How Sawai Jai Singh laid the foundation of Jaipur


Jai Singh II, a child prodigy, came to the Rajput throne in 1699. He was the one to form Jaipur. The young lad quickly impressed the 71-year-old Aurangzeb who awarded him the title ‘Sawai’, meaning one-and-a-quarter.

There is a story behind it. When Jai Singh was small, his father took him to Aurangzeb’s court. There Aurangzeb held his hand. After that, he asked him, “What will you do now that I have held your hand?” Jai Singh replied, “Now that such a great emperor is holding my hand, I have become the greatest. Now I can do anything.” This made the emperor happy and he conferred the title.

Jai Singh II, having proved his soldiering ability further enriched his coffers and fulfilled his other passions – the arts and sciences. At the young age of 11, Sawai Jai Singh came to power. His father was Maharaja Bishan Singh. He had died leaving his son, the only successor, to the throne.

Six months after his accession, Aurangzeb ordered Jai Singh to serve in his ruinous Deccan Wars. But there was a delay of about one year in his response to the call. One of the reasons for this was that the emperor ordered him to recruit a large force, in excess of the contingent required by his mansab. He also had to conclude his marriage with the daughter of Udit Singh, the nephew of Raja Uttam Ram Gaur of Sheopur in March 1701.

Jai Singh reached Burhanpur on August 3, 1701, but he could not proceed further due to heavy rains. On September 13, 1701, there was an additional cut in his rank (by 500). Along with that, he got his payment. Aurangzeb rewarded his feat of arms at the siege of Khelna (1702) by the mere restoration of his earlier rank and the title of Sawai (Sawai-meaning one and a quarter, that is, more capable than one man).

Sawai Jai Singh saw the demise of the Mughal emperor with his own eyes. This happened after Aurangzeb died in 1707. The death of Aurangzeb (1707) at first only increased Jai Singh’s troubles. His patrons Bidar Bakht and his father Azam were on the losing side in the Mughal war of succession—the victorious Bahadur Shah continued Aurangzeb’s hostile and bigoted policy towards the Rajputs by attempting to occupy their lands. Sawai Jai Singh formed an alliance with the Rajput states of Mewar and Marwar, which defeated and expelled the Mughals from Rajputana. 

He developed a keen interest in mathematics and astronomy.

Due to the increasing population and scarcity of water, he dreamt of establishing a new city. The impressive giant stone instruments which he devised for the open-air observatories at Jaipur, Delhi, Ujjain, and Varanasi stand testimony to his scientific prowess.

After ascending the throne, he shifted the capital from Amer. He studied the architecture of several European cities and drew up plans for constructing a larger and well-planned city.

After building close bonds with the Mughals and being sure that there could be no danger to his throne, Sawai Jai Singh, envisioned his dream project, the building of Jaipur.

He laid the foundation stone in 1727 and asked an eminent architect from Bengal, Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, to design the city. Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya, following the principles of Shilpa Shastra, and referencing the ancient Indian knowledge on astronomy, further developed and discussed the plan with Jai Singh.

Historians say that the foundation of the city was on 18th November 1727 by Jai Singh himself. It took minutely planned strategies and 4 years for the city to come to form. The ruler named the city Jaipur as ‘Jai’ means victory and was also the ruler’s first name.

People later chose this place as the capital of Rajasthan formed from the amalgamation of various kingdoms. It was a tribute to both Jai Singh and Bhattacharya.

The ruler planned this city in a grid system of seven blocks of buildings with wide straight avenues lined with trees. Along with it, the palace was on the north side. Surrounding it are high walls. 10 gates pierce these walls. The sites of the shops were chosen after careful planning and they are arranged in nine rectangular city sectors (chokris).

Jaipur was the first sizable city in north India to be built from scratch, though the famous pink color symbolizing welcome, came later when Ram Singh II received the Prince of Wales in 1876.

The color was chosen after several experiments to cut down the intense glare from the reflection of the blazing rays of the sun. To this day, the buildings in Jaipur are uniformly rose pink.

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