When in 1887 Rudyard Kipling arrived in Jaipur as part of assignment to cover Rajputana for the Allahabad-based newspaper The Pioneer, he was mesmerized by the beauty of Jaipur.
Writing in the column called Letters of the Marque, Kipling says: “But to return to Jeypore — a pink city set on the border of a blue lake, and surrounded by the low, red spurs of the Aravalis — a city to see and to puzzle over.”
What really impressed Kilping was that Jeypore at that time had all the modern civic amenities which were considered part of the western municipal system. The city had a modern water supply system and the pavements were studded the ways with standpipes. There was gas works, a school of art, modern pleasure garden with a museum and a hospital nearby. “They were the best of their kind,” he adds.
Describing the garbage collection at that time, Kipling says lacquered and painted carts driven by two little stag-like bullocks used to make trips over the rails of a steel tramway which brings out the city rubbish.
Calling walking down the broad and clean streets a day’s delightful occupation, Kipling says: “The view is as unobstructed as that of the Champs Elysees; but in place of the white-stone fronts of Paris rises a long line of openwork screen-wall, the prevailing tone of which is pink, caramel-pink, but houseowners have unlimited licence to decorate their tenements as they please.
“Jeypore, broadly considered is Hindu, and her architecture of is neither temperate nor noble, but it satisfies the general desire for something that ‘really looks Indian’.”
Being a son of a museum curator in Lahore, The Albert Hall Museum was a particular object of Kipling’s attention. Kipling had also worked in Calcutta during the early years of that city’s great Indian Museum but he found the Jaipur museum more beautiful than its Raj counterparts because it was “carefully maintained”. What impressed Kipling most was the museum’s “system”. He says: “The intention was to represent all of the local arts and to compare them with the arts of neighbouring regions and of foreign countries, so that any Jaipur craftsman could see ‘the best his predecessors could do, and what foreign artist have done’.”
Giving credit to Jey Singh, the founder of Jeypore, and his successor for the turning the city into a surprise, Kipling had a special word of praise for Colonel Sir Swinton Jacob, the Superintending Engineer of the State. “How much Colonel Jacob has done, not only for the good of Jeypore city but for the good of the State at large will never be known because of the officer in question is one of the not small classes who resolutely refuse to talk about their own work. The result of the good work is that the old and the new, the rampantly raw and the sullenly old, stand cheek-by-jowl in startling contrast.”
Writing about Ram Niwas Bagh in Garden History, Patrick Bowe says it was the result of the 19th century public park movement in Europe. However, the birth of a garden meant for recreation has a tragic story behind it. In 1868, a disastrous famine hit the parts of Rajputana and Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh planned numerous public projects to lessen the suffering of his people. Among the main projects was Ram Niwas Bagh to provide the public of Jaipur with an area where they can get fresh air, light and space for recreation and exercise.
Bowe further says the move was not only consistent with the 19th-century movement in Europe to provide public parks in the crowded cities, but its fusion of Indian and European architectural and garden styles influenced public parks which subsequently came up in other parts of India.