Jaipur is one of Rajasthan’s younger cities, founded in 1727. In 1700, Jai Singh II succeeded at the tender age of thirteen to the throne of the Kuchwaha Rajputs in Amber, inheriting a realm that encompassed Shekhawati to the north, and spread east to the borders of the kingdom of the Jats at Bayana, south to Aligarh, and west to Kishangarh where its boundaries met the mighty kingdoms of the Mewars (Udaipur) and Marwars (Jodhpur). Although the Kuchwaha Rajputs had been the first to ally themselves with the Moghuls, in 1561, thereby inviting contempt from other Rajput clans, the free flow of trade, art and ideas with their obliging overlords had by this time won them great prosperity. Jai Singh’s sharp wit greatly impressed the Moghul emperor Aurangzeb, who bestowed upon him the title of “Sawai” (one and a quarter), to imply his superlative potential. Jai Singh proved his distinction, excelling in battle, politics and learning, and quickly showing an aptitude for astronomy and an extraordinary passion for symmetry.
When Jai Singh decided to move his capital south from the cramped hilly area of Amber, he drew up plans for the new city of Jaipur, named after himself, in accordance with the ancient Hindu treatise Shilpa Sashtra, a formal exposition on architecture written soon after the compilation of the Vedas. With the aid of the superb Bengali architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharaya, he had the city built in under eight years, following the sacred guidelines with unrivaled precision. The City Palace was also designed by him, as was Jantar Mantar, the largest stone-built observatory in the world.
After Jai Singh’s fruitful 43-year reign came an inevitable battle for succession between the offspring he had fathered with 28 wives and four concubines, and the state was thrown into turmoil. Much of its territory was lost to Marathas and Jats, and the British quickly moved in to take advantage of Rajput infighting, gaining power for themselves while forming alliances with the Rajputs to avoid inconvenient conflict. Unlike their neighbors in Delhi and Agra, the rulers of Jaipur remained loyal to the British during the bloody uprisings of 1857. Following Independence, Jaipur merged with the states of Bikaner, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer; it became capital of Rajasthan in 1956. Today, with a population bordering on two million, the state’s most advanced commercial and business center remains as prosperous as ever.