GETTING TO KNOW THE PINK CITY
Named after Rajput ruler Jai Singh, who founded the city in 1727, Jaipur is known worldwide as India’s ‘Pink City’. This unusual, distinguishing colour has several myths surrounding it. Some say that the city walls and buildings were painted pink as a welcome gesture to the Prince of Wales who visited in 1896 (if you look closely, British-style lamp posts from that time, complete with crown crest can still be found), while others claim that the buildings, made of cheap plaster, were painted pink so they appeared like sumptuous sandstone.
Jaipur is atmospheric in a ghosts-of-the-Raj way with its crumbling fairy-tale palaces, bazaars and forts at almost every turn. Today, it is a stop on the popular first-time visitors itinerary, the ‘Golden Triangle tourist circuit’, along with Delhi and the Taj Mahal. Jaipur does not have one single must-see sight, so I begin my exploration by following ladies in neon coloured saris into Bapu Bazaar where I search for rare perfumes and leather sandals.
Next, I jump in a tuk-tuk and strike out for Amer, 11 kilometresaway. My plan is to visit the Anokhi Museum, opened by block-print pioneers Rachel Bracken-Singh and her husband Pritam Singh. I arrive and the splendid sight of the building almost takes my breath away. Bought when it was the tumbledown Chanwar Palkiwon ki Haveli mansion in the 1970s, the couple embarked on a long renovation project in 1989 to restore the building to its former glory. In the year 2000, the haveli was presented with a prestigious UNESCO award for cultural conservation and this signalled the birth of the museum. Inside, everything you have ever wanted to know about the art of Indian block printing is laid out. It is definitely one of the best small museums in India. I buy some books and a scarf from the little shop on-site.