Within the palace grounds

Exploring various aspects of life in Jaipur's royal quarters
Within the palace grounds
Within the palace grounds

On my first visit to Jaipur's City Palace years ago, I made the mistake of visiting only a part of the complex (the Sarvato Bhadra courtyard). This error was subsequently rectified. But Jaipur City Palace (Roli Rs 595), a book that's full of great photographs and functional text, is a reminder of how multi-faceted the palace complex is. As authors Vibhuti Sachdev and Giles Tillotson point out, this is the most extensive palace of a Hindu ruler of the Mughal era to survive intact, and its historical importance can't be overstated.

That said, the title of this work is slightly misleading. The city palace isn't so much the lead character here as a constant presence in the background &mdash what Sachdev and Tillotson have done is to use it as a pretext to explore various aspects of life in Jaipur's royal quarters in the 200 or so years leading up to 1949. Accordingly, this book covers the convoluted history of dynastic succession, the artistry of the period and the various festivals and ceremonies that took place within the palace grounds. (There is a chapter detailing the buildings in the complex as well.) Some of this information may seem tangential, but it's undoubtedly interesting to learn, for instance, that on festive occasions, &ldquofirst class guests&rdquo were presented with Gold Flake cigarettes while the &ldquothird class&rdquo lot had to make do with Hyderabadi Golcondas

There are nearly as many coffee-table books on Jaipur as there are havelis in the city, and much of the material here has been previously covered elsewhere, but for the reader seeking acquaintance with the city through literature, this is an elegant starting point.

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