Jaipur is the first planned city of northern India after Mohenjodaro and the Greek city of Sirkap in Taxila. Its builder was Sawai Jai Singh, the versatile ruler of Amer whose multifarious activities as a statesman, an astronomer and a patron of Hinduism form part of this book.
The planning of the city too was perhaps done by Jai Singh himself, ably assisted by a Bengali Brahman, Vidyadhar, who later became his favorite minister.
Within a few years of its founding Jaipur became and has since remained the most important city in Rajasthan. From the start it has had a good water supply system. In providing street lighting, medical facilities, higher education, etc., it has kept pace with modern cities of India. By the middle of the 19th century it had become a centre of banking and jewellery trade in north India and by the end of the century a centre of Sanskrit learning.
One of the products of the city was Todarmal, who was perhaps the first writer of modern Hindi prose. The city is also an important religious centre. The history of Jaipur could thus he said to be the history of civilization in northern India during the 18th and 19th centuries.
This capital story of the birth and growth of the capital of one of the most forward looking states of India should be of interest to the lay reader as well as to specialist.
Ashim Kumar Roy, a product of Presidency College, Calcutta joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1949 and served in the state and Central government in various capacities. During 1959-60 he was at Harvard University as a Ford Foundation Fellow. He obtained his Ph.D. in History from Rajasthan University in 1976.
Among the older cities of India, Jaipur is in some respects unique. It is not only the only planned city of northern India, but is also its most beautiful city. A city in order to be beautiful has to be prosperous. And Jaipur gained prosperity quickly after its founding and has remained more or less a prosperous place since then. Few cities in India have had such a record.
Jaipur is an administrative centre and a centre of trade. Besides, it is one of the important centres of Vaishnavism in northern India. Almost all the sects of Vaishnavas, both 'Ramavats and Krishnavats, are represented here, and some of these sects have their most important temples or monasteries situated in this city. For instance, the most important temple of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sect in India, namely, the temple of Govinda-deva is in Jaipur. Again Galta, the headquarters of the Ramanandi sect, is situated on the outskirts of the city. The Balanandis, another important Ramavat sect also have their main monastery here.
The city is also of importance to the Digambar Jainas. The Jainas have for many centuries dominated the administration of the larger states of Rajasthan. In Jodhpur, Mewar and Bikaner the Svetambar Jainas or the Oswals gained prominence. In Jaipur, however, it was the Digambar sect who occupied important administrative posts, especially during the period 1750-1830. There were also a number of famous scholars among the Jainas during this period. Among them Todarmal and Daulatram Kasliwal were well known even during their lifetime. Both of them wrote Hindi prose. Daulatram's contribution to the development of Hindi prose was recognised by no less an authority than Ramchandra Shukla in his famous history of Hindi literature. Todarmal wrote much better Hindi, but his work does not seem to have been appreciated before.
Maharaja Jai Singh who planned and built the city in 1727 as his new capital was a versatile man. A clever politician and statesman, he enlarged his state, and in his lifetime made Jaipur from one of the smaller states of Rajasthan into the most important one. As a builder and town planner he was perhaps second to none in the history of this country. Besides he was a learned man, his academic interests being mainly in religion and astronomy. There have been other Indian rulers like Akbar who have been interested in religion; but interest in astronomy is unusual among princes. What is still more unusual he was an observational astronomer, perhaps the only one of his kind in India till then.
The eighteenth century was a very turbulent period for northern India. After the attack of Nadir Shah there were frequent invasions of the Delhi-Agra-Mathura region by Ahmad Shah Abdali. The Marathas from the south also started their depredations in the north at this time. The Sikhs almost paralysed the imperial trade route through the Punjab. All this made Jaipur a haven for the traders, specially for the money-lenders and jewellers from the neighbouring cities of Delhi and Agra. It thus became in time a centre of jewellery industry and banking. Banking transactions in the city continued to remain important. In the 1869-70 report on Jaipur administration the British resident said that, "Jeypore is as it were a sort of Lombard street of Rajpootana".
From the beginning of this century, Jaipur has been a centre for gem stone cutting; and to-day it is one of the most important centres for emerald cutting in the world.
The walled city of Jaipur as built by Jai Singh has remained almost unchanged up-till now. Ram Singh who was the Maharaja during the third quarter of the nineteenth century tried to renovate the city. He got the streets metalled, and had all the buildings facing the main roads painted pink. He also built many public buildings all of which except for the public library building, were outside the city walls. But the bulk of the population of the city continued to remain within the city walls.
