May 15, 2008
Jaipur is considered by many urbanists to be one of the best planned cities. It has been claimed to be the first planned city in India. The city was planned according to Indian Vastu Shastra (Vedic or Pouranic Planning for the comfort and prosperity of the citizens). The directions of each street and Bazzar 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 in these directions, including the Northern gate which faces toward the ancestral capital of Amber, while many gates face South. 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. Thus, for Sawai Jai Singh II and the Bengali Guru Vidyadhar (who was a ‘Shaspati’ – Hindu Priest Architect), the founding of Jaipur was also a ritual and a bronze opportunity to plan a whole town according to the principles of Hindu architectural theory. The town of Jaipur is, in fact, built in the form of a eight-part Mandala known as the ‘Pithapada‘. Nine signifies the nine planets of the ancient astrological zodiac. It is also known that Sawai Jai Singh II was a great astronomer and a town planner, and hence the ‘Pithapada’. Also, the commercial shops are designed in multiples of nine (27), having one cross street for a planet
In the 19th century the city grew rapidly and became prosperous; by 1900 it had a population of 160,000. The city’s wide boulevards were paved and lit with gas. The city had several hospitals. Its chief industries were in metals and marble, fostered by a school of art founded in 1868. The city also had three colleges, including a Sanskrit college (1865) and a girls’ school (1867) initiated under the reign of the enigmatic Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II. There was also a wealthy and enterprising community of native bankers, particularly the Jains and the Marwaris.