The blushing pink city of Jaipur, India welcomes lovers with lavish palace hotels, a rich history, and the game of maharajas… elephant polo!
Mention India’s Golden Triangle and travelers can quickly come up with two stops on this must-see itinerary: Delhi and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.
But the third leg of the Golden Triangle is equally fascinating. At the edge of the desert, Rajasthan’s capital city of Jaipur is a destination all its own. Most buildings in the city are painted pink, a sign of welcoming. The color, which was chosen for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1876, also has a practical side: it cuts down on the glare of the midday sun.
The most beautiful blushing pink building, a true symbol of Jaipur, is the Hawa Mahal or the Palace of the Winds. This five-story building is actually not a palace at all but a collection of 593 screened windows that permitted the ladies of the royal court to look out upon street life without being seen.
The City Palace is still home to the royal family but we found several museums here featuring everything from textiles to art to weapons. One of the most fascinating stops at the palace is the artisans’ area in which the crafts of Rajasthan are made and sold. We watched the manufacturing of handmade paper, the creation of the famous blue and yellow pottery for which Jaipur is known, and the production of the famous miniature paintings.
After our look at the historic museums of the palace, it was time for us to explore Jaipur’s history in a more active manner: on elephant. At Jai Mahal Palace, we were to experience, if not the sport of kings, the sport of maharajas.
We were to play Elephant Polo.
Jai Mahal Palace is the world’s only place where visitors can watch this unique sport played year around. Although it’s not available every day, guests can check with their hotel for dates and times to watch and experience this one-of-a-kind sporting match.
Climbing high atop the elephants, each manned by a skilled mahout, two teams of three players each received their sticks, modified in length for playing elephant-back.
“Let the game begin!” the announcer yelled, tossing in what looked like an inflated volleyball.
Pop. Make that a deflated volleyball. After an elephant stepped a little too close, it was time to start again with a new ball.
The chase was on, albeit at an elephant’s pace. Sticks swung. Elephants bumped each other. Mahouts maneuvered the beasts into position. Another ball popped.
In the end, our team lost but the game was well worth the effort. After one final photo, it was time to head back to our room at Rambagh Palace and to (where else?) the Polo Bar.
Surrounded by polo trophies and memorabilia of the late Maharaja, we proudly recounted our elephant polo match to our fellow travelers. Like our stay in the maharaja’s palace, it was a day we’ll never forget.
For more information on Jai Mahal Palace and Rambagh Palace, contact the Taj Hotels at 800-44-UTELL FREE or see http://www.tajhotels.com.
Paris Permenter & John Bigley are founders of www.LoveTripper.com – a romantic travel site featuring getaways of special interest to lovers in search of a honeymoon, a destination wedding, or a weekend away.
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