After Ram Singh's death in 1880 there was no perceptible change in the look of the city for nearly sixty years. The population of the city, however, started increasing during the 1930s and by 1940, it tended to spill over. Plans were made for the growth of the city outside the walls. Fortunately for Jaipur the Diwan of the State at that time was Sir Mirza Ismail who was a town planner with great aesthetic sense. He saw to it that the new city outside the walls would grow into a beautiful place in its own right.
It was Mirza Ismail again who conceived the idea of a uni-versity for Rajputana at Jaipur. Perhaps he thought that the university would be a unifying factor for the native states of Rajasthan whose number was more than twenty.
After the integration of the States of Rajasthan in 1949, Jaipur became the capital of the new state. However, this choice was challenged twice. Independent committees were set up by the Central Government to examine the claims of other towns, but Jaipur's position was vindicated in the recommendations of both the committees. Jai Singh had at one time thought of suzerainty over the whole of Rajasthan. The choice of the city built by him as the capital of Rajasthan partly fulfilled his -dream. The history of Jaipur city is thus interesting from many points of view. For historians of the Indian system of town planning and for students of classical astronomy, of Vaishnavism, and of the economic history of urban areas, the history of the city is a fascinating study. It should also be of great interest to the students of the history of the various aspects of urban life such as the educational system and the culture of the city, of the water supply without which no city can live and grow, of its health and medical facilities, of the street lighting, garbage removal etc. On many of these Jai Singh the founder of the city has left his lasting impress.
We thus start with the life of Jai Singh himself. Jai Singh's career as a Mughal general -and Governor of various Mughal provinces, the stories of his many battles, and his moves to establish his pre-eminence over other states of Rajasthan, need not detain us here. It only needs to be said that all these contributed to the enlargement of his state and gave Jaipur an importance as the capital of the state. However, Jai Singh's interest in astronomy, religion and town planning deserve close attention as it has left a lasting effect on the character and the look of the city.
As an astronomer Jai Singh has been eulogized by many eminent writers. It has generally been assumed that since he was a Hindu he must have been an exponent of the Hindu system of astronomy. This however is not quite the correct position. Jai Singh's original inspiration to learn the subject might have come from his Hindu teachers, but ultimately in his work he followed the Hellenic-Arab system of astronomy.. His actual contribution in this system was in the shape of corrections to certain astronomical constants. The correct values of these constants were found out by him by using instruments some of which were undoubtedly built as per his own innovations.
Even so, except for the five massive observatories that he built, Jai Singh's contributions to the revival of classical astronomy in India was negligible. By adopting the Sayana system for his calculations-and this was necessary to carry on any observational work-Jai Singh departed from the main stream of Hindu astronomy. He thus could not make any change in the methods of even the local almanac makers.
All through his life Jai Singh was devoted to the Vaishnava religion in all its aspects. He brought into the city the votaries of many Vaishnava sects and ensured that they lived in peace with each other. He also introduced many important reforms among them. In matters of rituals he was an orthodox Hindu. and gained a reputation almost as a defender of the faith in the whole of northern India. A few documents some of which are in the Kapaddwara (Household department) suggest that he was treated as a arbitrator in matters of religious practices, even in Bengal.
Vaishnavism was the religion of most of the successors of Jai Singh also, but it is generally believed in Jaipur that Maharaja Ram Singh did not like the Vaishnavas. Evidence to the contrary was however most unexpectedly available in one of the administrative reports sent by the Resident of Jaipur. In any case they did not have any narrow sectarian belief, and it was not possible to identify the sect of even Pratap Singh, the most ardent Vaishnava of them all.
The manner in which Jaipur was planned has raised the curiosity of many people. The subject has, therefore, been dealt with in some detail here. Since there are many ancient Indian books on architecture and town planning and since our Dharma Shastras and Arthasastras mention details of town planning, it has always been assumed that some of our ancient towns must have had planned structure. This, however, as not turned out to be a fact. From the archaeological excavations carried out so far, it appears that none of the older towns of India except the Indus Valley towns such as Mohenjodaro and the second city of Taxila had been built on any plan taxila was planned on the Greek model and Mohenjodaro is, of course, protohistoric. Jaipur was therefore the only planned town built by Indians at least in northern India.
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