Monday, November 19, 2012

India # 34 Jaipur II--The Pink City at Diwali

 This is a long post, not in words but in images.  I finally got the capacity to upload photos at something faster than three and hour and have, below, mostly Wayne Miller's images.  They give you a good feel for one day of celebration and the buying spirit in what was, for me, the finest city in India.

The hills north of Jaipur have been the sight of fortifications since the 11th century and home to a palace, two massive forts and a long, unbroken, crenelated wall since the early 16th century.   Amber Palace is no less impressive than many in Europe and housed one man and his dozen wives, with gardens, courtyards, places to receive the elite, all cooled by an ingenious drip/spray air conditioning system and made possible by thousands of servants.  Only recently was a tunnel discovered between the palace and the fort—abandoned for 400 years but still intact. 

15th Century Amber Palace: haven't we seen this some place in Spain or Italy?

Next to the palace is a much larger fort which I missed in favor of a lovely museum in a l6th century house honoring the history of block block textile printing, its revival beginning in the l970’s and its recent acceptance in the world of fashion. 
The museum is housed in an early 16th century residence that has been restored.
 But our story here is of Jaipur.  The rulers of the region had been able to remain independent during the long rule of the Mughals in Northern India.  A ruler in the l700’s, Jai Singh II, felt safe enough and fully ambitious to build his residence in the valley 10 miles away, below one of the forts.  He studied cities in Europe and built the first planned city in northern India, in l727.  It is divided into a grid of nine sections composed of seven blocks each, with wide avenues and trees. It is also said to be in the form of a mandala.  To receive the Prince of Wales in 1876 the entire city was painted what is called rose pink but is darker and richer than that name implies.  It remains so today, with miles of buildings along the main roads painted at city expense.

Our tour, mentioned below, began at a small market.  Across the way was a shop selling turbans.  I eventually bought seven and shipped them back to Idaho.  These pictures are mostly by Wayne Miller who has 34 years of filming India.

Of great interest to me is that Jai Singh built the city empty.  He then scoured India and as far away as Persia in search of colonies of artisans and craftsmen and offered sections of the city to the most talented of them.  These traditions continue into the present time, often in the same families and same places.  The owner of the hotel where I’m staying and his wife, Vicky and Wayne Miller of Idaho ,who live here six months out of the year here and in Goa, myself and a guide, toured these enclaves.  So, for example, we sat in the living room of the 9th, l0th and 11th generation of the makers of a type of jewelry known in France as cloisenay, who moved here 280 years ago. 

Sitting in the artist's living room.  Here is the 10th generation and her name is Tulip. 
Other colonies still make jewelry, fabric, incense and many foods; trade in gems; and make “bangles”--bracelets--which women collect in large numbers.  I thought they were something cheap from China but it turns out creating them is an intricate, labor-intensive process in which they are hand-made out of lacquer which comes from trees and inlaid with cut glass.

This man can make just 25 to 30 bangles a day.

Spices are another specialty, in great abundance, and a variety of sweets beyond numbering.  The woman in front is Vicky Miller of Idaho Falls who with her husband Wayne live half her year in Jaipur and Goa.


We were doing this on the last day of the Festival of Lights, Diswali, a wonderful madhouse time.  I’ve got video which conveys the color and pandemonium but Wayne Miller has been photographic India for 34 years and his stills are the real deal.

 Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil but on this day illness nipped three of us.  The next morning I cancel a trip to the western desert with a bit of a cold.  Not to worry.  A doctor arrives in the hotel in 20 minutes, delivers medicine from his bag and has me back on the road to full heath. 

Diwali is like New Years in the U. S. except the fireworks go on from six at night until 1 in the morning.  It’s like that hotel in Baghdad under attack on CNN:  concussions from every rooftop and byway, the sky lit up, except that unlike Baghdad the streets all over this city are packed. 

Jai Singh filled his city with 25,000 artisans but today, Jaiipur is a city of 3.5 million, most of whom seem to be downtown.  The old city  is home to 5,000 Hindu temples, the subject of special energy tonight.   This one is for the monkey god, Hanaman.

(This image goes with the section on fabics below:)
We also visit one of the residences which housed the head of the artistic clan.  These images of are ceilings and walls that have not been alter since being built early in the l8th century.  The colors are from ground rock and vegetables.  This building is lightly occupied and is for sale with one option being to tear it down in favor of a modern building.

The courtyard of the residence.  Today it has temporary residents and its future is uncertain.
Finally, I cannot resist a chance to show three example of the fabrics of Jaipur.  They are even brighter than those I've seen in the south, including many places specializing in making shirts and suits for men at prices now well below Hong Kong(the first image above is from a shirt making shop) .  Groups of women crowded every saree store.
Fabric is flying everywhere on a day when buy something is said to be auspicious.


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