India’s first planned city

Vaastu has played a major role in the emergence of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan – India’s Pink City – and its prominence over the centuries.

WORDS: TEAM URBAN VAASTU

Founded in 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amber – after whom the city was named – it is today considered as one of the best planned cities in India.
Maharaja Jai Singh II was a Kachwaha Rajput who ruled Amber – located less than a dozen km from the Rajasthani capital – from 1699-1744.
He decided to shift his capital to Jaipur following increasing population and growing scarcity of water in Amber. Jaipur, with a population of 3.1 million, is the tenth most populous city of India.
What are the factors that have made it one of the best planned cities of our country? Before planning the layout of the city, Jai Singh consulted several architects and books of architecture.
Consequently, Jaipur became the first planned city built on the principles of Vaastu Shastra and Shilpa Shastra under the guidance of Vidyadhar Bhattacharya.

SCIENCE OF ARCHITECTURE
Considered as the science of architecture, Vaastu Shastra consists of precepts born out of a traditional view on how human dwellings should comply with laws of nature.

Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur was a great architect and astronomer. He also had a good knowledge of Indian Vaastu.
The Rajasthani capital is built in the form of an eight-part “Mandala” known as the “Pithapada”. The city was divided into nine blocks, of which two consist state buildings and palaces, with the remaining seven allotted to the public. Huge fortification walls were made along with seven strong gates for security.
The city is remarkable among pre-modern Indian cities for the width and regularity of its streets which are laid out into six sectors separated by broad streets 34 m (111 ft) wide.
Networks of gridded streets further divide urban quarters. Five quarters wrap around the east, south, and west sides of a central palace quarter, with a sixth quarter immediately to the east. The Palace quarter encloses the sprawling Hawa Mahal palace complex, formal gardens, and a small lake.

JANTAR MANTAR
Nahargarh Fort, which was the residence of the King Sawai Jai Singh II, crowns the hill in the northwest of the old city.

The observatory, Jantar Mantar, is a World Heritage Site.
A few centuries ago, a Maharaja, popularly known for his knowledge of astrology and Vaastu hosted many conferences in propagating the subject across the globe. He had practiced and preached Vaastu during his lifetime.
Most of the palaces in Jaipur are on the northern side while the main market is in the centre. Leading cities around the world have downtown areas, the central part where business is carried out.
It is busiest during the day and mostly quiet at night. In urban parlance, it is known as Commercial Business District (CBD). That way, this city concurs with Vaastu.
But given Vaastu drawbacks, Jaipur has suffered in the past. For instance, Rajasthanis are skilled entrepreneurs known for their skills as traders and businessmen. But their glory lies mostly outside Rajasthan.
Vaastu is a science of common understanding based on experience and experimentation wherein both the theoretical and the practical aspects of knowledge are embodied together with instinctive problem-solving.

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MAJOR PALACES
The construction of Jaipur started in 1727 and took around four years to complete the major palaces, roads and square. Public places in the city can be divided into chaupals, bazaars, mohallas, streets, and temples.
Huge fortification walls were made along with seven strong gates. The architecture of the town was advanced and certainly the best in Indian subcontinent.
The Prince of Wales visited Jaipur in 1853 and the whole city was painted Pink to welcome him. Pink provides a distinctive colour to the city even today.
As the entire city has been planned according to Vaastu Shastra, streets, markets, gates, and temple placements have been all as per Vaastu. The directions of each street and market are East to West and North to South. The eastern gate is called Suraj (Sun) Pol, while the western gate is called Chand (Moon) Pol.

There are only three gates facing east, west, and north including the Northern gate (known as Zorawar Singh gate) which faces toward the ancestral capital of Amber.
Although the present city has expanded from outside of its walls, the original planning was within the walls. The gates used to be closed at sunset and opened at sunrise. Almost all Northern Indian towns of that period presented a chaotic picture of narrow twisting lanes, a confusion of run-down forts, temples, palaces, and temporary shacks that bore no resemblance at all to the principles set out in Hindu architectural manuals which call for strict geometric planning.
Rajasthan can play a greater role in country’s affairs and even interntionally. But given Vaastu drawbacks to Jaipur, a lot of its potential has come to nought.
But their glory lies mostly outside Rajasthan. They developed cities like Kolkatta, Mumbai and Hyderabad.
From the Vaastu perspective, if Jaipur can shift its headquarters to the eastern side and residential units towards the northern side then it can become a world-class city.
Jaipur is yet to consolidate its political hold in modern India.

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