The Maharajas of Jaipur

A brief look at the city's 276 year-old history will give you a fair idea of the city's development. Each period of history made it's own contribution to this thriving city.

Sawai Jai Singh II died in 1743, sixteen years after he had founded the city, and was succeeded by his son Ishwari Singh (r. 1743-1750) who in his brief reign of seven years patronised many literary works; had a beautiful chhatri erected in his father's memory, built the Moti Burj in Chaugan and the impressive seven-storied Ishwar Lat or Swarga Suli in Tripolia.

Madho Singh I (r. 1750-1767) was the brother of Ishwari Singh and came to the throne after a bitter and decisive battle with the latter. He was a large man at 6 1/2 feet and weighed over 250 kg. In the seventeen years of his rule, he tried to wipe out the infamy connected to his accession. He made a remarkable contribution in several fields from art and architecture to religion and literature. He founded the city of Sawai Madhopur; built the Madho Niwas and Diwan-I-Am in the City Palace; Madho Vilas near Zorawar Singh Gate (where Maharani Gayatri Devi started her MGD Girls Public School, now an Ayurveda College); the Jal Mahal Palace on Amber Road and the Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh on Agra Road.

Prithvi Singh (r. 1767-78) came to the throne at the tender age of five and died at the age of sixteen when he fell off a horse. He never did get to do much as his stepmother Chandrawatji and her trusted ministers held the power. The eleven years of his reign were full of conspiracies and political strife.

Pratap Singh (r. 1778-1803) was Chandrawatji's own son and took over as Maharaja at the age of fourteen. He wrote poetry under the name of Brijnidhi and was a great devotee of Lord Krishna. He constructed eight temples devoted to him - the important ones being Brijnidhiji, Anandkrishna Behari, Anand Behariji and Madan Mohanji. He constructed the fountains behind the Govinddevji temple. But he is remembered more for building the most famous monument of Jaipur - the Hawa Mahal.

Jagat Singh (r. 1803-1818) ruled for fifteen years but his reign is marked more for his love life than reforms of any kind. His twenty-one wives and twenty-four concubines gave him little time to devote to the affairs of the state. He became obsessed with a courtesan by the name of Ras Kapoor and wanted to make her the maharani of half his kingdom causing a lot of discontent amongst his courtiers.

Jai Singh III (r. 1818-1835) was a minor who ruled under the minority council that was guided by the East India Company. He died under mysterious circumstances without making any significant contribution.

He was followed by one of the most remarkable rulers of Jaipur - Ram Singh II (r. 1835-1880) who was also a minor when he came to the throne. This enlightened ruler was a great patron of art and learning, a photographer and an able administrator whose rule is known as the golden age of Jaipur. Listing his various administrative reforms and contribution to the state would require a separate book in itself. In fact, the Maharaja was known to wander around in the streets at night to apprise himself of the condition of the poor and the destitute. In the forty-five years of his rule, he made innumerable public buildings and set up offices to give better education, roads, lights and water supply. He is remembered today for major works of public utility, most of which have survived over the years.

Some of his important buildings are the Town Hall, Mayo Hospital, Ram Niwas Garden and Albert Hall Museum, Ram Prakash Theatre and Maharaja School of Arts & crafts.

Ram Singh II adopted Madho Singh II (r. 1880-1922) from a nearby village called Isarda. He was an orthodox Hindu and undertook steps to improve the irrigation, railways and education system of Jaipur. However, he is best remembered for the wrong reasons - the size of his harem - he had five wives, eighteen official mistresses and at the time of his death there were five thousand concubines and eunuchs in the zenana. The well known courtesans of that time were Durga, Shirin, Lalan, Khairan and Gohar Jan. He was invited to England in 1901 for the coronation of King Edward VII and he travelled by a liner called S.S. Olympia that was redesigned to include a Krishna temple. He also took two huge silver urns containing holy water from the Ganges River. The holy water transported all the way to England in the 349 kg silver urns was enough to last him until his visit overseas.

Man Singh II (r. 1922-1949) was the second son of Thakur Sawai Singh of Isarda and was adopted by Madho Singh II at the age of ten. He was a world-class polo player and widely recognised as the father of new Jaipur. He went on to become the Rajpramukh of Rajasthan and later the ambassador to Spain. Among his many notable contributions to Jaipur were the construction of the Zenana Hospital, the Maharaja's and Maharani's Colleges, SMS Hospital, Medical College, Rajasthan University, Moti Doongri, Lily Pool, modifications to the Rambagh Palace and the present Secretariat. He married Maharani Gayatri Devi who was famed for her beauty and is mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records for winning an election by the highest majority ever. He died in 1970 while playing polo in Cirencester, England.

Maharaja (Brigadier) Bhawani Singh continues to reside in the City Palace with his family and has had to come to terms with the changing times. He is a much-decorated soldier of the Indian Army and was awarded a Mahavir Chakra, the second highest gallantry award, for his role in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. He takes a keen interest in the running of the City Palace Museum.

Swarga Suli (Isar Lat)

Maharaja Ishwari Singh built it in AD 1749 to commemorate a grand victory. There is another popular story attached to this structure. It is said that Ishwari Singh made it with the sole purpose of looking at the beautiful daughter of his Prime Minister Hargobind Natani who lived in a haveli opposite the Swarga Suli. Protocol did not allow him to go to her house and he was so enamoured with her that he would spend hours looking at her secretly from the tower.

Keep walking straight on this road. Further ahead on the left is the impressive Tripolia Gate. You cannot miss it because it is the next large structure after the Isar Lat. This gate overlooks one of the busiest streets of the walled city called Chaura Rasta. The market on either side of the Gate is known as Tripolia Bazar. It is again a crowded, noisy and interesting area.

Swarga Suli (Isar Lat)