Chaupars, bazaars and havelis

SHIKHA JAIN

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WHILE post-independence Jaipur has extended well beyond the walled city into a modern sprawling settlement, the city’s cultural identity is still embedded in its living, historic core with its thriving bazaars and landmark monuments. Looking back to the origin of Jaipur we realize that the genesis of this uniquely planned city lay in Sawai Jai Singh’s vision of the new capital as a move away from the previous conventional Rajput hill towns to a planned city based on trade and commerce.

The sandy site on the plains south of the earlier capital of Amber served as an ideal location for the Jaipur Plan. The site facilitated an open, clear iron grid framework for the city with commercial streets of monumental scale. Jai Singh’s vision was translated into a city plan that integrated traditional planning guidelines with contemporary Mughal architectural vocabulary and showcased a political will to define new concepts for a trade city that subsequently became a model for town planning. The city was built with extraordinary foresight. It is probably the only 18th century historic city in India where the bazaars can still cope with the present day pressures of vehicular traffic.

The building of the city and its surrounding walls and gates began after performing the necessary propitiatory rites on 18 November 1727; the astrologer priest who conducted these ceremonies was granted eight bighas of rent free land in Hathroi village. In 1729 merchants were invited through despatched letters and by 1732, the construction of Govind Mahal, Brahmapuri, Haveli of Pundrikji, Yajanshala (near Saraswati Kund), Badal Mahal, Rajamal ka Talab and Rajamal ki Haveli, Jaleb Chowk, Ram Chowk, Pahadganj, Suraj Pol, Ram Ganj, Manak Chowk, Shiv Pol and Chand Pol was complete.

The marking of the two North-South and the East-West axis was completed with clearly defined square public chowks at each crossing, later named as Badi Chaupar (Manek Chowk), Choti Chaupar and Ramganj Chaupar. Historically, the chaupars not only served as important community spaces but also housed the main water source for the city with huge underground reservoirs in the centre linked to the Mansagar lake. These water reservoirs were closed up during the period of Sawai Ram Singh II in the 19th century with the introduction of piped water supply in the city. Today, these chaupars have become major hubs of traffic and require to be restored to their original glory as pedestrian plazas with minimum vehicular traffic. Possibly with the planning of new public transportation systems within the walled city of Jaipur, this may eventually become a feasible option.

 

The merchants, invited through dispatched letters in the 18th century, were given special incentives and prime locations to settle in the city. They were given free land as also remissions and concessions on taxes. Located on an important route, Jaipur thus became a vibrant centre for trade and commerce that further fuelled its growth, attracting large numbers of artisans, craftsmen and merchants from distant parts of India. Besides the rich merchants with havelis on the main streets, there were potters, utensil makers, stone carvers, building craftsmen and builders, leather workers and tanners, jewellers and precious stone cutters, ivory carvers, brassware manufacturers, enamellers, weavers, dyers and embroiderers, who settled in local neighbourhoods known as chowkris, areas occupied by families pursuing similar trade or craft.

A building facade before restoration in Johri Bazzar.

From the 18th to the 21st century, the shifting facades of Jaipur bazaars reveal distinct stylistic layers of growth and development. On the basis of chronological evolution, three phases are clearly visible: The first phase from the 18th century, under the patronage of Sawai Jai Singh II, is discernible through architectural typologies characteristic of this period such as havelis, haveli-temples and a few temples with shikharas at chaupars. Bengaldarshades, square based and round chatris, cusped and multifoliated arched openings, niches, lime jaalis inspired from the Rajput-Mughal vocabulary were characteristic features that marked this phase.

 

The second phase is marked by 19th century changes under Sawai Ram Singh II. As the city of Jaipur expanded under his rule, there was a definite colonial influence in architectural styles. This period saw the introduction of classical elements such as semicircular arches, small pediments, pilasters and stone railings adapted in a unique localized Rajput-British style that is also categorized as Indo-Saracenic. It was also the time when the colour of Jaipur bazaars changed from the earlier lemon lime wash to a lookalike of red sandstone shade wash that gave Jaipur its title of ‘Pink City’.

 

The last distinct phase was during the early 20th century when Mirza Ismail served as prime minister to the Jaipur rulers and developed the city in all directions. This period saw the introduction of the art deco style which was adapted to the building typologies. It is recognizable by doors and windows with rectangular ventilators, circular openings in the parapets, curved and colonnaded balconies. The continuous verandah in front of the shops in Chandpol, Kishanpol and Tripoliya bazaars was a major contribution of this phase.

The walled city of Jaipur has ten bazaars running along the North-South and East-West axes between the chaupars and the city gates. The central axis from Tripoliya Gate to New Gate was carved out as a main axis from the palace where the Chaura Raasta emerged as a market much later.

Some details of jaali design.

