We did not visit many capitals in India, preferring to stick to quieter, more relaxed places, but we did visit Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. I had heard a lot about Jaipur and its unique architecture and colours and was curious to explore this bustling (and chaotic) Indian city. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Jaipur, Ismail and I were afflicted with the famous Delhi belly and were not feeling very well, so our stay mainly consisted of bed rest. Still, we managed to see a few places and get a glimpse of Jaipur!
Balaji Temple (Sun Temple)
This is a lesser known place in Jaipur, as most people go directly to the Galta Ji Temple (Monkey Temple), and we appreciated the quiet and serene atmosphere, a break from the noise and chaos of the city. To reach the temple, you have to take a short, shadeless hike down a paved road, where you're sure to encounter some monkeys! We also took this path to get to the Galta Ji temple afterwards. Entrance to the temple is free, although a small donation is expected. A woman also painted my hand with henna!
Galta Ji Temple (Monkey Temple)
Galtaji is an ancient Hindu pilgrimage site in the town of Khania-Balaji, about 10 km from Jaipur, so I recommend taking a tuk-tuk if you're not staying nearby as we did. The site consists of a series of temples built in a narrow crevice surrounded by hills. At the top of the hill, a natural spring flows downward, filling a series of sacred kunds (water tanks) where pilgrims bathe. It's believed that a saint named Galav lived, meditated and performed penance here. The present temple was built in the 18th century by Diwan Rao Kriparam, a courtier of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II.
The main temple is the Galtaji Temple, which was built of pink stone. The temple consists of a series of pavilions with round roofs, carved pillars and painted walls. The place was quiet and peaceful, with slight echoes of laughter from people enjoying themselves in the water.
The temple is not called Monkey Temple for nothing, and you will not be disappointed because they are everywhere! They live their little lives quietly and do not bother you unless you are hanging out with food in your hand, then you asked for it!
If you can't be asked to walk back up, there is the possibility to go by motorcycle, (for a fee) but as for the descent, the path is short and easy. Unlike the Sun Temple, there is an entrance fee for the temple of 100INR per person plus 150INR for a camera.
Jantar Mantar Astrological Site
The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is an astronomical observation site built in the early 18th century. It consists of a series of about twenty fixed instruments. They are built in masonry and are monumental examples of well-known instruments, but they often have special features. It is the most important, complete and best preserved set of ancient observatories in India and is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The complex was built in 1728 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, a lover of science and art, to explore astral themes and determine the ideal dates for various events, such as weddings.
The construction of this observatory dates back to an apparently quite heated discussion between the Mughal Emperor Mohammad Shad and Sawai Jai Singh II. The emperor had to leave for a long expedition, but there was no way to determine the ideal time to leave. The auspicious day depended on the position of certain planets that affected life on Earth. So, the obvious solution was for Jai Singh II to order the construction of an astronomical observatory. The first one was built in Delhi, followed by those in Jaipur, Mathura, Varanasi and Ujjain. The Jantar Mantar observatory is the most famous today and is even considered the largest stone observatory in the world!
As if that was not enough, the observatory also houses the Brihat Samrat Yantra, also known as the King of Sundials. It lives up to its name, as it is the largest sundial in the world (this seems to be a recurring theme). To be honest, while it was interesting and quite amusing to see a place that looks like a kid's playground (yes, the kid in me wanted to climb all over it, but I restrained myself), it also was not INCREDIBLE. For the price and the history, it's worth it and gives you an interesting glimpse of Jaipur. Plus, if you are interested in astronomy, this is the place to go. It's also a great place for photos, I had a lot of fun playing with the light and geometric shapes.
We did not opt for a guide and I think we should have, because there is very little information about the place and instruments and I think we missed a lot! The entrance fee is INR 200 (~2,5€).