Wednesday, June 25, 2008

First Planned City of India - Jaipur

The capital city of Rajasthan, Jaipur, is considered as the first planned city of India. It is located in the desert land of Rajasthan. Jaipur was built in the year 1727 A.D. when Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh decided to shift the capital from Amber to Jaipur. To design the city he appointed a brilliant Brahmin scholar from Bengal named Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya. He set down the planned of the city according to the principles of Shilpashastra, an ancient Hindu treatise on architecture. The structure of the city shows the resemblance to the choice of Rajputs and the Royal family. The city was designed in a rectangular shape and divided into nine blocks that were separated by wide roads. High walls with eight magnificent gateways surrounded the city. The bazaars were built with remarkable uniformity along the main streets. The city dwellers were used to live above the bazaars, who entered their home through bylances that branched off the main roads. Rugged hills surmounted with forts provided natural defences in the North and the East, while strong defensive wall protected the city from the south and the west.

The City Palace (Shahi Mahal) and its gardens were built in the center of the city. Seven years were consumed to build Jaipur and became one of the best-planned city in India. Although the city has spread far beyond its original limits, the grid pattern of modern cities in the West.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Founder of Jaipur - Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh

Jaipur, the capital of the state Rajasthan is named after its founder Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. Jai Singh belonged to the Kachhawaha clan of Rajputs. They claimed to be Suryavanshi, descendents of the Sun God. Jai Singh was the 28th Kachhawaha ruler who ascended the throne at the young age of 13. He distinguished himself early for his cool courage and mature graph of the politics of that turbulent period. A man of vision, he proved to be an able statesman and administrator. The Kachhawahas ruled from Amber, a rockbound stronghold nestled among the Aravallis. It was abandoned when Maharaja Jai Singh built his new capital at Jaipur. Long before he died at the age of 56, Jai singh had made Jaipur one of the most important states in Rajasthan both in area and prosperity.

He was born in 1686 A.D.and ascended the throne of Amber in 1699 A.D. He founded Jaipur in the year 1727 A.D. He shifted his capital from Amber to Jaipur to solve the problem of growing population and scarcity of water. The search of safe place to eradicate the crisis resulted in the foundation of Jaipur To plan the city he appointed a brilliant architect from Bengal, Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya, who designed it in accordance to Shilpa Shastra (Vaastu). It happened around that time when Aurangazeb, the Mughal Emperor, died and the decline of Mughal Empire had set in. At this time he started giving more attention towards his state and started segregating himself from the affair of Mughal Court. Taking the advantage of this opportunity he planned his new capital in the planes. Jaipur is also considered as the first planned city of the country. It is the result of collaborate efforts of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh’s science and astrology and Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya. . Jaipur became a learning center in his time.

Besides this he was also a great warrior and astronomer. Jai Singh has shown his deep interest and devotion to astronomical work since his childhood. He obtained a thorough knowledge of its principles and rules with its constant study. He studied Hindu, Muslim and European methods impartially rather sticking to any one method. He even sent his certain assistants to Europe to get books and information. Thus he attained mastery over the subject. In addition to this he also established many large astronomical observatories at five principal cities of India. They are Jaipur, Ujjain, Benares, Delhi and Mathura. Through these schemes of scientific research he set up a notable example that has its influence till now. After contributing a lot for the progress, Maharaja Jai Singh died in 1734. After his death, nine successive rulers occupied the Jaipur throne until 1948, when Jaipur was merged with other Rajput states to form the state of Rajasthan of the Indian Union.

Jaipur is also known as pink city due to extensive use of pink plastered stones in the buildings. Jaipur is a famous tourist destination in the state because till now, in this modern also era it has maintained its rich historical past. The royal zeal of the city could be observed through its ancient monuments, temples, massive forts and magnificent palaces, that indicate the life style, culture, history and food of ancient time.Some of the forts that were built by him are Jaigarh fort, Nahargarh fort, City Palace and many other. Thus to visit Jaipur and view such a wonderful attractions is a great delight.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mehandi (Heena) – The Ancient Folk Art