Sireh Deodhi Bazaar is one of the four originally planned bazaars of Jaipur – stretching from Badi Chaupar to the Sireh Deodhi Gate to the palace and extending north towards Amber. This bazaar has one of the most beautiful skylines in the walled city over a stretch of 108 feet. Some of the iconic structures of the city such as the Hawa Mahal, Sawai Man Singh Town Hall towards the west and Maharaja’s College housed in a large temple building facing Hawa Mahal towards the east, mark the façade of this bazaar. Typical architectural features of this bazaar include Mughal-Rajput detailing and façade with stone railings on parapet, chajjas and a modular system of arches filled with delicate latticed screens to cut out the direct sun and glare of the reflected sun in the street. The present day bazaar shows a line of modifications in the form of constructed shops, which previously existed as arched openings. There was extensive plaster detailing and decorative motifs in lime wash on the facades. A strong presence of hawkers is observed since the 19th century with shops which had awnings for shading.

Other bazaars along the North-South axis include the Jauhari Bazaar between Badi Chaupar and Sanganeri Gate with exquisite havelis and shops that cater to gold and silver jewellery, the Kishanpol Bazaar between Choti Chaupar and Ajmeri Gate and the Gangauri Bazaar from Choti Chaupar to Brahmapuri. The Gangauri Bazaar is characterized by the Gangaur festival held annually. The beginning of the bazaar, near the Choti Chaupar is lined with historic haveli temples with rich architectural details. Additionally, this bazaar has a bustling vendor’s market for vegetables and fruit markets. The shops at the rear deal with inexpensive furniture created from packing crates, molasses, grain and recycled wood.

Tripoliya Bazaar is formed by the central portion of the East-West spine of the walled city, extending between two main squares, i.e. the Choti Chaupar and the Badi Chaupar. It forms the edge of the city palace zone, and some of the significant historic monuments like the Isar Lat tower are part of its skyline. The bazaar has been named after the Tripoliya Gate which provides direct access to the City Palace. This gate is privately owned and its use is restricted to the royal family, that too only for processions and other significant occasions. The Tripoliya Bazaar is one of the least encroached upon bazaars owing to its proximity to several significant monuments. It contains large portions of the original parapet walls above the ground floor which have been extensively modified elsewhere.

The building typologies vary from large courtyard havelis to haveli temples and newer public buildings. The verandahs were a later addition in the early 20th century by Mirza Ismail. The number of trees on the street also increased dramatically during this time. The parapet walls had arches with lime jaalis decorating them; these walls were later modified in several places, increased in height and repairs made in cement. Nonetheless, of all the bazaar streets in the walled city, the Tripoliya Bazaar still retains a significant portion of its original character.

Tripoliya Bazaar has also played an integral role as a processional path starting from the City Palace and entering the vity via the Tripoliya Gate. Some of the other landmarks in the Tripoliya Bazaar are the Krishna Temple, the Hind Hotel (now shut down) as well as the Bank of Baroda building. The jaalis are simple slit openings which were originally in lime. Many of the jaalis that were later reconstructed in cement by the local municipality are now being recast in lime by traditional craftsmen as part of the restoration process of these bazaars. Additions such as ducts, ventilators and sky lights are common in the terraces of the verandahs and many people have added water tanks and other services as well. The terrace originally served as a community viewing space for the royal processions and other festivals. It comprises of different scales and typologies of buildings, several of which are in poor condition or have been extensively modified.

Mapping of historic layers for a street, Jaipur Walled City.

Chandpol Bazaar extends from the western edge of the walled city, which is the Chandpol Gate to the Choti Chaupar in the East. It is bound by two chowkris; Purani Basti towards the North and Topkhana Desh in the South. The buildings in Chandpol vary in scale and typology, much like the other bazaars in the walled city. It has typical haveli temples with stepped entrances and elaborate jaalis and chatris, large courtyard havelis and many newer structures in RCC, with art deco details or simpler facades as compared to Tripoliya and Sireh Deori Bazaars. The continuous verandah which extends in front of the shops at the ground floor unifies the bazaar despite the variation in the actual structures. Many of the buildings are in a state of partial disrepair with several additions and modifications.

 

Ramganj Bazaar extends from the eastern edge of Tripoliya Bazaar and Badi Chaupar to the third square of Ramganj Chaupar leading up to the Suraj Pol Gate on the East. In terms of development and evolution, this stretch is markedly different from Tripoliya, with smaller structures and a denser urban fabric. This area has a predominantly Muslim population and the lanes and bylanes here can be seen dotted with houses of different types of craftsperson. Some of the significant structures here include the Ladliji ka Mandir, and two mosques. The general built form is close knit with smaller houses and narrower structures. There are several colonial period and later 20th century structures which show a greater degree of transformation. The condition of the plaster and finishing is generally poorer in this area.

Starting from Ramganj Chaupar and running south towards Ghat Gate is the Ghat Gate Bazaar. At the beginning is a 19th century style building with a continuous facade of pointed arches, chajjas and small openings, which is now used as a bank. A mix of architectural styles is visible, ranging from Rajput-Mughal, Rajput-British, art deco, and the more recent RCC-glass construction. Many of the buildings are in a state of partial disrepair with inappropriate additions and modifications. Additions of temporary sheds is visible through the entire stretch of the bazaar. This bazaar has a few religious buildings like Masjid Behlol Khan, built mostly in red sandstone with a symmetrical façade, multifoliated arches and minarets on either edge of the facade. Another important structure is the Masjid Ahangran, a recently constructed mosque with a symmetrical facade, two towers on either side and pointed arches. Thakur Sri Ram Kanwar ji Mandir is an older period haveli – temple structure, extensively modified now.

