Architectural Science Behind India’s First Planned City

Amber Fort – Jaipur

City History

Capital and largest city of Rajasthan, Jaipur, often referred to as “The Pink City”, was founded on 18 November 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amber after whom the Jaipur city is named. He was a Kachwaha Rajput who ruled Amber from 1699-1744 which lay 11 km away from present day Jaipur. With the increasing population and growing scarcity of water, he decided to shift to Jaipur, the first planned city of India. It is now the tenth most populous city of India with a population of 3.1 million people.

Many have termed Jaipur to be one of the best planned cities of our country. Before planning the layout of Jaipur city, Jai Singh consulted several books of architecture and architects. As a result, Jaipur became the first planned city built on the principles of Vaastu Shastra and Shilpa Shastra under the guidance of Vidyadhar Bhattacharya. The Kings of Jaipur tactfully broadened their control sphere maintaining good relations with the Mughals when most of the Rajputs were busy fighting with each other.

Importance of Vaastu in Architecture

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

Vaastu Shastra has been used in Hindu architecture, especially Hindu temples. In South India the mythical sage Mamuni Mayan laid the foundation of Vaastu Shastra while in Northit was Vishwakarma.

Jaipur architecture is famous worldwide because of its technical details and beauty. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II and the founder of Jaipur was a great architect and astronomer. He also had a good knowledge of Indian Vaastu. This is the reason that the architecture of Jaipur is a wonderful case study for the modern architects across the world.
The town of Jaipur 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 the state buildings and palaces, with the remaining seven allotted to the public. Huge fortification walls were made along with seven strong gates for the purpose of security of the city.

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 sprawling Hawa Mahal palace complex, formal gardens, and a small lake. Nahargarh Fort, which was the residence of the King Sawai Jai Singh II, crowns the hill in the northwest corner of the old city. The observatory, Jantar Mantar, is a World Heritage Site.

VAASTU EYE
Jaipur is the one of the oldest cultural heritage of India. When you talk about Rajasthan, the first thing that comes to mind is the Maharajas that ruled the dynasties here. Cultural India’s strongest representation is the state of Rajasthan. A few centuries ago, a Maharaja, very 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. That is what glorifies Jaipur even more compared to all other Indian cities.
Many states have surrendered their architectural wealth to build modern India after independence. Rajasthan probably one of the first few states to have surrendered its entire wealth and buildings to the Republic of India. Pink City Jaipur is mostly as per Vaastu. Most of the palaces are on the northern side while the main market is in the centre of the city. Leading cities of the world today, have downtown, which is the centre part where business of the entire city is carried out. It is therefore, the busiest day during the day and most quiet during night. In urban parlance, it is known as Commercial Business District (CBD). That way, this city concurs with Vaastu.

Rajasthan can play a greater role in country’s affairs and even at international stage. But given Vaastu drawbacks to its capital city Jaipur there has been lot of its potential coming to nought which adds nothing to further the state’s glory. For instance, Rajasthanis are skilled entrepreneurs known for their skills as traders and businessmen. But their glory lies mostly outside Rajasthan. They developed by their sweat of brow cities like Kolkatta, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and other places. Calling them Marwadis was a dampener to their entrepreneurial spirit because they created wealth all around even if profit may have been sole motive.

Architectural History of Jaipur

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.

Many consider Jaipur to be one of the best planned cities. In an era when most of the Rajputs were busy fighting with each other, the Jaipur’s kings diplomatically broadened their control sphere maintaining good relations with the Mughals.

Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II

The construction of the city started in 1727 and took around four years to complete the major palaces, roads and square. The city was divided into nine blocks, of which two comprised the state buildings and palaces, with the remaining seven allotted to the public. Public places can be divided into: chaupals, bazaars, mohallas, streets, and temples. Huge fortification walls were made along with seven strong gates. Architecture of the town was very advanced and certainly the best in Indian subcontinent.

Prince of Wales visited Jaipur in 1853. The whole city was painted Pink to welcome him. The pink colour provides a distinctive colour to the city even today.

CITY LAYOUT
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 at international stage. But given Vaastu drawbacks to its capital city Jaipur there has been lot of its potential coming to nought which adds nothing to further the state’s glory. For instance, Rajasthanis are skilled entrepreneurs known for their skills as traders and businessmen. But their glory lies mostly outside Rajasthan. They developed by their sweat of brow cities like Kolkatta, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and other places. Calling them Marwadis was a dampener to their entrepreneurial spirit because they created wealth all around even if profit may have been sole motive.

Towards the South are museums, zoos, colleges, banks, and universities which are not quite good for South direction. Tourism, Hotels, and Hospitals are located on the western side, which is fine, because Jaipur thrives on tourism. If Jaipur wants to progress as an industrial city, then the city should shift towards the west side.
Once the industries go West and the ruler ship comes towards East, then the city will be more prominent.

Unfortunately, Jaipur’s administration – Vidhan Sabha,is in South West which is working against the state. Until Hyderabad, Chennai, and Kolkata got popularity, Jaipur remained the state capital of Rajasthan but didn’t have better infrastructure and airport facilities. As it has always remained a tourist spot, many areas are still underdeveloped. Jaipur has been given a step motherly treatment during the Congress rule during the past decades.
From Vaastu perspective, if Jaipur can shift its headquarters to eastern side and residential towards northern side then it can become a world-class city.
Jaipur is yet to consolidate its political hold in modern India.