Magnificent Jaipur

Hola mi amigos. Recently I’d been to Jaipur on an official trip. At first, I was not sure if I wanted to go. I’m a family man and I prefer visiting such places with my family. Well – when duty calls, the employed have to go – and so I went. The date: 12th July 2019. The weather was a far cry from Mumbai’s rainy weather. I went prepared – with a raincoat and an umbrella – things I never removed from my bag. It was hot and dry in Jaipur – so I was relieved (an ex-Nagpurkar that I am).

We had 93 hours to spend in Jaipur and I wanted to make the most out of it. Now, let me remind you that we were on an official trip and had ‘work’ to be done. So, these escapades that I’m going to describe later were managed in the ‘in-between’ times. We made two trips whilst in Jaipur.

  • Day 1: Hawa Mahal, Jal Mahal and Rajasthali

How to get there: Take a metro train to Chand Pol and then an e-Rickshaw to your Badi Chaupad (big market)

The metro ride was nothing to write home about – just run-of-the-mill. Once we alighted and got off the station, we were accosted by rick drivers. We had to manage to steer clear of them and walk ahead to an e-rick driver who readily agreed to take us to Hawa Mahal (he added the other two destinations by himself – for a price though).

Hawa Mahal
Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal:

For the uninitiated, Jaipur was founded in 1727 by Jai Singh II (a.k.a. Sawai Jai Singh, who became a ruler at the tender age of 11 (I was learning to ride a bicycle and fly kites then). His grandson, Sawai Pratap Singh built the Hawa Mahal in 1799, at the age of 35 (I just got married at that age was learning the ropes of accepting dominion by a queen). A dominating feature of Hawa Mahal (Palace of Wind/Breeze) is the façade that includes 900+ jharokhas (protruding balcony). These jharokhas are neatly stacked in a 5-storey near-pyramidal structure about 50 ft high. It’s said that the design of Hawa Mahal was inspired from Khetri Mahal in Jhunjhunu).

The unique architecture of Hawa Mahal is what makes it so beautiful. This reddish-pink sandstone monument is located close to City Palace and Jantar Mantar. All these 3 (Hawa Mahal, Jantar and City Palace) are within a stone’s throw from each other – if you could throw a stone 900m away, that is.

Note: the trio is located in what’s called the pink city.

Jal Mahal
Jal Mahal

Jal Mahal:

Made somewhere in the 18th century, this is a quaint palace located right in the middle of Man Sagar Lake off Amer Road. This palace was also the handiwork of Jai Singh II. A striking peculiarity of this place is that this palace is a 5-storeyed structure of which four remain submerged during monsoons when the lake is full. Only one storey is visible in that case.

Rajasthali Textile Development Corporation:

Another attraction (maybe not for everyone) along the same road is this fantastic place where one can shop for genuine Rajasthani garments and handicrafts. Some of the popular shopper’s items sold here are the ultra-lightweight Jaipuri Razai (quilt). It’s so light that if packed nice and tight, it could fit a lady’s handbag. The fillings in these quilts include angora wool, mohair, cashmere/pashmina etc. I bought one filled with Angora wool. Another peculiarity of these quilts is that they keep you warm in winter and cosy in summer. In addition to this, they have usual inclusions like dress material, saris, wood carvings, lac bangles etc. Now that’s something I’m no expert of – hence I had to leave it alone.

Note: I completed my target of 10,000 steps for the first time.

Amber fort
Amber fort
  • Day 2: Amer Fort

How to get there: Take bus 3B (from Badi Chaupad), AC1, AC5 (from Man Sarovar metro station). I’d say getting to Chand Pol is your best bet.

This was the most spectacular of sights that I saw in Jaipur (not that I’ve seen it all). All one needs to do to get here is get to Chand Pol metro station, disembark and take a bus to Amer fort. Now, this fort is a part of another trio: Nahar Garh, Jai Garh and Amer and all three are close (just a cannonball’s throw away). Unfortunately, we had time only to see Amer fort.

Maota lake
Maota lake

While the place is spelt Amber – it’s pronounced with the ‘b’ silent. So, don’t correct when google maps suggest Amber when you typed Amer. Constructed in 967 AD, this fort is a little over a millennium old. It started with the settlement of the Amer town (actually a hamlet) in 967 AD. The palace and the fortifications were built later. The bastions (perimeter wall) enclose an impressive 12sq. km area. Jodha Bai (of Jodha-Akbar fame) a.k.a. Mariam-uz-Zamani a.k.a. Harkha Bai was born in Amber in 1542. Her ancestral home is in ruins today – but who cares. At least the concerned authorities don’t.

