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Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan. It is known as the 'pink city' because of the ochre-pink hue of most of the older buildings, as well as its crenelled city walls. Pink is a color that the Rajputs associate with hospitality and it is said that most of the city buildings were daubed with pink-colored plaster when Britain's Prince Alfred visited it in 1853, but a more likely explanation of the buildings's color is that the original material just contains ochre that causes it to turn pinkish. Anyhow, the people in Jaipur are friendly and welcoming.

Maharaja Jai Singh II (1699-1744) was a warrior-astronomer who ruled the area from his hillside fortress in the nearby town of Amber. In 1727, when Moghul power of the area started to decline he decided to move his base to a new site on the plains. The new base was laid out according to principles of town planning set down in the ancient Hindu treatise on architecture known as the Shilpa-Shastra. The result was the careful planned area of six rectangular blocks, surrounded by walls, which is nowadays part of Jaipur's old town. The city also got its name from Maharaja Jai Singh.

Jaipur sits on a dry lakebed and is surrounded by barren hills. The city has grown far beyond the original fortified confines, but most of its monuments and temples are situated within the original walled 'pink city' in the northeast. All the seven original gates remain.

One of the gates leads straight into the Johari Bazaar, where all sorts of jewelry is sold. The Iswari Minar Swarga Sul (the Minaret Piercing Heaven) was built to overlook the city and provide and early warning system in case of an attack. Nearby is the 1799-built Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. Originally it was constructed to provide ladies of the royal family with views of the street life. It has a beautiful façade and it is part of the City Palace that stands in the center of the old town.

The City Palace consists of numerous buildings, courtyards and gardens. It was enlarged and amended over the centuries and nowadays it is an interesting mix of Rajasthani and Moghul architecture. The centerpiece of the palace is the seven-storey Chandra Mahal. There is a nice museum in the palace, as well as numerous interesting halls and rooms that can be visited.

Jai Singh's Jantar Mantar is an observatory, where you can see a 30 meter-high gnomon, whose shadow shows the time of day on a huge sundial. Other interesting sights in Jaipur include the Nahargarh (or Tiger Fort) that overlooks the city from the north, the Central Museum and the Museum of Indology where you can see such bizarre things as a map of India painted on a single rice grain, as well as a manuscript written by Moghul emperor Aurangzeb.

There are numerous hotels and hostels in Jaipur. Most of the cheaper hotels are situated on the southeastern side of the pink city. Along Mirza Ismail Road, which leads to the Ajmeri Gate are many restaurants. Jaipur is also home to huge Raj Mandir cinema; if you are planning to watch one of Bollywood's productions while you are in India, you should watch it in this cinema in Jaipur. The city has air, rail and bus connections with numerous other cities in India. Jaipur is 240 km southwest of Delhi.


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