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Ten Great Books set in Jaipur / Rajasthan

13th January 2021

Jaipur / Rajasthan is the location we have chosen for the latest in our ‘Ten Great Books set in…’ series. Ten Great Books set in Jaipur / Rajasthan. Jaipur is the capital of India’s Rajasthan state. It evokes the royal family that once ruled the region and that, in 1727, founded what is now called the Old City, or ‘Pink City’ for its trademark building color. At the center of its stately street grid stands the opulent, colonnaded City Palace complex. With gardens, courtyards and museums, part of it is still a royal residence

‘Jaipur is a blushing bride draped in pink, dancing in our dreams while the peacocks sing’

Ten Great Books set in Jaipur / RajasthanThe Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

Before the Rains by Dinah Jefferies

1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself.

But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, or following their hearts…

Ten Great Books set in Jaipur / RajasthanThe Overnight Palace by Janet Marie Sola

Set in India, “The Overnight Palace is a gorgeous and sensual novel, one that readers of all kinds are sure to find enchanting,” says San Francisco Book Review. In exotic Rajasthan, India, bookish Elena seeks the romance and transcendence that have been missing from her life in San Francisco. Her quest leads her through the maze of another culture, populated by beckoning goddesses, the outrageous and sometimes tragic people she meets along the way, and a daring lover. It’s a captivating addition to the growing genre of books such as Eat, Pray, Love that explore midlife travel, romance, and transformation.

India Treasures by Gary Worthington

India Treasures is a monumental work of fiction covering the sweep of Indian history. A search through palaces and a maze-like fortress for a Maharaja’s legendary hidden treasure weaves together stories of danger and romance, and of spiritual and artistic triumphs. The book portrays key historical persons and events in the nation’s religious, cultural, and political evolution.

Readers will experience meeting the Buddha; being lost in the Great Indian Desert with a caravan merchant; riding an elephant into battle with the famous Emperor Ashoka; painting a celebrated mural masterpiece with a medieval artist; joining a lovely princess as she defies her powerful father for the enemy king whom she loves; transcending life’s trials as a disciple of a great Sufi saint; sharing the perils of a noble Muslim family targeted by a hostile Sultan; and matching wits with the mighty Mughal Emperor Akbar.

The novellas are linked by the treasure hunt through the immense fortress of Mangarh by government tax raiders during Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s suspension of civil liberties in the mid-1970s. Vijay Singh, the capable and conscientious leader of the searchers, battles a corrupt political boss who imprisons the Maharaja of Mangarh and preys on the lovely princess Kaushalya. Vijay fears that in Mangarh his secret may be exposed: he claims to be of the high Rajput caste, but in fact he is an Untouchable from a nearby village.

The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

An enchanting historical epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India’s most controversial empresses — a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal Empire. Skilfully blending the textures of historical reality with the rich and sensual imaginings of a timeless fairy tale, The Twentieth Wife sweeps readers up in Mehrunnisa’s embattled love with Prince Salim, and in the bedazzling destiny of a woman — a legend in her own time — who was all but lost to history until now.

Jaipur Journals by Namita Gokhale

A brilliant, funny, and moving account of the characters that make festivals tick. There are the authors enjoying moments of adulation after years of creative isolation and the star-struck public allowed to mingle with their cultural icons.  And those in-between who are both author and fan as is the case of Rudrani Rana,  who attends one festival session after the other clutching a canvas bag which contains the labour of her life an unsubmitted manuscript written and re-written until only the sentence my body is a haunted house remains untouched.

Partly a love letter to one of the great literary shows on earth, partly a satire about the glittery set that throngs this literary venue year in year out, and partly an ode to the millions of aspiring writers who inhabit literary festivals, Jaipur Journals provides incisive insights into what makes a literary festival tick.

The Lotus Queen by Rikin Khamar

As the Rajputs face total destruction, Padmini knows but one route to freedom and honour. It is a decision that would lead her people to a fate yet unheard of in history. A decision that would affect an entire people and inspire generations to come. Set against the dramatic landscape of one of Rajasthan’s most famous forts, the novel richly blends facts and fiction to retell the story of one of the most legendary figures in India. A modern retelling of the story of one of the most legendary figures in India: Queen Padmini. The book blends historical facts and fiction that makes for a fascinating read. A passionate love story between Queen Padmini and Rawal Rattan Singh.

Singles and Spice by Elaine Spires

A singles’ holiday to India’s Golden Triangle – Taj Mahal, the pink city of Jaipur, tiger-spotting in Ranthambore, the noisy, crowded streets of Delhi – all go to make up a trip that is hot, humid and spicy. Eve Mitchell, Travel Together’s tour manager extraordinaire has a couple of familiar faces in her little group of travellers and others that she hasn’t met before; sexy man-eating pensioners, a compulsive over-eater, a constant whiner and a man with a personal problem.

And there’s a big surprise awaiting someone -and Eve – early one morning. By the end of the tour, which sees our group travelling by coach, rickshaw, train and elephant, she will know rather more about some of their innermost secrets than she’d like. But Eve deals with all the twists and turns the trip throws at her as we come to understand what makes people travel the world with a bunch of complete strangers and appreciate thesuccess that is a singles’ holiday.

A Fantastic State of Ruin: The Painted Towns of Rajasthan by David Zurick

This book tells the story of the painted towns of Shekhawati in rural Rajasthan, India. For centuries the painted buildings served the towns as trading houses, pleasure palaces, temples, caravansaries and private homes. Following independence, the descendants of the merchant families left Shekhawati for India’s burgeoning cities, abandoning their opulent structures. Some were left in the charge of caretakers; squatters took up residence in many; most simply remain vacant. The buildings have slowly deteriorated over time, ravaged by climate and neglect, and now lie scattered among the desert settlements as an elegiac collection of beautiful living ruins – a crumbling open-air gallery set amid the ordinary affairs of small town life. This book portrays the fascinating ruinous beauty of the painted towns, and, along the way, provides an intimate look at life and landscape on the arid fringes of Rajasthan. This world, too, is fading, and so the book’s photographs, in the end, are a visual study of both place and society at the edge of time.

A Princess Remembers by Gayatri Devi

She is the daughter of the Maharaja of Cooch Behar and the widow of the Maharaja of Jaipur. She was raised in a sumptuous palace staffed with 500 servants and she shot her first panther when she was twelve. She has appeared on the lists of the world’s most beautiful women. Gayatri Devi describes her carefree tomboy childhood; her secret six-year courtship with the dashing, internationally renowned polo player, Jai the Maharaja of Jaipur; and her marriage and entrance into the City Palace of the ‘pink city’ where she had to adjust to unfamiliar customs and life with his two wives. Jai’s liberating influence, combined with Gayatri Devi’s own strong character, took her well beyond the traditionally limited activities of a Maharani. This is an intimate look at the extraordinary life of one of the world’s most fascinating women and an informal history of the princely states of India, from the height of the princes’ power to their present state of de-recognition.

Enjoy your reading in Jaipur / Rajasthan. Any thoughts below, please!

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021