Jodhabai's home
Jodhabai’s home

The moment our bus neared Amber bus stop, we were greeted by this magnificent marble and sandstone monument that has stood the test of time and braved the apathy of the governing bodies. In 2013, UNESCO labelled it a World Heritage Site. Every square inch of this place reeks of history and it’s past glory. One just needs to see it from a perspective different from that of tourists. I did – and I could FEEL history unfold itself unto me as I paced slowly and steadily along the winding passages that finally led to the giant castle gates. At a distance, one can see the lofty Jaigarh fort too with a Pachrang flag fluttering atop an imposing tower.

Jaipur Flag (Pachrang)
Jaipur Flag (Pachrang)

Another sight that welcomes you even before you reach Amer palace is the (now dry) मावठा झील (Maota lake). I’m sure this lake doubled as a moat back in the days. Attached to the lake is Kesar Kyari. The garden gets its name from the Kesar plant (saffron) which the king tried to cultivate – but failed. Geography and botany bow to no kings/queens, you see?

Haveli
Haveli

Before we entered the castle – we took a small detour along a cobblestone-lined road that leads to the village downstairs. The village was not our goal – an old Haveli was. This haveli is said to be built the same time as the fort itself – meaning it was also a millennium old. Unlike the palace, this haveli was completely derelict. What a pity. One monument deserves all the care and another gets nothing. I guess the authorities do not fully understand their job. With just a home guard on duty, the place reeked of human and animal excrement. One could also see some empty beer bottles lying around – speaking volumes about its upkeep.

Path to the palace
Path to the palace

After we’ve had enough of the haveli, we walked back into the fort, towards the palace. The palace we entered (also the main entrance) is called Suraj Pol or the Sun Gate (called so because it faced east – the rising sun). we could walk freely across a sprawling courtyard after which we had to buy tickets (@ Rs. 50 per adult) to enter the private sections of the palace. Our tickets were checked twice along the way. The first time – at Ganesh Pol (Ganesha gate) where we could see a Ganesh temple – still owned by the royals. The statue of Lord Ganesha is made of coral and hence, is red.

There are a few distinct sections of the Amer palace – the Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khaas, Sheesh Mahal, Zenana (ladies’ section), 27 Kachehri (27 courts), Hot and Cold-water Turkish baths, latticed garden etc.

It is said that Raja Man Singh I had 12 wives (ranis/queens) and he had made 12 (deodhi) apartments for them. He could freely visit any queen of his choice without letting the other 11 know who the king is with. He had individual stairs/passages to each such apartment from his ‘Man Singh Palace’ (now closed to tourists). The deodhis were cleverly designed to get proper ventilation but poor visibility. It is alleged that Raja Man Singh I had 12 wives since he was a strong believer in astronomy and believed in the 12 nakshatras.

27 Kachehri
27 Kachehri

27 Kachehri was a place where Diwans from 27 villages managed their day-to-day administrative duties.

Darbar-i-Aam
Darbar-i-Aam

Diwan-i-Aam or the house of the commons is a place where the king held court where he listened to public grievances.

Diwan-i-Khas is akin to the house of the lords where the king held high-level ministerial meetings, entertained royal/political guests.

Sheesh-mahal is an intricately carved section of the palace that houses thousands of convex pieces of Belgian glass mirrors. These pieces formed a beautiful and elaborate mosaic of mirrors which would glitter when as much as a small candle was lit below it.

Amongst other attractions is Sukh Mahal, the entrance to which is managed by Sandalwood doors with carvings that are a copy of the garden on the opposite side. Most of the door carvings were plundered – and now there’s a glass case that seals this door. The water for this garden was fed to overhead tanks and this water flowed down a carved marble ramp – cooling it as it flowed down and back to the garden. The result – an air-conditioned chamber appropriately called Sukh Mahal.

With a heavy heart and tired feet, we crawled our way to the Amer town, down the hillock and boarded the next bus to Jaipur station. No, we were not leaving yet – that’s where our hotel was. I wanted more – to see more, to feel more, to dig deeper into those magical times when kings ruled, to feel in unison with every story I heard about this breathtaking monument… the wanderlust and the archaeology-lover in me were still not satisfied.

I could go on and on and never tire – that’s how much my mind holds in terms of memories from that visit. Alas! My hands hurt from all the typing and backspacing. So, I’ll let you enjoy the imagery I have attempted to create for you. I strongly recommend visiting this castle trio – Amber, Jaigarh and Nahargarh

Till we meet again – hasta luego!!!

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