 

Subhash Chowk Bazaar that culminates at Subhash Chowk is the closest to Amber at the northern edge of the walled city. It therefore has a character which is slightly different from the other bazaars, with several Rajput-Mughal structures still intact, though in a poor state of repair. Shop fronts of varying heights, details and large hoardings can be seen all along the stretch. This is possibly because there was no comprehensive addition of a verandah to these shops during the early 20th century. On the other hand, the original fabric of the shops is best observed in this stretch where there has been little intervention in several buildings. Some interesting building compositions which deviate from the other bazaars can also be observed here. The Mughal-Rajput structures in particular have a character that is still clearly visible. However, this bazaar has seen extreme neglect over the past few decades. Defunct water pipes have caused seepage on building facades and loose wires need to be upgraded. The facades of several buildings along the stretch, the plaster and finishing, especially decorative details, are fading and weathering. Repair and modifications have been carried out in cement plaster with little regard to the original fabric.

View of Tripoliya Bazaar and Badi Chaupar by Bourne and Shepherd, 19th century.

Besides locating important temples, land was allotted on the main streets of Jaipur to the nobles for building houses as per caste, rank and financial status of each noble or nagar seth. So while the bazaars of Jaipur have a series of equal size shops, the façade is further enriched by grand entrances to havelis and haveli-temples.

 

The haveli (a term used for medieval north Indian mansions belonging to nobles) of Jaipur range from a single courtyard house to an assemblage of multiple courts. A majority of the havelis have one or two courtyards. However, an increase in the status of the owner, or in the number of family members, resulted in an increase in either the scale of the haveli or the number of courtyards. In Jaipur, the number of courtyards in a haveli vary from one to seven. The location and type of haveli was determined by the owner’s social, political and financial condition, that is, caste, occupation and relation with the ruler. This can be observed in the lavishly sprawling multi-court havelis such as the Natani Haveli at Chhoti Chaupar, which currently functions as an office and school, or the Nawab ki Haveli in Tripoliya Bazaar. Havelis belonging to nobles who served the Rajput rulers are clearly distinguishable from smaller houses of the subordinates and common people in the bylanes. Some havelis were even visited by the ruler on special occasions. One such instance is recorded where the wedding ceremony of the Jaipur ruler Sawai Jagat Singh, with the daughter of Geejgad Thakur, took place in the courtyard of Geejgad Haveli in Jaipur.

 

An interesting two court corner haveli in Chowkri Modikhana is that of Pundit Shivdin, an influential Brahmin who served as prime minister to Sawai Ram Singh II. The haveli is located at a corner, close to Bhaironji’s temple. The existing Maharaja School of Arts and Crafts in Chaura Raasta was also built by Pundit Shivdin, originally as his residence but was subsequently converted to the School of Arts in 1866. Each haveli bore the owner’s name that also reflected his caste and status. Depending on the influence of the aristocrat even the street, local mohalla, well, and temple in the locality would be named after him. For example, Pandit Shivdin ka Raasta in Chowkri Modikhana, Uniaron ka Raasta, Vidyadhar ka Raasta, Haldiyon ka Raasta and so on, are some examples of streets being named after known nobles of Jaipur.

The Brahmin havelis were located in Brahmapuri, North of Jaipur. The double court haveli of Rajpurohit Samratji, with a nohra that served as a stable for elephants and horses and the haveli of Rajpurohit Pundrikji, with octagonal turrets and exquisite wall murals protected by the Archaeological Survey of India are some of the significant examples.

 

The complex of Tatterkhana house in Topkhana Chowkri was formed by a complex of 12 single court havelis; six on either side of the road. Tatterkhana was a department of Jaipur Palace that checked the temperature of water supplied to various parts of the palace. This was controlled by Uday Ramji Sharma, who was gifted this set of havelis, which originally belonged to Modi traders who were unable to pay their taxes to the ruler. The family still owns the main haveli of Tatterkhana house. Rishikesh Sharma, a sixth generation descendent of Uday Ramji, currently manages the haveli.

The Rajput Thakurs owned grand havelis, as evident from the Chaumoo Haveli within the walled city of Jaipur close to Gangapol Gate. This two court Rajput Haveli was converted into a heritage hotel. Incidentally, very few Rajput havelis were located inside the walled city. The Rajput Thakurs of Shekhawati were given land just outside the Chandpol Gate. Hence, the Bissau House, Mandawa House, Alsisar House belonging to the Shekhawati Thakurs are all located here.

Jaipur showcases a wide variety of haveli typology, along with interesting subvariations of haveli temples and haveli gardens. Most of them are still retained by the current owners, some being judiciously used as heritage hotels. There, is however, increasing concern for the remaining historic havelis that are neglected due to lack of funds and need conservation.

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