If The Streets Could Talk
Author: Ankush Chandran | 28th September 2018
The city of Jaipur is renowned the world over, for quite a number of things. It is home to a splendid assortment of architecture including many great examples of heritage structures and is well known for its flamboyant history, delectable cuisine and colorful shops.
There is a facet to the city, however, much less acknowledged. Jaipur has one of the most unique nomenclature for its streets in the entire country, and arguably the world. Whereas most cities and towns do follow a certain logic to naming some of their streets, this nomenclature ends up succumbing to practical and political commitments, thus diluting the logic.
Jaipur, however, steers clear of this misfortune by wholly dedicating its streets to the task of storytelling. Stories, like that of Laalji Saand, who was immortalised by the street named “Laalji Saand ka Raasta”. Laalji was the honorary title given to the child of a king and his concubine. The gentleman spoken of here was referred to as Laalji “Saand” - due to his large and bulky body, often compared to a bull or 'saand'. Or of “Bandri ka Nasik Raasta”, which gets its name from the rather interesting story of a resident of the street who would
tie a gold chain around a monkey, which would then stand outside the house. 'Bandri' - female monkey, and 'Nasik' - owner. The city has no dearth of such stories, and the only trigger you’ll ever need to discover them is turning the next corner.
Jaipur as a city, was not meant to be a typical city housing a homogeneous set of people. It was designed to bean assembly of different guilds, a working museum of different craftsmen and their crafts distributed across the walled city. From the perspective of a third person, someone who wished to discover and indulge in any of these crafts, it made sense to order the streets by craft, profession or local legend, to make it as simple as possible to find something in the large city.
Many of the streets in the city were named after the craft that flourished along those streets. If the street was renowned for Bagru printing (traditional techniques of printing fabric with natural colour), it made sense to call it Bagru Waalon ka Rasta.
In order to appreciate the phenomenon, it might be useful to examine how most streets are named today. The current logic behind the nomenclature of streets tends to be largely functional. (Grids, Numbers, Hierarchy). Chandigarh seems to offer a rather interesting example. The city does not formally follow a numbered street system (as in the case of New York - 22nd Street, 23rd Street, 2nd Avenue, 3rd Avenue), in that many of the streets have some formal name. The use of such names is, however, uncommon because the entire city is sectored and sub-sectored and it is easier to refer to roads by the sectors and sub-sectors they cross. Very few streets are prominently named.
Sure, there are many instances of streets being named after people, landmarks, events, even trees. But what makes the nomenclature of Jaipur’s streets special is that, in Jaipur, the stories or legends that accompany the street names are visible along those very streets for the user to see, in the form of structures, functions, etc. The act of storytelling is buttressed by the act of connecting tangible artifacts or structures along a street with the intangible legends and whispers.
Tikkiwalon ka Rasta was named after the affluent Tikkiwal family that resided in a prominent haveli along this street. The Haveli still stands testimony to this legend. Having heard stories of a novelty is powerful, but having heard stories of a novelty
one has seen, is much more so.
The telling of history by word of mouth is an extremely potent way of its propagation. It does not assume literacy or bibliophilia. It recognises no barriers, and is accessible to all who might lend a ear. Jaipur, through the codification of its legends in its street names, makes a powerful case for this manner of documentation of history. Perhaps the biggest advantage
of this phenomenon is the preservation of local history - of anecdotes and accounts that may hold little value outside their places of origins, but enrich the legacy of those places. A preservation of the personality of the place. Volume upon historical volume may well have been written, but these local legends and histories, are more often than not, lost in the pages. The use of colloquial language in the street names also makes it that much more personal and contextual. Like having your very own page, in your very own book, in your very own dialect.
This is not to say that Jaipur was insular, or ignorant of national events or phenomena. Major peripheral markets to the south of the walled city and the roads that served them were named after national leaders, such as Indra Bazaar Marg, Nehru Bazaar Marg and Bapu Bazaar Marg. All of it indicating a keen sense of awareness and clear prioritisation of identity.
Admirably so, Jaipur has continued this legacy of naming its streets in this manner. Quite a few street names of today are absent in the historic documentation of Chowkris and Streets undertaken by the Jaipur Development Authority in 1987. These street names, that were not mentioned in the documentation of that time, but current suggests that if one were to examine the documentation of Chowkris and Streets undertaken by the Jaipur Development Authority in 1987, one would find the exceptional names of many streets of today missing. Streets that are named in the same style of nomenclature. This suggests that this system (of nomenclature) continued to be followed even for the newly established streets, much later than the original set of streets that were named during Jaipur’s adolescent years.
The rapid growth of existing cities and the creation of new cities generates the need for new streets, and subsequently new street names. Jaipur has demonstrated the ability to incorporate local and contextual history into the nomenclature. Something that ensures pride in identity and preservation of legacy. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- #jaipur #urbannarrative #maps #mapmaking #googlemaps #citymapping #streets #urbanismforall #urbanstudies #dialogues #cities #JaipurDevelopmentAuthority #historic #documentation #heritage #landmarks #historicevents #roadnames