A flamboyant showcase of Rajasthani architecture, JAIPUR has long been established on tourist itineraries as the third corner of India's "Golden Triangle". At its heart, the original city, popularly known as the Pink City, stands enclosed by walls and imposing gateways. Designed for defence, they still physically demarcate it from the sprawling modern suburbs around, while the vibrant bazaars within are renowned for hand-dyed and embroidered textiles and jewellery.
The Pink City's regular grid-plan, with wide, dead-straight streets, laid out at right angles and broadening to spacious plazas at major intersections, was created in accordance with the Vastu Shastras, ancient Hindu architectural treatises, whereby the entire layout can be read as a kind of mandala, or sacred diagram. Its uniform pink colour was intended to camouflage the poor-quality materials from which its buildings were originally constructed.
With a population of around 2.5 million, Jaipur is the state's most advanced commercial and business centre, and its most prosperous city – some estimates rank it among the world's 25 fastest growing cities, with an annual population growth of over 3.5 percent. More than anywhere else in Rajasthan, Jaipur evinces the jarring paradox of India's development: while glistening new shopping malls are being erected for a newly emboldened middle class, poverty from the city's poorer districts is spilling over into the streets and the entire city is choked with traffic, frequently approaching gridlock during the morning and evening rush hours.Add that to dense crowds and pushy traders, and Jaipur can be a taxing place to explore; many visitors only stay long enough to catch a train to more laid-back destinations.
If you're anywhere near Jaipur in March, don't miss the Elephant Festival, one of India's most flamboyant parades, celebrated with full Rajput pomp.