The article reviews the intentions behind the renowned 18th century Jaipur city plan and further summarises subsequent major urban transformations within the walled city in the 19th and 20th centuries. It presents a reinterpretation of the Jaipur plan based on earlier maps and perceptions of historic visitors and indicates that the planning of Jaipur needs to be understood as a process. It informs about the changing concepts in British period that led to contrasting approaches of modernisation and museumisation of the walled city along with loss of certain traditional systems – a trend that continued till the post-independent period. Finally, it concludes with the present day approach to the walled city fabric. It describes the recent heritage initiatives of the government, of international organisations, efforts of local NGOs and residents’ participation and reaction in the remaking of the walled city as the 21st century Renaissance city. It also explains the process of the making of a Heritage Plan for the city to achieve this vision.
Beyond the academic debate on application of Mandala in the grid-iron planning of 18th century Jaipur, lie two significant facts responsible for the origin of the city and its subsequent layout. These are: a) the need of a new capital for Dhoondhar as the earlier one of Amber built on a hill was getting congested and, b) Jai Singh's vision of the new capital as a strong political statement at par with Mughal cities and as a thriving trade and commerce hub for the region. Subsequently, the sandy site on the plains south of Amber and an open, clear grid iron planning of the city with commercial streets of monumental scale can be attributed more as a pragmatic response to the above factors as opposed to adherence to the traditional treatise of the astu Shastra. This 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 became a norm for the later towns in the adjoining Shekhawati region. The city was truly built with extraordinary foresight and futuristic planning and is probably the only 18th century walled city in India that can still cater to the present day pressures of vehicular traffic on roads.