"They wear a large number of jewels, rubies and diamonds to the ankles, so you can imagine how much they bring to their fingers, arms and ears." So wrote at the beginning of the 17th century the Florentine merchant Francesco Carletti about the profusion of gold and precious stones shown off to the courts of Rajasthan. All Italian travellers-merchants who ventured in India between the 15th and 18th centuries couldn't avoid the charm of fantastic wealth of gems and treasures that they saw during their stays in the courts of Mughal Emperors and of many Rajahs, lords of the small but powerful principalities spread throughout all the Indian territory. Those stories of enormous wealth, the opulent lifestyle of luxurious palaces have always exercised on the Western collective imagination an intriguing charm that continues still now, and after due consideration.
Who decides now to venture in India find, in fact, between an unexpected efficiency of tourist services and new infrastructures (hotels, communications, transports), the unchanged taste of the mirabilia described on the reports of ancient travelers.
Pearl of this syncretism between past and present is Jaipur, heart and capital of the North-western State of Rajasthan, which means "Land of Kings". Country of the Raiputs, warriors clan who ruled this part of India over a thousand years, Jaipur is the holographic image of the India of our dreams and fairy tales. The residences of the Maharajahs (today many of which have become hotels as the Rambagh Palace and Jai Mahal Palace) restore to the splendour of the "Thousand and One Night" with their gardens, fountains and gazebos made of white marble and peacocks which are free there, stables with spirited black horses, the porticoes covered by hibiscus where the warm wind of the Thar desert brings the tastes of nomadic encampments.
In the streets of the 'pink city', Jaipur was called in this way for its pink sandstone architectures, the camel drivers, with loud turbans moving slowly next to their desert animals, mingle with the lively traffic of vibrant red and booming Rajdoot motorcycles and the surviving yellow and black taxi Fiat 1100.Magicians with bushy moustache exhibit their trained monkeys between carts and stands loaded with fruit, food, pottery, textiles, glass bangles with changing colors in a thousand sounds and smells that no story about India will ever tribute it. Women with sinuous moves, wrapped into colorful whirling skirts and in tight embroidered corsages show their tinkling anklets, stranded belts, solid collars, have their arms and forearms covered with ivory bracelets, pierced nostrils with tangled earrings and their forehead beaded with precious pendants.
Yes, Jaipur is a paradise for those who are looking for ethnic jewellery and precious stones. The goldsmith tradition has ancient roots here. Famous were the productions of the goldsmiths rajasthani claimed by Mughal emperors. Since 1600 the kundan processing technique was famous. It consists on embedded cabochon rubies, emeralds and diamonds on solid gold surfaces, it is matched with the back of jewels. You can imagine the refinement and the sophistication to the enamelling, minakari, in the typical red, green and blue colours. A shining of wonders, treasure and identity of a region.
Author: Cristina Del Mare