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Tales of History #02: The Tale of Awe-Inspiring Jaipur’s Pink Colour Code

by Travelature Team

Are you aware of the fact that Jaipur’s King Sawai Ram Singh II Painted his city pink to Impress the Prince of Wales; when he embarked on an extensive tour of India in 1875-76?

Nestled in the state of Rajasthan in northern India, Jaipur is about a one-hour flight from New Delhi, the capital of India. A visit to Jaipur, surrounded by fortresses and monuments, opens the door to our rich Rajputana culture’s cultural and archaeological history, which is dazzling in the hues of its noble and magnificent past.

The Ancient “Pink City” of Rajasthan, India, is a paradise for history lovers and is one of the most hospitable cities on mother earth. Created in 1726, Jaipur is considered amongst India’s first “planned” city in the Common Era. It has a rich history of a clan of rulers who lived in magnificent forts and palaces coloured in the hues of pastel shades.

Rich in its historical heritage, every corner of Jaipur contains an exciting antidote and a touch of old-world charm. The colour of the city also has interesting stories and theories.

The entire city of Jaipur’s single most striking feature, its pink colour, has a fascinating history related to the visit of the Prince of Wales and the foundation of Albert Hall.

Just imagine for a moment. Suppose you’re hosting a dinner party for a royal family member or having royal guests stay for the weekend. In that case, you may wonder what is the best way to welcome your visitors – do you go formal or choose a more relaxed approach? 

However, the King of Jaipur went beyond what was expected of receiving a guest.

To impress the Prince of Wales during his state visit on 4 February 1876, it is believed that the King has passed an order to have painted the entire city and its streets in the terracotta-pink colour that weren’t always so rosy earlier.

Before the state visit of Prince Albert Edward, the eldest son of Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert, the Jaipur buildings were “white” or “sallow yellow,” according to The Rough Guide to India.

Hoping to dazzle his royal counterpart, the ruling Maharaja (“great king”), Sawai Ram Singh II, decided to undertake some kind of renovation project.

Accordingly, he ordered that all buildings in the city be painted the shade of terracotta pink. This colour historically symbolizes welcoming and hospitality that still marvel at the inner and outer beauty of the town and its people. Also, the King experimented with colours like green and yellow before finally settling on pink.

The colour was more like a light maroon, but no one seemed to object to the city’s new moniker. The pigment was brought from Kanota, located about 10 miles away, and the mines were also dug closer to Jaipur to pull out the stone needed to produce a more pink colour. 

It is believed that at the urging of Maharaja’s favourite wife, who adored the colour scheme, he took one step further to pass a law making it illegal for buildings in the old city to be painted any colour other than “Jaipur pink” after its new and successful makeover. 

The law was passed in 1877 remains in effect today.

According to one story, the first person to call Jaipur a “rose city” was writer Stanley Reed, a Times of India correspondent. He wrote about the royal visit of the Prince of Wales.

It is believed that the Prince is seated on the back of an elephant with Maharaja Ram Singh II and their route lit by torchlight.

As for the King’s grand plan to impress its guests, it seems to have worked. Sir William Howard Russell, a reporter who accompanied the Prince and chronicled the trip, remarked, “We passed through a gateway, and Jaipur lay before us, a surprise and wonder forever.”

Jaipur’s King Sawai Ram Singh II understood the political advantage and opportunities of getting in Prince’s graces. So, in his name, Albert Edward, the King built the great Albert Hall Museum, modelled after Victoria and Albert Museum in London. So that he could build strong relations with the Britishers.

The Prince laid the first foundation stone of Albert Hall Museum during his visit on 6 February 1876, but the destiny yet to be predicted what use it would be put to. Further, it took ten years to build the beautiful Museum and was opened as a public museum in 1887.

All in all, this sandstone city is a jewel both for its clean design and for the grandeur of its traditional structures. 

A city of deserts, royalty, craft, and culture, Jaipur ensures that the people uphold its culture and history in every vibrant way. Jaipur is perhaps one of the few cities in the Indian subcontinent that beautifully reflects the combination of modernity and heritage.

Its sparkling traditions, customs and charm also earned the city the kind tag of the “Paris of India.” The colour that adorns the city is formed in the hearts of the people who inhabit it. It signifies the romanticism for life, art, music, festivals, rituals, old-world charm, and literature of a bygone era, guarded and kept alive by the people of Jaipur.

Perhaps that is why the city of gems has found a place on the Indian subcontinent as a shining example of culture, royal family, progress, and tradition merged into one.

The city doused in pink celebrates its richness and beauty by painting different strokes on each admirer’s soul with its opulence and beauty.

A visit to the city opens up your heart and soul to a bygone era. Who knows what new facet of pink this wonderful city may reveal to you!

Content Curator & Creative Writer

Juhi Chakravertty

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