If there is one place in Jaipur which is closely associated with art and artist, it has to be Jawahar Kala Kendra. The Jawahar Kala Kendra or JKK is associated with art, photography, theatre, and painting events. The open grounds have hosted many art and handicraft exhibitions ever since it was founded. The city residents possess a deep affinity with JKK because it provides an alternate space to explore the creative side. It was launched by the Rajasthan government to showcase the rich artistic heritage and provide impetus to cultural and spiritual values. The JKK facade with high walls and no openings makes the building appear closed from the outside.
On the contrary, it is surprising to see expansive space with plenty of light and air behind this facade. Each space is unique and designed according to activity.
History of Jawahar Kala Kendra
Charles Correa, India’s leading architect, designed JKK as a modern interpretation of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh’s nine Mandalas or Grihas upon which Jaipur was founded. Here is a representation map of Jaipur layout as envisioned by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1727 AD based on Navmandala – 9 blocks.
The manifestation of the above nine blocks has been replicated in the layout map of Jawahar Kala Kendra in the following manner.
What does the name imply?
It is dedicated to India’s first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and therefore named so. Kala refers to art in Hindi, and Kendra implies center. The construction started in 1986 and completed by the end of 1991. However, the building was inaugurated in 1993 by the ninth president of India- Shankar Lal Sharma.
Jawahar Kala Kendra represents an amazing interplay of light, shadow and colors Charles Corea designed the building in such a way that sunlight finds its way in the building from the top -ceiling rather than the walls.
There are hardly any windows in the building. Many design elements inspired by the local architecture of Jaipur finds its way in the building. This is one of the rare buildings funded by the government using M20 concrete instead of M10 ensuring better quality construction. It was commissioned by the local body, and the administrator is appointed by the local government.
JKK represent a contemporary building based on the belief of the Cosmos and Navgraha with one of the squares moved aside, to replicate the original plan of Jaipur. The architecture of JKK is inspired by ancient Indian science – Vastu and Shilp Shastra as well as the layout of the walled city of Jaipur. Here is a layout of Jawahar Kala Kendra.
The Navgraha providing the basis of the buildings are.
1. Sun/ Surya
2. Moon/ Chandra
3. Mars/ Mangal
Each section embodies the characteristics of the planet it represents. The central square in the House of Sun is the amphitheater.
Some consider it as void. In a way, it represents the courtyard of the local house –Havelis. Another inspiration for this space is the Stepwells of this region.
The theatres find space in the house of Venus, representing the arts and library in the house of mercury representing knowledge.
The restaurant is in the house of Moon and a provision of 28 tables has been made.
The entrance cum reception has a hand-painted ceiling with mathematical and scientific elements. These seem to be inspired by Jainism, and Buddhism.
Area- How big is JKK?
JKK is spread over an area of approximately 9.5 acres. The buildings in JKK consists of an auditorium, exhibition halls, cafeteria, library, and an amphitheater. Apart from this, there are open spaces including a Rajasthani ethnic village called Shilpgram setting complete with mud houses and a well. Here is a picture of Shilpgram from an event Jaipur Art Summit.
Jawahar Kala Kendra is a hub of artists, creative minds, and art-loving people. Exhibitions and performances by the artists are showcased in JKK on a regular basis. Navrang and Lokras, the annual festivals of dance, theatre, and music draw many audiences. JKK hosts workshops on dance, photography, theatre, and music.
Jawahar Kala Kendra remains a hub of all kinds of art events in Jaipur. It will be rare not to find any kind of exhibition or event taking place at any point in time.
There are a couple of galleries meant for painting and photography related exhibitions.
Here is a picture of the photo exhibition from JKK showcasing photos of Jaipur King Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II.
The following picture is from the exhibition organized by Dept. of Archaeology on heritage conservation from one of the display galleries in JKK.
A variety of workshops related to theatre, painting, sculpture making, etc. takes place on a regular basis. And for this reason, it is buzzing with the artists, photographers, event organizers, and journalists.
There are two cafes in Jawahar Kala Kendra. Initially, the government wanted to lease the area earmarked for food joint to an upmarket cafe. However, the presiding CM decided in favor of the Indian Coffee House owing to suggestions received.
- Indian Coffee House
The Indian Coffee House is the historic cooperative chain maintaining operations in many cities. It is associated with a favorite meeting place for journalists and artists. Another striking aspect is its reasonable prices and frills-free menu. Indian Coffee House in Jawahar Kala Kendra is a second outlet in Jaipur for this chain. The one in MI Road is the oldest coffee house in Jaipur. The set-up of the Indian Coffee House is simple. The seats consist of stone-slab over which cushions are placed. This space was designed by Charles Corea. This cafe has been serving its patrons since 2008 and is a runaway success.
- Quaint Cafe
This cafe opened two years ago and has many loyal patrons. It is situated in one of the quiet sections of JKK. Here is a picture of a beautiful as seen from the Quaint cafe on the opposite wall.
Jawahar Kala Kendra was revamped in 2016. The renovation led to many controversies.
The local artists felt they were marginalized because a substantial share of the JKK budget was allocated to the programs of the outstation artists. Many renovation activities were against the initial idea behind the design of the building as envisioned by Charles Corea. Many artists felt the acting director, Pooja Sood was working against the idea behind the founding of JKK. There are two sides to every story.
She was instrumental in conducting many new activities and events like Bookaroo, Travel Photo Jaipur, to name a few. Exhibitions and events that supported poor artisans and craftsmen were stopped completely. The Shilpgram, where most of these events took place was closed to all such events. In a bid to drive revenues, the rates were revised. It is hard to reach any firm conclusion. A picture of an event – Jaipur Kala Mahotsav in Shilpgram.
Charles Correa during one of his interviews said this about Jawahar Kala Kendra.
“The design of Jawahar Kala Kendra comes from the city itself, which was based on the nine squares each representing nine planets. And the ruler who built the city was obsessed with the sky, so on one side he used the oldest myths of the sky which is the ‘Navgrah’ -the nine planets and then he also is the one who built the newest myth which is science, through astronomical instruments. For example, the Jantar Mantar, the masonry tools designed to study the sky which was way ahead of their time. People measured very precisely the movement of the sun and the stars because the instruments were made from masonry and fixed, otherwise metal instruments could move with the tremor of the earth or something else. So, he had these two different takes on the sky, and he brought them together in this city, and since it’s a memorial to India’s first prime minister Nehru, nothing better than to bring back the city its past. Nehru wrote a book called ‘The discovery of India’ which was looking backward into the Indian culture but also commissioned Corbusier to invent a new future through a modern city Chandigarh. Now how do you bring those two visions together? ”
Charles Corea felt architecture is a sculpture but used by human beings so these doors and windows are places for light and air. These openings don’t spoil sculpture, they make it complete. This is well manifested in Jawahar Kala Kendra.
Jawahar Kala Kendra provides a creative space for the residents of Jaipur. It would be hard to imagine a replacement in lieu of JKK. For years, Ravindra Manch near Albert Hall Museum kept the theatre active in the city. Check out Jaipur Art Summit at Ravindra Manch.
Once JKK was built, it provided a huge impetus to the creative souls. If you are visiting Jaipur and have a creative inclination, do visit this place. Do you have something similar in your city?
Jawahar Kala Kendra is located in Bajaj Nagar, JLN Marg. It is mid-way between Albert Hall Museum and Patrika Gate.
Open all days of the week, Monday to Sunday – 10 AM to 9 PM