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.
Tales from the Pink City
1. THE AGE OF THE FOUNDER
2. SONS AND GRANDSONS
3. AN AGENT, A BISHOP AND A NATURALIST
4. RAM RAJ
5. VICTORIANS AND AESTHETES
6. THE SUBJECTS AND THE KING
7. A PERFECT PRINCE
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
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.
TALES FROM THE PINK CITY
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'