This is one of the most un-spoilt areas of the walled city. No commercial complexes have come up here and the residential use of this Chowkri Purani Basti has been maintained. Unlike the other chowkris, this one is not as crowded and offers a leisurely walk where one can observe the special features that make Jaipur special. The layout of the streets and the residences, the decorative entrances, the well planned havelies with their courtyards, the tiny windows planned in a way that they kept the harsh sun out and allowed enough light and air to filter in.
Parking. Gangauri Bazaar is a fairly wide street and parking is available on the left of Choti Chaupad. It is a good idea to have the taxi pick you up at the finishing point near Chandpol, just outside Uniara Raoji ka Raasta.
Places of Interest. Choti Chaupad - Gangauri Bazaar - Langar ke Balaji ka Raasta - Jailal Munshi ka Raasta - Pandit Shivdasji ka Raasta - Balanandji ka Math.
The Walk. Choti Chaupad is a busy traffic intersection so cross over to the Gangauri Bazaar side carefully. You will see several fruit and vegetable sellers on the left side. Also on the left side are steps leading to a temple on the top left side with two marble elephants at the entrance. This is the Shri Chaturbhuj temple. You can climb up for a look at the beautiful frescoes and for another view of the Chaupad - this time towards Kishanpole Bazar to the south.
Keep to the left and walk past the carts of fruit sellers and then down the road that slopes down towards the north - the Gangauri Bazaar.
Gangauri Bazaar. This road has been named after the famous festival of Gangaur. It is the most important local festival celebrated in Jaipur. This spring festival is held in honour of Gauri, the goddess of abundance. Girls dress up in their finest clothes and pray for a spouse of their choice, while married ladies do the same for the happiness of their husbands. Although celebrated throughout Rajasthan with great enthusiasm, the celebrations in Jaipur have their own charm and attraction.
Colourful images of Gauri, beautifully dressed and bejewelled, are taken out in procession with the town band in attendance. Thousands of people from the countryside come to the city to be a part of the procession. It is a delightful time to be in Jaipur as you see cheerful men and women in their colourful best out to enjoy every moment of their time away from home: shopping, eating at roadside stalls and singing folk songs with gay abandon.
The procession in Jaipur starts from the City Palace and passes through Gangauri Bazaar to go on to Chaugan.
The streets here are also lined with uniform shops but what is most interesting here is that there are as many temporary shops on the pavement as there are built shops. Pavement shops seem to dominate this stretch from Choti Chaupad down to Gangauri Bazaar. Men and women can be seen selling mainly vegetables and fruits while behind them are shops selling grain, molasses, cheap furniture made from packing crates and other recycled wood. The Indian easy chair known as mudha is also available here. It is a market known for its reasonable rates.
Walk down this street and keep your eyes open because like in the other markets, there are still a lot of old buildings that have not been tampered with. Painted entrances, carved balconies, all typical of the Jaipur style of architecture can be found here. Almost every other building here is a temple, among the important ones are on the left Roop Chaturbhujji temple, after shop number 16 and Shri Girdhariji temple after shop number 53. Look out for other interesting structures - a beautiful painted doorway after shop number 49, soon after the temples, called Choti Maharaniji ka Nohra (it has Khandelwal Bhawan written outside it) and Badi Maharaniji ka Nohra. Nothing seems to have changed in these buildings over the years and they seem to belong to the eighteenth century, if not earlier. That, in fact, can be said of quite a few buildings on both sides of this road. Do not be in a hurry to walk past the buildings. There is much to see here and enjoy - like the remnant of an iron lamppost just outside shop number 671 on the right. Also, do not be surprised if some local lads decide to give you an unasked for guided tour. It may just be worth it!
Keep walking straight until you have walked past a gate on your right known as the Gangauri Gate. You cannot miss it because it is the only gate on the right and the name is written very clearly on it. This is one very good thing you will find in Jaipur, names are written on the corner of every lane.
On your left, just before a rather wide lane that turns left is Shri Vijay Govindji's temple. Walk on the left side of the road until you come to a lane called Langar ke Balaji ka Raasta.
This road runs parallel to the Chandpol Bazaar. The entry point seems a little congested but after you have walked for a few yards you will notice that it is quite a wide lane. It will take you past a few small shops, workshops and newly constructed temples. Look on both sides of the road and you will see interesting structures.
