Jaipur Nama Tales From The Pink City

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Item Code: IHL365
Author: Giles Tillotson
Publisher: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2006
ISBN: 9780144001002
Pages: 273 (16 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
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Jaipur Nama

Jaipur Nama is the story of one of India's most fascinating cities, as seen through the eyes of both its residents and its visitors, who witnessed and recorded different moments in Jaipur's history between the 18th and the 20th centuries.

The triumphs, follies and foibles of its rulers, the passion and drama of palace intrigues, the splendour of royal rites and entertainments, and the bustle and energy of its bazaars and ateliers, all come to life through the vivid and detailed accounts of chroniclers as diverse as an Austrian Jesuit, a French naturalist, a court priest, a city merchant and a pilgrim from Banaras. Many of these accounts are here translated into English for the first time. Each reflects a different aspect of Jaipur, together creating a captivating, kaleidoscopic portrait of the Pink City

Linking these narratives are the observations, experiences and perceptions of the author, Giles Tillotson, who skilfully weaves the past into the present as he writes about the personalities who shaped the character of the city, the wonders of its architecture, and the development of its superb arts and crafts.

Entertaining as well as scholarly Jaipur Nama will appeal to a wide readership. For those who know Jaipur or plan to go there, this book will sharpen and enrich their experience of the city, while armchair travellers will find it a delightfully witty and knowledgeable companion.

Jaipur Nama

Tales from the Pink City

Giles Tillotson


To Vibhuti





























There is a local saying in Jaipur: Jagat main aakar kya kiya, kabhi na dekha Jaipuria? (What have you achieved in the world, if you've never seen Jaipur?) In the 1930s, the English traveller Rosita Forbes echoed this sentiment by observing, 'Everyone who can possibly contrive it goes to Jaipur. There is no other place quite like it.' So this book tells the story of the city of Jaipur, as seen through the eyes of citizens and visitors who witnessed and recorded its passing moments. One of India's best-known cities, Jaipur was established in the eighteenth century both as a royal capital and as a centre of trade, and its elegant architecture and commercial success have always excited admiration. The people who observed its fortunes most intimately were the court poets, the royal biographers and the rulers' subjects, whether loyal or dissident; while in the 200 years after its foundation, the steady stream of foreign visitors who also came and wrote about what they saw included an Austrian Jesuit, an English bishop, a French naturalist and distinguished writers such as Rudyard Kipling and Aldous Huxley. My account of Jaipur draws on the observations and experiences of many such people to build a history not just of events but also of sights and perceptions. It is the story of how Jaipur was conceived, lived in and regarded.

In India, the past often seems to be only slightly out of our reach. A room, or a palace apartment, remains redolent of the life it held, as if its inhabitants have only a moment before packed up and gone away, meaning to return. This book approaches the streets and buildings of Jaipur through the personalities of its past, to place its history within our grasp.

The opening chapter describes the foundation of Jaipur in the 1720s by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, placing both the man and his creation in the wider context of the decline of the Mughal empire and the resurgence of regional powers. Within this broad narrative history, the chapter focusses on three particular episodes: first, Sawai Jai Singh's performance of a rare and arcane Vedic ritual as a gesture of self-confidence, as recounted at the time by one of the officiating priests; secondly, the building of Jaipur's famous astronomical observatory, and the motives that lay behind Sawai Jai Singh's interest in this field, as recounted in his own preface to his major collection of astronomical tables; and thirdly, the visit to Jaipur in 1750 of Father Joseph Tieffenthaler, the first European to write a detailed account of the city. This last work was written in Latin and was published in French; the chapter includes the first full translation of it into English.

On the death of Sawai Jai Singh, the succession was disputed by two of his sons, and their conflicts were played out against the background of Jat and Maratha insurgency. With the suicide of the elder son, the younger one came to power, but his troubles with his neighbours blighted his enjoyment of it. He was succeeded in turn by two of his own sons, each of whom came to the throne in turn as a minor. This was a period of regency councils, when queen mothers took important decisions within the confines of the zenana, when ministers plotted and the nobles sulked. Again in Chapter Two, fifty years are described in a narrative history, but passages of the chapter focus on two contemporary texts. Pratap Prakash is a court history composed by one of the more able ambassadors of the last of these four rulers, Maharaja Pratap Singh, during his maturity; it addresses particularly Jaipur's relations with the Marathas and daily life in the court of Jaipur, describing the Maharaja's routine and his patronage of music. Of about the same date is a secret memorandum to the British Governor General written by Jean Pillet, a French mercenary in the employ of the same maharaja, setting out the possible benefits of a treaty between Jaipur and the East India Company. This document, preserved in the India Office Library, has never previously been published.

The first half of the nineteenth century, covered in Chapter Three, was again a period of infant kings, regency councils and unstable

rule. There are fewer court sources for this period, but there were some particularly interesting European commentators. James Tod was the East India Company's political agent in Rajputana, who commented on current events in Jaipur as part of his massive scholarly work on the history of the region. Reginald Heber, Bishop of Calcutta, visited Jaipur only briefly, as part of a journey that he made across the whole of northern India, but he wrote an informed and vivid account of corruption at the court and of the architecture and scenery of the city and its environs. Victor Jacquemont was a young French naturalist who stayed in Jaipur in 1832, as part of an expedition to observe the geology, flora and fauna of India for the French government; but his interests ranged far beyond his remit and he offers different perspectives on politics and society in Jaipur at this period. His account is here translated from the French for the first time.