Rajasthan is famous not only in India but all over the world for its colorful art and enriched culture. Mehandi, which is also known by the name Henna, is considered as one of the most ancient folk art of Rajasthan. This is believed to be very auspicious and sign of bringing good fortune in life, thus it is applied on hands and feet at the time of special and holy occasions such as marriage, festivals, engagements etc. The color of Mehandi symbolizes the color of life and prosperity.
This is a temporary art of skin decoration. It is believed that this practice of decorating body with the shade of Henna was first discovered in Egypt. The use of Mehandi as a cosmetic dates back about five thousand years, as may be seen from the henna stained hair and reddish tinted nails of the mummies in great Pyramids of Egypt. Thus it could be said that leaves of henna plant have been used since centuries for beautification purpose. In India, the Muslims introduced this art and the Rajputs particularly, started applying Mehandi extensively. Now it has taken the form of an essential part of custom and ritual in India.
Rajasthani Women are well known for their skill in applying Mehandi (henna). They acquire this art from childhood and have created a number of exclusive patterns that are specially designed for use during festivals. They have a large collection of designs according to different occasions. The application of Mehandi, however, assumes the form of a ritual during marriage when the bride’s hands and feet are adorned in intricate Mehandi designs. Not only the brides but also the grooms are adorned with beautiful designs. Professional Mehandi designers are traditionally proficient in the art and are in great demand during the wedding season. . Rajasthani folklore has several songs in praise of this beautiful art.
The art of applying Mehandi or Henna on the hands and feet of females is quite popular in India. A large variety of Mehandi are available here but Mehandi of Rajasthan has its own importance and is the most popular one as it leaves the darkest red color. The Mehandi powder is prepared by grinding the Mehandi leaves. This powder is then mixed with water and paste of it is prepared. It is then applied on hands and feet with beautiful designs. These designs are created with the help of matchsticks or cones. Beautiful red color designs are then revealed out when it is removed after getting dry.
Mehandi is not only famous as a product of ornamentation but also an ancient herb of grace and healing. It acts as a valuable medication and its effect is not less than a miracle. It protects the body from fungi and bacteria if it is applied on the skin. Not only this but it is also capable to lower down the body temperature in fever, burning feet, and violent temper. In addition to this it is also effective in headache. Thus Mehandi or Henna signifies its importance through its various use. On one hand where Mehandi is a precious jewel for bride and female to carry good luck then on the other hand it is also important from curative point of view.

Friday, June 06, 2008

First Ballroom Dancer of Jaipur – Maharaja Ram Singh II

Maharaja Ram Singh II (1835-1880) was one of the most remarkable rulers of Jaipur. He was a minor when got the responsibility of the throne. Maharaja Ram Singh II of Jaipur differed from his ancestors. He was an enlightened ruler and owned a number of talents. He was a great patron of art and learning, a great ballroom dancer, a photographer and an able administrator. In fact he use to wander in the streets of the city at night in disguise to be ware of the condition of his people. His administrative reforms and contribution to the state is remembered even today. Forty –five years of his rule are famous as the golden age of Jaipur. In that period he built many of the public buildings, set offices for better education, facilitated road lights and water supply. Some of these public buildings are the Town Hall, Ram Niwas Garden, Ram Prakash Theatre, and Albert hall Museum, Maharaja School of Arts and Crafts.

He was perhaps the ‘first great prince’ to master ballroom dancing and cut a handsome figure as the vicereine’s partner at dances. He was fond of dancing and was a great ballroom dancer.

Maharaja Ram Singh’s other hobby was photography that he persued with royal zeal. His studio was filled with the best equipment of his time. A collection of his cameras fitted with lenses and diaphragms, dark room equipment, bottles of chemicals, manuals, framed enlargements etc. are carefully preserved in the photography room and are on view in the city museum. He bought his first camera in 1864 and became the first Rajasthani “Photographer Prince”. Even Prince of Wales remarked that ‘many of the Princes of India took to Photography but the Maharaja is a master in the art’. Louis Rousselet who himself was a photographer says that he is not only an admirer of this art but is himself a skilled photographer. In the same sequence Maharaja opened the School of Arts in 1866. Among these photographs, a self- portrait of the Maharaja is the most memorable one.
Maharaja Ram Singh built a unique hall of paintings called the Ram Niwas in the specially laid out gardens, for educating his subjects on arts. The wall had copies of Greek, Roman, Persian, and Chinese Paintings. Even today the Ram Niwas is a tourist attraction of Jaipur. He was a great connoisseur of music and was adept at playing the veena. He founded Ram Prakash theatre, which was rated the most modern theatre of its time. It delighted audiences with a series of backdrops, which transformed the stage from a palace into garden where fairies and aeroplanes could fly in from the sky and god and demons appears from under the stage to heighten the drama.
It is also said that the pink city has the pink colored buildings due to his choice only. In 1876 when the Prince of Wales planned to visit the city, Maharaja wanted the city to look clean. Thus to welcome the guest various shades were experimented in different streets and finally the terracotta pink was selected for the main shopping area. This color stayed and the city got its name as The Pink City. The visitor could find different shades of pink ranging from ice cream pink to terracotta red.