After you have walked about half a kilometre, you will see a huge tree right in the middle of the road. Go past this and then take the first left after the tree. The corner building is also a temple albeit a modern one with another tree growing inside the walled enclosure. This is the Jailal Munshi ka Raasta.
Jailal Munshi ka Raasta. Jailal Munshi was a respected figure in the Maharaja's darbar and a lot of lanes in the walled city have been named after important dignitaries working with the Maharajas viz. Nataniyon ka Raasta, Vidyadhar ka Raasta, Haldiyon ka Raasta, Sanghiji ka Raasta and so on.
Walk slowly because this is one of the least exploited areas of the walled city. See the havelies, still in very good condition; see the lanes without too much encroachment having marred their beauty. Watch elderly people sitting outside their havelies and chatting or just watching the world go by. There are no speeding scooter or motorcycles trying to push you off the road nor are there any crowds that you need to jostle against. Stop at a temple, and there are several on this road, and look at the beautiful interiors. People are generally quite warm and friendly and will happily give you any information that you need.
This walk will take you to a crossing with Diwan Shivdasji ka Raasta cutting across Jailal Munshi ka Raasta. Turn right on this road and you'll find this slightly narrower lane going past some more interesting old havelies.
On the left is Shri Gopinathji temple. You cannot miss the extensively painted and arched entrance. Chowkri Purani Basti was earmarked for the palatial havelies of the leading courtiers of Jaipur. The havelies of the thakurs (nobles) of Bagru, Uniara, Mahar, etc., are all located in this section. Care was taken to ensure proper drainage and good lighting. At the time of Maharaja Ram Singh II, a Gas Lighting Department was set up that looked after the upkeep of streetlights. There were cleaners who would start work at very early hours to keep the streets clean and a bhisthi, a water carrier, would carry water in a pakhal, a treated buffalo skin bag carried on the back with an outlet to sprinkle water, as he moved on the street to settle the dust.
This has remained largely a residential area and there are very few commercial complexes here. Shops do exist but not as many as you would find in some of the other areas. You can walk at a leisurely pace without having to worry too much about traffic. But do look out for stray animals.
Towards the end of this lane you will find Khatu House on the left side, the ancestral home of the world-renowned photographer, late Raghubir Singh (whose books "Rajasthan" and "Ganga" had won him world acclaim). It is the corner haveli, just before the Uniara Raoji ka Raasta. Don't miss the stone stubs outside this well-preserved haveli that were once used to tie horses.
Go past Khatu House and up ahead you will see a huge building that seems to dominate the skyline. That is the Balanandji ka Math. Just after Khatu House, the road will fork into two. Take the right one and keep on it, it will lead you to the huge complex. Just outside the gate is a dairy - a small hut with some half a dozen buffaloes tied inside.
Balanandji ka Math. The imposing structure that confronts you has a very interesting history behind it. Vrajanand, a recluse was the Jagat Guru, or Universal Teacher of the Ramanuja sect of the Vaishnavas during Jai Singh's time. The maharaja held the guru in great reverence and became his disciple. He built this Vishnu temple for the sanyasi. It is now known as the Balanandji's math because after Vrajanand's death, his disciple Balanandji Maharaj took over the role of guru from his master. He went on to play a very crucial role in providing a defence force to the Jaipur state. The math was used as a state military base with several thousand militant Naga sadhus living here. These sadhus proved their mettle against the Mughal armies as well in the battle of Tunga and Bharatpur.
The complex used to be a hub of activity with the militants and their fleet of horses and elephants. These sadhus were respected for their valour in battle but their number dwindled drastically and today there are only four sadhus living here. For most of the year, this place is quiet and pretty lifeless but once a year, on the day of Balanandji birth anniversary, hundreds of sadhus gather here to pay homage to their guru.
Come back towards Khatu House and walk out from the Uniara Raoji ka Raasta that is the lane adjoining Khatu House. This lane has some other havelies like the Uniara House, Raithal House, Man House, Shahpura House but most of them are either sold or rented out.
One interesting aspect of this lane is that it leads to that section of Chandpole Bazar where the famous dancing girls, or tawaifs used to live. Jaipur used to be the centre of a Rajasthani dance form known as mujra. This dance was performed in kothas - special havelies belonging to families of the dancers. You will find a lot of black and white picture postcards of the better-known tawaifs of Jaipur with antique dealers.
Walk out to the Chandpole Bazar from where you can get public transport.