looking for a small rug for a while and bought a Bukharan traditional design one (the bottom one in the picture above) that was  4 x 2.5  feet.  I liked the blue one too but am very glad that I got the maroon one.  It arrived a week ago and I LOVE it!  It brightens up my small rental living room and my small dog Ziva loves to sunbathe on it.

The place also sold material and Nava and I bought two outfits.  We picked out beautiful silk material (blended with a bit of cotton I believe) and by that night, the outfit would be read.  I was a bit out of it and did not have it made long enough....but the material is gorgeous and they made the pants thinner (at our request) than the current full style.  

The rest of the day was a blur for me.  I noticed that I had gotten a phone call from my cousin's daughter, which was very unusual...and I think an email asking her to contact her.  In short, I found out that she had died suddenly.  I was shocked and incredibly saddened--I got wonderful support from Nava, our guide, and the people I was traveling with.  I took time to sit by myself while the others went to the beautifully preserved 18th century Jantar Mantar Observatory with "ingenious instruments" 

and the opulent City Palace, a former residence and now a textile museum.  (I'm have no memory of the Palace but I did take pictures!)  I think Nava and I mainly walked inside.  If any of my fellow travelers have pictures from inside, I'd love to see them.  

Picture of the royal family:

Nava and I had signed up for an optional dinner and cultural show for that night at a local Jaipur restaurant.  Most of our group came.   Unfortunately, the dinner and show was quite similar to the one  that was included in our tour a few days before.  The entrance was lovely however.

 The men in our group were given special head coverings by Bhanu and the women got twisted scarves.


Nava wearing her new pants and I my new top and leggings

The next morning we headed out again--this time to Jodhpur, the older part of the city known as the blue city.