Festivals At The Jaipur Court by Vibhuti Sachdev is the first in a book series that intricately illustrates the collections in the Maharaja Man Sawai Singh II Museum at the Jaipur City Palace. The focus point here is unveiling the various art collections and ritualistic objects used as per the Hindu calendar viz. Vasant (the spring season), Greeshma (the summer season), Varsha (the rainy season), Sharad (the autumn season), Hemant (the cold season) and Shishir (the dewy season). The book simultaneously preserves Jaipur’s religious and cultural history on paper, and is also a virtual tour of the museum. The latter is a highly interesting reading technique if the reader chooses to look at it that way.
Lord Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu on earth, is a major religious influence on the artworks. There’s a balance of elements between paintings depicting the Hindu deity and other prominent figures from Jaipur’s history and the various rituals, while maintaining the theme of how each season is significant to Jaipur in terms of celebrations and ceremonies. The verses and phrases on the opening page of each season add an intimate touch and make sure that the book is not just a mere narration of history. The main text can sometimes get a little academic.
Sachdev’s book could have done with more photographs from the 20th century but remained on the safer side of not giving a plethora of information. Nevertheless, one of the pictures that the reader may find most interesting is of a band procession of the Sawai Man Guard playing in Amber during the Navratri festival. The appeal of this photograph lies in the background story: “on the ninth day (a day before Dasshera) a puja of nine horses is performed in the Sarvatobhadra courtyard, in the ishaan [northeast corner] in the evening by a Pandit on behalf of His Highness in the presence of Master of Ceremonies”.
Some of the religious practices in the Rajasthani community are nuanced on other sects of the Indian society, which is why, Indian readers who are from the other side of the fence will find certain detailing close to home. In case you find ample time to ponder over this book, we reckon you spend it imbued by the opulent wonders of Jaipur’s history. The book is the first in a series, followed by Arms and Armour At The Jaipur Court by Robert Elgood and Rapture: The Art of Indian Textiles by Rahul Jain.