Jaipur is a large city in Rajasthan with a population about the same as Melbourne.
On the way from Jodhpur to Jaipur we stopped at Pushkar, famous for its annual camel fair, which sees thousands of camels, goats and horses traded, which happens in November each year. Whilst we missed this, the place still has a lot of camels around, mostly used for basic transport and tourist rides. We stopped here for lunch after visiting the Brahma temple, apparently the only temple to Brahma so it is important for many Hindus. I would not recommend this temple for non-Hindus as it has become a tourist rip off. The temple itself is unremarkable in architecture and there are touts everywhere. We were ‘allocated’ a guide which we had to pay for, then he ushered us to the Ghats to talk to a priest who coerced us into giving money to ‘improve our Karma’. The amount we gave was not enough and he pushed us to give more. The whole thing felt like a cynical money grab. I think I’d prefer to earn my Karma by being honest and kind, rather than giving money.
I took this picture of the lady making what I think was dahl Baati over hot coals, where we had lunch. She was sitting on a concrete platform, under an umbrella, in 38-degree heat with hot coals next to her. When I asked to take her photo, she was only too pleased. I have noticed that people really like having their photo taken here in India, and on many occasions I have been asked to pose with people and their families – who can imagine why anyone would want to be seen with an old white woman wearing a dorky hat?
Our next day included sightseeing at the Amer (or Amber) fort, built in 1592 by Maharaja Man Singh I. It is interesting because it combines Hindu and Muslim architecture and decoration. One impressive room is the hall of mirrors where it is said that dancing girls were brought in to amuse the queens, and the colours all reflected in the mirrors as they danced. The king had 12 wives, who each had separate quarters and secret passageways from the kings bedroom, so he could visit any one wife without the others knowing. Though I’m sure there would have been much gossip in the morning!
In the evening we were booked into a leopard safari at the Jhalana reserve, and so we headed off in our jeep. As we were driving along behind another jeep, we noticed a stray dog following the jeep. It turns out that dogs are a favourite food for leopards, so we were very concerned that this little dog was being encouraged to tag along to attract a leopard; a very uncomfortable thought. This practice seems to be regarded as normal, and we were shown video of another dog being attacked by a leopard on another day.
I was almost glad that the leopard decided to stay hidden as I did not want to be witness to or part of this cruel game. As night was beginning to fall, we saw another leopard far away on a hill watching some deer, so we managed to get a couple of shots, but from so far away and at dusk, the quality is not great. In any event we saw two leopards, so that was nice, and our canine companion survived another day.
One particular highlight in Jaipur was a visit to the Jantar Mantar, which is an amazing collection of astronomical and astrological instruments built by Rajput Sawai Jai Singh II in 1734. It features a giant sundial which can measure the time down to 2 second intervals, it was impressive. The whole place was fascinating and the Wise One was in his element. There are also devices used to plot the signs of the zodiac and positions of the constellations; others predict eclipses and solstices and equinoxes, calendars and azimuth of the sun predicting sunrise and sunset times. It was truly awesome. If you want to know more, check out www.jantarmantar.org