If there is one thing you simply cannot leave Jaipur without seeing, it would have to be the Jaipur City Palace. Better termed a “palace complex”, this huge compound of royal edifices sprawls over a good portion of the city even now that Jaipur has grown from its original size. Construction on the site took place from the years 1729 to 1732 and was initiated by a king of Amber, the Second Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, who has also been claimed to be the most enlightened of the many Indian rulers in the 1700’s. Construction of the complex hardly ended with him, though, and was continued throughout different rulers’ reigns, even to the 1900’s. This has resulted in an intriguing synthesis of various modes of design, from the old Mughal and Rajput sensibilities for architecture to more modern ideas of building.
The original architects of the Jaipur City Palace were Vidyadar Bhattacharya and Samuel Swinton Jacob, both extremely well-known architects even now for their contributions to Jaipur’s infrastructure. The maharajah himself (and later rulers after him) had a hand in the planning too. Many historians actually note that Jaipur’s development was in tandem with that of the complex, especially as the swelling population and lands of the Kachwaha maharajas led them to move from the smaller town of Amber and to the new city of Jaipur.
The same king who commissioned the creation of the City Palace was the one who commissioned Jaipur the City’s development. Jaipur was planned according to “vaastu shaastra” tradition, and is thus divided into what may be counted as 9 distinct squares or blocks. Of those squares, two belong to the City Palace, which gives you a sense of its size.
There are many things to see in the complex. From the delicately carved gates called the Virendra Pol, Udai Pol, Atish Pol, and Tripolia Gate (which, by the way, only royalty may use) to the halls like the Diwan-I-Khas (where you may find the famed Gangajelies, the largest sterling silver containers in the world) and Diwan-I-Aam (an art gallery in the courtyard of the Mubarak Palace where one may spy the royal throne), there is certainly a great deal of artistry in which to indulge your senses. There is even a temple, the Govind Dev Ji Mandir, which in true royal Rajput style has gilded ceilings.
The arguable scene-stealers are the palaces themselves, though. Most of them have been given over to museum purposes, although the imposing Chandra Mahal is still serving as a royal residence for the descendants of the maharajas. The Mubarak Mahal is quite solidly a museum now, however, as is the Palace of the Maharanis (queens). The latter is particularly interesting due to the fascinating fresco-work that includes the use of powdered gemstones as a protective layer atop the fresco details. It also has, oddly enough considering its original purposes, one of the most intriguing displays of weaponry in the city.
The Jaipur City Palace is generally open all days of the week, at the usual hours of 10:00 to 17:00. Locals and foreigners alike have to pay a fee for entry, but it is not large; expect to pay more if you are a foreigner, though.