For centuries, tales of the heroic Rajputs and their exploits have drawn curious travellers to the medieval townships of Rajasthan. The first in a series of seven volumes dedicated to the Rajput settlements sprawled across the Aravalli hills and the Thar Desert, 'Princely Terrain: Amber, Jaipur and Shekhawati focuses on the Kachchwaha Rajput clan and their kingdom, Dhoondhar. Authored by various eminent scholars and architects, the essays featured in this volume encompass the evolution of the Kachchwaha architectural idiom, the creation of the capital at Jaipur and the impact that it in turn had on the later architecture of the region.
The first section of the book, 'Before Jaipur', begins with the Ghat Ki Guni-located on the Jaipur-Agra Highway, this little known area served as the gateway to the Dhoondhar Empire. Also discussed is the foundation of the Dhoondhar Empire and their first capital at Amber. Replete with anecdotes about the founders of the empire, their ambitions, achievements and contributions in the Mughal era, this section provides a glimpse into the early history of Kachchwaha rule.
Echoing the shift of the Kachchwaha capital from Amber to Jaipur, the second section moves from the Aravallis to the plains at its base. Featured here are essays about the conception and design of Jaipur by the then ruler, Sawai Jai Singh II. In addition to its famed palaces and Havelis, this 18 century capital is also distinguished by its exceptionally astute town planning. In the light of existent controversies regarding the influence of architectural treatises such as the Vastushastra in the town's design, this section reinterprets the genesis of Jaipur and charts its subsequent development. An article has also been devoted to Gaitor -a memorial to the glory of the Kachchwaha rulers, the site is renown for its intricately carved chhatris, each of which is dedicated to a particular ruler.
The final section examines the post Jaipur scenario a period when Jaipur had come to be the landmark in town planning and a source of inspiration in the development of the nearby towns of Shekhawati. Also included are essays analysing the continuing applicability of Jaipur's plan form viz. its translation into the contemporary settlement of Vidyadharnagar, and finally, the pressing need for conservation efforts directed at historic settlements such as Amber and Jaipur.
Together, the various essays present a cohesive biography of the cities of the Kachchwahas - beginning with their origin and ending with their present avataras.