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City Palace Review
This complex of pavilions, courtyards, and chambers was begun by Jai Singh II in 1727, and wings were added by later maharajas. If you're standing in the outer courtyard, the marble and sandstone building directly in front of you is the Mubarak Mahal (Guest Pavilion), built by Maharaja Madho Singh in the late 19th century. Now a museum, it's an ideal place to admire at close range some of the royals' finest brocades, silks, and hand-blocked garments and robes, many made in nearby Sanganer and some dating from as far back as the 17th century. The collection also includes musical instruments. The armory in the northwest corner of the courtyard has one of India's best collections of arms and weapons, including an 11-pound sword belonging to Akbar's Rajput general. Some of the paints used on the beautiful, 18th-century ceiling are believed to have been made from crushed semiprecious stones.
In the inner courtyard, through the gateway guarded by two stone elephants, is the art gallery, housed in the cavernous Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience). Built in the late 18th century, the building has a magnificent, vintage-1930s painted ceiling, rows of gray marble columns inside the courtyard, the second-largest chandelier in India, and two silver pots so large that they are mentioned in the Guiness Book of World Records. The art includes scores of miniatures from the Mughal and various Rajput schools, rare manuscripts, and 17th-century carpets from the Amber Palace. From the inner courtyard, enter the Zenana (ladies') courtyard on the left to see the seven-story Chandra Mahal (Moon Palace). Built by Jai Singh II, this attractive cream-colored building was the official residence of the last maharaja, "Bubbles" (born 1931)—Lieutenant Colonel Sawai Bhawani Singh—who passed away in 2011; his family still lives on the upper floors. The ground floor has sumptuous chandeliers, murals, and a painting of an old maharaja. A "Royal Grandeur" tour is available, taking you close, but not quite into, the royal family's quarters and their guest rooms. Watch out for touts claiming that you need a guide to tour the palace—you don't.
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