PHOTOWALK: THE WALLED CITY OF JAIPUR


Built in 1727 A.D. by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, Jaipur is widely recognized as one of the few planned medieval urban settlements, which survive in the country. Built according to ancient Indian traditions of Manasara, it incorporates several features, which were borrowed from some of the most celebrated cities in the world during those times. The rulers of Jaipur facilitated the development of a rich cultural fabric in the city. Art forms like music, dance, theater  literature and textiles found expression, which over time has attracted the world’s attention. Activity patterns interacted with spaces that housed them weaving interesting patterns. As a result the urban form of the city that evolved is a unique tribute to human accomplishment over time.

The walled city is located in a valley surrounded by Aravalli hills on three sides. The Jhalana range runs along the north south axis and the Nahargarh range runs along the northeast to southwest. The valley was earlier the hunting ground of the rulers of Amer. The walled city stands on a small plain, the northern part of it on a basin, a bed of a lake the prolongation of the present Man Sagar created in the gap between the Nahargarh and Jhalana hills by damming the Dharbhawati river, that flowed from west to east down the hill.

Designed by the Bengali architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, the walled city of Jaipur was conceived as a square in plan divided by straight north south and east west roads crossing at right angle into nine sectors known as Chowkries. The major road running east west along the southern wall of the royal palace complex was placed on the crest line of the dunal plane to best utilize the slope for drainage. Since the crest line of the dune was not exactly east west but slightly tilted at an angle of 11 ¾ degrees to the east west direction, the square of the city was automatically tilted by the same angle. On account of the tilting the north-western Chowkri overlapped with the foot hill of Nahargarh and had to be relocated to the south-east and thus obliterated the originally planned square shape of the city. On the north of the ridge line were planned five chowkries and four on the south. The Royal Palace complex and the administration was placed in the north spread over two chowkries known as Chowkri Sarahad surrounded by the populace and insulated by forbidden parks and lakes. Chowkri Purani Basti, Chowkri Ramchandraji, and Chowkri Gangapol were the other three chowkries in the north. Chowkri Topkhana Desh, Chowkri Modikhana, Chowkri Ghat Darwaza and Chowkri Topkhana Hazoori were the four chowkries on the south.

Chowkri Sarahad formed the core of the walled city. Housing the seat of government and Palace Complex of the Royal family it dominated the settlement. In addition to serving the aforementioned functions it was the nodal point for cultural and festive activities, religious functions and artistic pursuits. The City Palace Complex occupied a strategic location in Chowkri Sarahad. It was well insulated from the main through fares with the Jaleb Chowk on the east, Jantar Mantar and Chandni Chowk on the south, Zanani Deodhi and fortification wall on the west and Talkatora, Jai Niwas Bagh and Mandir Shri Govind Devji on the north. The complex comprises of the Chandra Mahal a seven storey pyramidal structure dominating the skyline of the Chowkri Sarahad, Mubarak Mahal, Sarbata, Diwan Khana, Anand Mandir and Clock Tower as the main components. The built spaces in the complex were arranged around chowks. The other urban structures like the Hawa Mahal, memorials, fair and sporting ground, Chief Squadron, Rath Khana, Bagghi Khana, Indra Viman store, Farash Khana are located adjacent to the main through fares.

The gridiron pattern of Sadak or main-street and Rasta or smaller streets, lanes and by lanes within the walled city was classified according to hierarchy. They were named after the commodity sold, occupation of the residents or the name of some important resident of the area. The three large squares created by the crossings of the main thorough fares running north south and east west were called Chaupars namely Choti Chaupar (Amer Chowk), Badi Chaupar (Manak Chowk) and Ramganj Chaupar. The first two Chaupars acquired the pivotal position around which the commercial life of the city revolved. Bazaars or markets were planned on both sides of the streets: Tripolia bazaar, Chand pol bazaar, Ramganj bazaar, Kishan pol bazaar, Gangaur bazaar, Johari bazaar, Sireh Deodhi bazaar and Ghat Darwaza bazaar. The design scheme of the shops was standardised in size and architectural treatment. Katlas or enclosures specially built for commercial activity both retail and wholesale were characterised by narrow lanes and at times were located away from the main business through fares namely Purohitji ka Katla, Lal Katla, Moti Katla and Nathmalji ka Katla. Market places carrying business in specific commodities were known as mandis for example Rooi mandi (cotton mandi), Phal Mandi (fruit mandi), Namak ki mandi (salt mandi).

People were invited to build their havelis or houses in areas specially earmarked for them. There were specifically assigned areas for jagirdars, prominent citizens, priests, merchants, shopkeepers, craftsmen, jewellers and other strata of the society. All plans had to be submitted to Vidhyadhar to ensure uniformity in planning concept, building height and architectural style. The pattern of houses was usually the same, a first courtyard followed by a set of rooms and then the zenana court. Following the Maharaja’s Palace, the people aimed at making a miniature palace of their own. They had similar sections in the house like Deodhi Diwan Khana, Sahen Ki Kothri (sleeping chambers), zenana (female chambers), Pothi Khana, Rasora (kitchen), Kothiars (store house for provisions), Athithi ghar (guest house), Kapatdwara (strong room), Saparni-ki-kothri (bathing house), Sandas-ki-kothri (latrine), Feel Khana (elephant stable), Rath Khana (chariot house), Bagghi Khana (carriage house), Farash Khana (furniture store house), Sawan-bhado (summer house) etc.

A masonry crenelated wall built of mud, stone, mortar and covered with lime plaster averaging in height about 20 feet and in thickness 9 feet surrounds the whole city pierced by several gateways. At some distance from each other were constructed burji or bastions and towers for cannons all along the walls. The fortification wall surrounding the city originally had seven gateways or Pols all located at the end of the main roads: Suraj pol (Sun gate), Ghat gate, Shiv pol (Sanganeri gate), Kishan pol (Ajmeri gate), Chand pol (Moon gate), Dhruv pol (Jorawar Singh gate) and Gangapol. The gateways were constructed in the traditional style each being well protected with battlements, parapets, screen walls surmounted by two kiosks over the entrance. Beyond the fortification walls the city was guarded by several forts namely Nahargarh (Sudarashangarh) in the north, Raghunath fort in the southeast, Moti Dungri (Shankergarh) fort in the south and Hathroi fort in the southwest. Baghs or gardens were laid as pleasure resorts for example Jai Niwas Bagh.

The morphology of the walled city of Jaipur is a product of additions by several rulers over time. While these layers of addition are documented in text, they merge seamlessly with the context appearing to be part of an original intent.

Disclaimer: The article expresses individual views of the author. The rights to the content of the article rests with the author.

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