HOLI IN THE PINK CITY
BY DAVID PRIOR
One of humanity’s most riotously colourful celebrations, India’s Holi festival erupts each year in a free-for-all of joyously splashed neon powder to herald the arrival of spring. There is no more enlivening place to experience it than Jaipur, which year-round is the country’s most visually stimulating design capital. Known as the Pink City for the profusion of salmon-hued facades, its street stalls are awash in handicrafts, Hindu temples on every other block, and gem cutters, jewelry makers and textile designers who still flourish in what was a historic nexus for merchants and maharajas.
On the first evening of the two-day festivities of Holi—taking place on March 20 and 21 this year in Jaipur—a bonfire celebration named ignites, with people singing and dancing around giant burning pyres to mark the triumph of good over evil. The next morning, you won’t need to walk far before being beset upon by laughing children and grown-ups hurling water bombs and brightly hued powder in streets across the city. Aside from the festival, take your time to soak up the colour and craftsmanship that are a constant in Jaipur’s everyday life.
Wholesale Flower Market (Phool Mandi)
Best seen at dawn, this heaving flower market (locally known as Phool Mandi) sees vendors trade from burlap sacks sliced open and bursting with freshly plucked marigolds, roses, chrysanthemums and heady tuberoses. Blooms and garlands are bargained for by weight, then carted off on bikes, tuk-tuks, donkeys and heads to celebrations and temples.
Janta Market, Jaipur
A nirvana of glittering goods overseen for nine generations by the Kasliwal family, Gem Palace is Jaipur’s most beguiling jewelry emporium. Arrange a visit to the atelier—which boasts a client book spanning royals and celebrities—to learn a little about the artisanship that goes into the wares and commission your own keepsake, which might range from a simple silver ring to an umpteen-carat creation.
Don’t be deceived by the nondescript frontage of this store, which belies what is Jaipur’s most essential stop for lovers of textiles. Its overflowing catalogue is crammed with brightly coloured bedcovers, kurtas, umbrellas, tunics, scarves and plenty more in all manner of styles sourced from across India.
Tucked away in the Old City, this 18th-century haveli hotel hosts traditional Rajasthani puppet shows and musical performances in the frangipani-scented garden. After the entertainment, pop your head into some of the many ornately appointed alcoves and rooms of this one-time residence for the rulers of Samode.
Samode Haveli © Gentl & Hyers
Brigitte Singh Studio
Wrangle an appointment to see the studio of French-born block-printing master Brigitte Singh, one of the city’s many expatriate designers, whose apparel and linens are the stuff of legend. In her bougainvillea-covered haveli on Jaipur’s outskirts you can watch block-printing artisans at work and buy prized stock that is unrivaled in caliber and detail.
On any given night, you’ll rub shoulders with creatives, decorators and design-minded travellers from around the world at , the Mughal-meets-Venetian fantasy brought into being by Dutch decorator Marie-Anne Oudejans. Floral banquettes, hand-painted murals and peacock-blue arches set the scene for a languorous hangout that doubles as a restaurant specializing in Italian fare.