Order and stability were at last restored in the period after the Indian 'Mutiny' of 1857, during the reign of the great Maharaja Ram Singh II. He was a reformer and an institution builder whose reign was regarded by his subjects as an era of 'ram raj' or perfect rule. His adopted son and successor, Maharaja Madho Singh II was somewhat less popular—unfairly so, as he succeeded in building on his inheritance and further developed the city's political and artistic institutions. A British perspective on this period (which is covered in Chapter Four) is provided by the writings of one of the Residents, J.P. Stratton, but the main departure from a narrative of events is provided here by another French source. Louis Rousselet was an aristocratic French traveller who went from one Indian court to another, trading on his sociability and his nationality to ingratiate himself respectively with the British and with Indian rulers. He shared with Ram Singh an interest in photography, and his comments range broadly from topography to the social life of the British community.

The reigns of Ram Singh II and Madho Singh II were a period marked especially by the development of Jaipur's art and architecture. Reflecting the importance of the visual arts in Jaipur's history—indeed it remains famous for its production of decorative arts even today— Chapter Five is devoted to this subject alone. The arts were also a field in which British and Indian colleagues worked collaboratively, and the chapter focusses on the contributions made by the state's

chief engineer, Swinton Jacob, the director of the School of Art, Opendronath Sen, the secretary of the newly established museum, Braj Ballabh, and its curator, Thomas Holbein Hendley. The account draws on the writings of all the chief protagonists and also those of two visitors. Rudyard Kipling, whose father was an arts administrator in Lahore, visited Jaipur on a journalistic assignment in 1887, and gave an informed and detached view of the museum and activities related to it. Ramshankar Sharma was a Banaras Brahmin who travelled as the secretary of his employer's orthodox Hindu wife on a journey that was part tourism, part pilgrimage. He too was an astute observer of the arts, and noted how institutions were run in an Indian state, away from the constraints of British India.

Chapter Six deals with royal propaganda and political dissent in the early years of the twentieth century, the latter half of the reign of Madho Singh II. It was a period when citizens weighed the advantages of the semi-autonomous status of Jaipur against the growing appeal of the Indian nationalists outside its borders. Three very rare texts provide the focus here. Jaipur Naresh ki England Yatra is an account in Hindi of the Maharaja's visit to Britain for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. Commissioned by the Maharaja, it presents him as a progressive ruler of independent mind who could manipulate the alliance with the British Crown to the advantage of his subjects. Evidently it did not convince everyone. Pratap Singh Kama was a disgruntled noble of the court who distributed privately printed pamphlets questioning the legitimacy of the Maharaja's adoption by Ram Singh II, and (in view of Madho Singh's failure in turn to provide a son and heir) urging his own claim to the throne. G.N. Somani was a merchant of advanced views who published in 1922 a list of citizens' demands for political reforms and infrastructural developments, covering everything from a legislative assembly to the opening of more sub-post offices.

The last independent ruler of Jaipur was Maharaja Man Singh II (r. 1922-49), known affectionately to his many European friends as 'Jai'. Young and handsome, and internationally famous as a polo player, he has been the object of much eulogistic writing (he is the only ruler of Jaipur, apart from the founder, Sawai Jai Singh II, to be the subject of a full-length biography). The account of his reign in

Chapter Seven draws on some less well-known sources. The Jaipur Album is a celebration of the state of Jaipur and its ruler, published by two merchants of the city in 1935, giving details of the state's ceremonies and of the city's businesses. Henry Waddington, Aldous Huxley and Rosita Forbes were all travellers who visited Jaipur in the 1930s. They commented on what they saw in relation to what they knew of Jaipur's history and against the background of political developments in India and abroad. The memoirs of Mirza Ismail, Jaipur's penultimate prime minister, provide an insight into the character of the Maharaja and into the developments that led up to the integration of Jaipur into the Indian Union at Independence. Readers who are familiar with Jaipur's history of this period may note the absence of some conspicuous sources, such as the memoirs of the Maharaja's widow, Maharani Gayatri Devi, that are too well known to need introducing here.

This book is addressed to anyone who has been to Jaipur or who plans to go there. Although it draws on many historical documents, it is intended less as a work of scholarship, more as an entertainment. I have avoided using footnotes: full bibliographical details of all works that are cited are listed under 'Sources' at the end. My translations (from the Hindi and the French) are fairly free, and the use of sources is far from comprehensive: I have selected those sources from each period which provide the most vivid insights into what people have thought about Jaipur at various times in the past, and the history that they collectively build is anecdotal rather than rigorous. In an old Indian city like Jaipur, even someone who is unaware of its history feels forcefully, if vaguely, the presence of the past. I hope that reading this book will sharpen and enrich their experience of one of India's most popular but still enigmatic cities.


Praise for the author

'[The Rajput Palaces is] lucid, readable and well-argued'

—Times Literary Supplement

'Superb . . . [Mughal India] weaves strands of history, biography and aesthetics . . .

fascinating reading for armchair travelle

—Far Eastern Ecomomic Reviev

'Full marks . . . Tillotson's achievement is to write about his subject descension for the lay reader and to inform his text with some much appreciated gleams of humour'

—Indian Express

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