Painted temples, uniform shops and some original havelies that haven't been tampered with make this an interesting area to walk in. This walk allows you to see a bit of the inner section of the city to observe the layout of the residential blocks. A good place if you want to shop for some silver.
Parking. There is an ample parking available here. Leave your taxi outside Kishanpol Gate, better known as Ajmeri Gate. Fortunately, the gates have been so designed that there is a lot of open area on either side of the gate. You could take a scooter/cycle rickshaw back from Choti Chaupad or get your taxi to meet you there.
Places of Interest. Ajmeri Gate - Kishanpole Bazar - Sanghon ka Raasta - Maharaja College of Arts - Ajaibghar ka Raasta - Chokri Modikhana - Digambar Jain Temple - Harsh Behari ka Mandir - Bhagat Mishthan Bhandar - Maharaja Girls School - Kotwali - Shri Sitaramji ka Mandir - Choti Chaupad.
The Walk. Kishanpol is the first gate located on the south side of the city wall and the first major road that cuts across the main street of the city - the one that runs from east (Chandpol Gate) to west (Surajpol Gate). All the gates are pink in colour and similar in design. There are two smaller openings flanking the bigger one in the centre. The top portion has domed and pillared pavilions and a parapet with loopholes for musketry. Walk in through the gate and head northwards. There is a divider on this road that is a new addition but it is easy to cross over to the other side when you want to do so. There is a lot of crisscross that you will need to do because there are interesting things to see and do on both sides of the road.
This was one of the four originally planned markets in the walled city, the other three being Johari Bazar, Sireh Deorhi Bazar and Gangauri Bazar. Notice the uniformity in shape and size of the shops lining both sides of the 108 ft wide street. The shops are also conveniently numbered. There are some incongruous structures that have come up that do mar the beauty of the original facade but you can still see several houses that have not changed over the years.
The shops here sell all manner of goods. The first few are mainly those selling ayurvedic and allopathic medicines, general stores to cater to the residential areas located behind the market followed by a large number of cycle shops. This market also comes more alive in the month of January during the kite festival held on Makar Sankranti when a lot of temporary kite shops come up here. Making kites and the different strings that go with it, the plain sadda and the glass-coated manja is an intricate art in itself. It needs a little practise to get these colourful kites in the air but if you want to try your hand at it, go right ahead and ask any passing youngster to help and he will do so very happily.
Makar Sankranti (January, 14). This annual kite flying festival is held on the 14th of January, Makar Sankranti according to the Indian calendar. This is the day when the sun enters the northern hemisphere from the southern and is considered a very auspicious day for Hindus. This day is marked by visits to the temple and other religious activities. Temporary kite shops spring up all over the city markets. People here are known for their expertise in kite flying and this activity is taken very seriously by the young and the old, sometimes leading to unpleasant brawls over kites. There are contests and one is considered victorious if one is able to bring down the opponent's kite.
The phenomenon starts well before the day of Makar Sakranti as kites make their appearance weeks ahead - and continue weeks after the festival. But on the 14th of January, it is a treat to watch the skyline of the Pink City. This is the time when you will be tempted to look up as you walk but do keep your eyes on the road because boys tend to spring out of almost nowhere as they go running in the streets with long poles trying to capture kites. Hundreds of kites in the sky, kite flyers on terraces, loud music blaring from almost every rooftop... It is a crazy time, but full of fun as the entire city seems to be in a festive mood. It is truly an unforgettable experience.
It is interesting to note that the craft of blue pottery in Jaipur is very closely linked to that of kite flying. In the days of Maharaja Ram Singh II, there was a royal kite-flying department that organised kite fights. During one such contest, two young potters from Achnera, near Agra, were among the participants. Try as the royal kite flyers did, they could not bring down the kites of these simple potters. After the fight was over, Ram Singh called the potters and congratulated them. He also wanted to know how they were able to cut across the superior royal strings. Kalu and Churaman, the potters, explained that they had coated their strings with powdered glass that they used in their pottery. Ram Singh immediately invited them to move to Jaipur and teach the local potters this new skill. The potters shifted here and blue pottery became an integral part of Jaipur. This art, all but vanished at the start of this century but was revived by the tireless efforts of Maharani Gayatri Devi and continues to flourish to this day.
Sanghon (or Sanghakon) ka Raasta. If you are walking on the left side, cross over when you see shop number 266 on the right. There is a narrow lane just after this shop called Sanghon ka Raasta. It is tiny and crowded so look out for scooters and rickshaws driving at a far greater speed than they should. Go into it and keep walking straight until you get to a large open area. The chowk, courtyard, was originally planned as a community space between a block of houses but is used as a car park by the people living there. You needn't go into the parking lot. Turn immediately on your right and you will find a Digambar Jain temple built in 1788, the entrance to which is almost concealed behind the shutters of some shops. Walk up the steps and you will see beautiful murals on the wall. Before you come down the steps, look across the temple and on the other side is a beautifully painted entrance to an old haveli, two floors of which have been thoroughly modernised. There is an equal mix of traditional and modern in this block.
