Jaipur: block printing, havelis, palaces, music and dancing

 

Tourist central and a city with a rich royal heritage, Jaipur is exciting, manic (particularly walking through the old city), enlivening and exhausting all at the same time. I took a rickshaw to Amber, a busy route which as you get to the popular Amber fort, is absolutely packed with vehicles but a mile or so further on, is a quaint Haveli where the Anokhi museum of hand-printing is situated exudes calm. The small track winding through the stone houses, wandering goats and playing children leads to a magnificently restored haveli – ‘an enclosed place’ in Persian, and traditionally a frescoed temple or mughal style courtyarded house.

There is a coffee shop selling the famous Anokhi cakes and coffee, which I indulged in from time to time while working in the Anokhi design studio last year. This can be had in the quaint terrace at the front. On entering, the exhibits line the edges of the building, and up winding staircases onto wider floors above. On the top in the sunlit courtyard sits a block carver tapping away with his chisel, carving beautiful, intricate designs. He will make you a print if you ask nicely. Looking through the window there are lovely views of the hills and it being near the time of the kite festival while I was there, boys jumping about the crags flying their brightly coloured kites. So all in all, a perfect place to study the area’s renowned block printing. And of course there is a shop…

I went to Sanganeer outside of Jaipur, another area known for its block printing particularly during Moghul rule when Persian influences were prevalent. I visited here during my work placement at Anokhi and saw blocks being carved as well as the the printing that continues the Moghul style motifs mixed with other influences.

There is a company called Rangotri in Sanganeer which supplies these prints to furnishing companies all over the world. It is a quiet airy factory, a nice working environment for the printers and tailors. There is also a shop and showroom for buyers. Vikram, the founder was very helpful in answering questions for my research and showing me around.

I was lucky to be in the city when a Rajasthani folk concert at Diggi palace hotel was being held. This was by the Jaipur Virisat Foundation. Diggi palace is a huge Maharaja palace turned hotel, and the room the concert was held in, was adorned with floral frescoes and had huge chandeliers. A pretty courtyard in the surroundings of the impressive architecture was a romantic setting for a meal or just chilling out. The concert was  in two halves. First some quiet peaceful folk music of three musicians – a tabla player, sitar player and ghatam (earthenware) pot player. Then there was some dancing along to folk  musicians (see above picture) playing lively rhythms.

I have discovered a lovely guide book for Jaipur ‘Love Jaipur, Rajasthan‘ by Fiona Caulfield, not yet launched but was on sale in Anantaya – a design brand that makes luxury decorative homeware and accessories incorporating local traditional crafts. The guide book will be useful for art lovers, food lovers, and generally lovers of Indian culture. Its text and quirky illustrations are printed on hand-made paper and comes in a canvas case.

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