A stretch of the Delhi-Jaipur highway will soon let people charge their electricity-powered vehicles. But that's not the only reason why an NCR dweller might want to just hit the road and set out for Jaipur, one vertex of the hallowed Golden Triangle. The city is the home of inarguably the most famous literature festival in the country. It is the first real gateway to the myriad wonders of the mystifying vastness of Rajasthan.
Pink City also offers an unmatched-as-yet mix of experiences, blending heritage and modernity like few other cities. For the discerning city bird, its clutch of museums both new-age and oozing traditional splendour, is as tempting an invitation as they get. Here are five museums you should visit in the Rajasthan capital:
Albert Hall Museum
This impressive museum, now called the Central Government Museum, is located in Ram Niwas Bagh, a public garden built in 1868 by Sawai Ram Singh II and modelled on the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The building is designed by Sir Swinton Jacob in the Indo-Saracenic style.
The vast collection of exhibits at the facility includes metal ware, jewellery, pottery, textiles, and other antiquities. Do look out for the Egyptian mummy and a rare collection of coins from the Gupta, Kushan, Delhi Sultanate, Mughal and British eras.
Entry fee Rs 40 for Indian visitors; Rs 300 for foreigners Timings 9am to 5pm; night hours from 7pm to 10pm (fees Rs 100) Phone +91 141 5190428/5190429
Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, Jaipur City PalaceBuilt by Maharaja Jai Singh II, seven years after the founding of Jaipur, the seven-storied Satkhana Mahal, or Chandra Mahal, is a veritable palace of illusions that abounds in floral and mirror decorations and ornate tiling.
Life-size portraits of Jaipur’s royals, along with Mughal and Persian miniatures adorn the ground and first floors. Sukh Niwas on the second floor leaves you spellbound with its delicate Persian-style floral patterns and Mughal miniatures, and expansive view of the palace gardens from the terrace.
The third, fourth and sixth storeys—Rang Mandir, Shobha Niwas and Sri Niwas—area-glitter with mirrorwork and decorations in gold and Mukut Niwas, the top floor is, quite literally the citadel’s crown, serving up sweeping views of the walled city.
Located in the Mubarak Mahal are brocades from Surat, Aurangabad and Varanasi, handloom shawls and a 17th-century carpet from Kashmir, along with specimens of matchless sartorial excellence. Look out also for proof of Jaipur’s historical hand-block-printing prowess in the pieces from Sanganer.
An astonishing exhibit is the tent-like, 225 kg royal robe, or atamsukh, of Sawai Madho Singh I who was 7 feet tall and had a girth of 4 feet. Of interest too are the Guinness book Gangajalis that are housed in the Sarvato Bhadra.
These colossal silver urns (each over 5’ high), filled with Gangajal, accompanied Madho Singh II when he went to London for the coronation of Edward VII. Sarvato Bhadra Chowk’s walls host the nightly sound and light show narrated by Amitabh Bachchan, as part of the recently introduced Museum-at-Night experience.
A huge draw too is the impressive collection of hand-written manuscripts (close to 8,000) and 225 hand-drawn, traditional cartography-style maps, at the Pothikhana Archives section.
Entry fee Indians Rs 130; foreigners Rs 400 Museum at Night fee Indians Rs 450; foreigners 900 Timings 9.30am-5pm; Guide fee Varies on group size and tour type Contact 0141-4088888, 4088855
Located about 12 km from Jaipur and housed in a 2-storied pink sandstone structure, to most locals the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, is still the Chanwar Palkiwalaon Ki Haveli of yesteryears.
The museum’s open courtyard features an assemblage of boards explaining the elaborate hand block printing process —from the selection of the design to be printed, to their carving on wooden blocks soaked in oil, and the subsequent printing using vegetable dyes.
Inside, alcoves and galleries showcase over a hundred printed pieces and blocks. One look at this permanent collection acquaints the visitor with a variety of natural and chemical techniques. The eclectic designs of the hand-block-printed textiles of Balotra, west of Jodhpur, come alive in another dedicated, permanent exhibition. The designs on display are among those that have traditionally featured on the gathered skirts of local women.
The galleries are divided into seven categories shedding light on the restoration of the haveli, local textiles, natural and chemical dyes, tools of block printing and carving, specimens of gold and silver printing, and a demonstration area. Resident craftsmen are open to interaction and take you through the process of carving the blocks and the art of printing with them.
Entry fee Adults Rs 80; Children Rs 25; Video Rs 100 Timings 10.30am- 5pm; 11am to 4.30pm (Sun); Closed Mon; Contact 0141-2530226, 2531267
Design junkies flock to gurgling springs of gemstones and heritage jewellery at the Amrapali Museum, where founders Rajiv Arora and Rajesh Ajmera’s covetable collection—chains, pendants, amulets, head and hair ornaments, earpieces, bracelets, bangles, and toe rings from the far reaches of the subcontinent—stands displayed.
Stopping by at a particularly stunning piece from Gujarat, one notices how the physical boundaries between Rajasthan and Gujarat vanish as one encounters numerous similarities between the jewellery of the two regions. Yet, the artisans have dipped into their respective indigenous traditions and resources to create a sumptuous repertoire of jewels. Also from Gujarat is the 12-foot-long silver chariot, an exhibit that has garnered much attention in the three years of the museum.
And should you fancy some handcrafted silver jewellery or duplicates of the stunning pieces on display for yourself, head over to the museum shop.
Entry fee Rs 600 Timings 11am to 6pm Phone 0141 2822700, 4917608
Museum of Gem and Jewellery
A five-minute drive away from the Amrapali Museum, is the equally well-supplied Museum of Gem and Jewellery that has a lavish showcase of ancient tools, precious stones, fossils and even dinosaur eggs, in addition to interesting kundan, meena and silver jewellery.
Honourable mention: Museum of Legacies
Housed in a 19th-century building, the Museum of Legacies houses latticework artefacts, antique silver jewellery, traditional costumes from the state, and two giant puppets.