Come down from the temple and walk left on the Maniharon ka Raasta. The lane is narrow and a little crowded but interesting because you will see many havelies with some quaint little windows, painted entrances and stained glass ventilators. This diversion will also give you an idea of how the streets and residential houses were planned. As you walk in, you find yourself looking at blocks of houses with just a tiny decorative opening into the street. In some of the fancier houses there are carved balconies, pillars, painted walls and other decorative features but there is not much indication as to what the inner portion is like. In fact, that is the beauty and ingenuity of the design.
Houses in the city were so designed as to be compatible to the climatic as well as social conditions. The buildings always covered the entire plot of land and opened into central courtyards. Normally there were two courtyards; one for use by the male members of the family and their guests and the inner courtyard was for the exclusive use of women. The nobles and important ministers tried to copy the design of their maharaja's palace and sometimes their houses had as many as seven courtyards.
The most interesting and well-maintained haveli here, on the left, is the Kala Bhawan with its painted green exterior and two old lampposts. Maharaja Ram Singh II installed these lampposts on the city streets in 1838 at the cost of rupees twenty-five each. There are very few of these lampposts left in the city now. Go past this haveli and take the first turn left.
This is the Ajaibghar ka Raasta. Keep on this lane until you come out into Kishanpole Bazar again. Just before you turn right to reach the Maharaja Art College, you will see a pavement stall where chapatis and vegetables are being cooked on the roadside. What is special about this place is that sixty-five year old Nomi Devi Kalal has been running it for the past thirty years and provides two chapatis and two vegetable curries for as little as two rupees.
As you come back to Kishanpole Bazar, the huge corner building on your left is the Rajasthan School of Art also known as Maharaja Art College. It was originally built as a residence for Pandit Shiv Deen, prime minister during the time of Ram Singh II, but unfortunately he did not live long enough to enjoy this palatial haveli. It was converted into an art college in 1866. It is one of the several educational, cultural and welfare institutions founded by Ram Singh II. Go into the college by all means if you want to have a closer look.
From the college, look straight ahead on the other side of the road at the temple called Harsh Behari ka Mandir. Cross over for a closer look at the temple that still has a few traces of decorative finishing. Though in a sad state of disrepair at least the original structure has not been tampered with.
Now keep on this side of the road and look up on both sides and you will see quite a few of the original structures holding their own against modern buildings of steel and glass. Look out for two old structures on the right above shop numbers 294-293 (the shop numbers are in decreasing order). A little ahead, on the same side is shop no 261, an old antique shop established in AD 1860. Other interesting old structures to look out for (on the right side) are above shop numbers 243-240 and 200 to 194. On the left side, the building above shop number 105-106 is worth a closer look.
As you approach the end of this road, you'll see more shops dealing with jute, bamboo, straw and a local grass called sun. Sacks, brooms, ladders, ropes and hemp strings, cots, baskets and steel furniture seem to spill out on the roads.
Another interesting item you can see here is an indigenous brush - kutchi that is used for white wash. This jute brush is still widely used despite all manner of modern brushes now available in the market. There is a great demand for these kutchis and kali (lime) before the festival of Diwali. Traditionally, people clean and white wash their homes just before this festival of lights and generally wait for this time of the year to buy new things for the house.
By now, one is nearly at the end of Kishanpole Bazar. Just before you reach Choti Chaupad look for Bhagat Misthan Bhandar, shop number 185 on the right side of the road. This shop has been selling the most delicious laddoos and balushahi for several years. They are cooked in pure ghee (clarified butter) and lethal for calorie watchers. But try one anyway!
Come back on the left side again as you are about to enter one of the most beautiful buildings not only on this street but also in Jaipur - the Maharaja Girls High School, originally the Nataniyon ki Haveli. Noon Karan Natani was a rich banker who owned property all over town. This haveli is also known as the saat chowk ki haveli or the haveli with seven courtyards. Part of this haveli has been converted into a police station.
Carved balconies with intricate jaali (lattice) work make this an outstanding example of the capabilities and architectural skills of the Jaipur builders. You can go in if you want but the exterior is far more interesting. The sheer size of this building will astonish you. To see the other part of the haveli, keep to the side of the school building, past the silver shops and you will come to one of the prettiest police stations you will ever see - the Kotwali! Go past this police station until you reach the steps of the Shri Sitaramji temple. Climb up and take a look at the temple interiors as well as the surrounding areas. It is a popular viewing place as it provides some very good views of the city, as well as Nahargarh in the background. One interesting feature of these chaupads is the fact that there are huge temples placed on all sides of the square.
The chaupad that you are looking down is the first major intersection on the Chandpol - Surajpol Street. Come down the steps and immediately on the left is Vijay Stores (number 245-246) a popular shop that sells diet friendly roasted stuff that you can pick up. It is safe and totally fat free.
Choti Chaupad. Choti Chaupad was originally called Amber ki Chaupad and served as one of the two main squares for public gatherings. In fact, you can see its use even today as people sit in this area chatting and generally doing what is known as "time pass". This intersection joins four important roads - Chandpole Bazaar to the west, Gangauri Bazaar to the north, Tripolia Bazaar to the east and Kishanpole Bazar to the south.
Come back towards the Kotwali (police station), go past it and cross the road. This is the end of Kishanpole Bazar on the right of Choti Chaupad. The walk ends here and you can find a scooter/cycle rickshaw to take you back or you can explore the Chaupad some more if you want. There are a lot of interesting silver shops here where you can pick up inexpensive gifts and mementoes.