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

It feels like I’ve been in India ages even though its not even been a week. It seems that on first arriving you’re in a state of shock and all a bit disorientated as its so different from home, but then after a day or so when you remember all the Indian way of life, the funny situations you get in, annoyances and rules to follow, it starts to become quite normal.

Now in Ahmedabad to re-join the group. The warm weather was very welcome, although I can tell I’ll soon be complaining its too hot!

I’ve been in Jaipur for 2 days. I wish I’d stayed longer as discovered loads more interesting places to visit that would be useful for my research. But on first arriving and realising a lot of trains were booked up to go to Ahmedabad I panicked and bought a ticket for Saturday arriving 2am Sun morning. This was the only availability until Tues although I could have gone ‘tatka‘ if I left it another day. (still haven’t quite managed to perfect the train booking system in India- even though I’ve spent 6 months here before!)

Luckily I was picked up from the station by two of the DIA students who came onto my carriage – which was also lucky as I had been asleep thinking there was another hour till arriving at Ahmbad – felt rather silly when I sat bolt upright banging my head on the above bed as he came to wake me up, then rushed out with my shoes half on and grabbing all my stuff in my arms! I apologised and thanked them profusely. They quietly told me not to worry, so I couldn’t tell if they were hiding their annoyance or if they were or were used to picking people up at 2 in the morning, and were quite laid back about it!

Ahmedabad is very different from Jaipur although I like both in different ways. Jaipur is very touristy but that is because there are less impressive places to visit and interesting things to see. It does create problems like when trying to walk anywhere you are constantly followed by auto or cycle rickshaws shouting ‘hello madam’, ‘where are you going?’. ‘auto?’. And then if you need a ride not being able to avoid them wanting your whole life story: ‘what is your name’, ‘where are you from’ etc. However Ahmedabad being not so touristy means hardly any of the auto drivers speak English, so its a nightmare trying to get anywhere unless you have a guide or translator.

In Jaipur I managed to visit the quaint haveli in Amber where the Anokhi museum of hand-printing is situated. The visit makes for a peaceful getaway from the madness of the city. 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, a brief taste of home. This can be taken in the pretty garden 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 organised by Georgie whom we met during our Anokhi work placement, and is working with the Jaipur Virisat Foundation. It was in a lovely setting of a huge Maharaja palace turned hotel, the room was adorned with floral frescoes and had huge chandeliers on the ceiling. A pretty courtyard in the surroundings of the impressive architecture was a romantic setting for a meal or just chilling out. Jaipur is a strange city in that way, like the rest of India, full of contrasts. You get to this hotel going down a scruffy road with run down buildings and people sleeping on the streets. It is as if you have to be reminded of the less fortunate and made to feel guilty for having the chance to visit such a beautiful place.

The concert was two halves. First some quiet peaceful folk music of three musicians – a tabla player, sitar player and a guy on water filled ceramic pots – they made a lovely sound resembling a glockenspiel. Then there was some dancing along to musicians playing lively rhythms. Everyone was encouraged to join in the dancing, but I followed British tradition by staying put – Didn’t feel so daring being on my own!

I have discovered a lovely guide book for Jaipur ‘Love Jaipur, Rajasthan‘ by Fiona Caulfield, not yet launched but was on sale in Anantaya – another design studio and shop. The author will be back in Jaipur for the literature festival nearer the end of the month. On reading this was when I realised all the other places of interest I could have visited. Its a specific guide book that is very useful for art lovers, food lovers, and generally lovers of Indian culture. Its printed on hand-made paper and comes in a canvas case. Has a nice plain text with quirky illustrations. I recommend it highly!

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