“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life”
– Michael Palin
The route that evolved as we planned to cover five places and 2000-odd kilometers by road was:
Jaipur has many monuments, the first place we visited on our trip to the land of royals was Amber Palace, located on a hill, built by Raja Maan Singh. Spelled as Amber and pronounced as Amer. The first thing that caught my eyes on our drive uphill was Elephant rides taken from the gates all the way up to the palace! I wonder how these giants managed the steep climb over cobbled paths. Our guide told us that each elephant is allowed to ride only four times per day and one way ride takes around an hour. Poor Elephants!
Sheesh Mahal, which literally translates to mirror palace has glass inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings. Convex mirrors are used in such a pattern that if a lamp is placed at one corner, light reflects in all the mirrors and thus the ceiling appears like a star-lit sky! Sheesh Mahal was used by the royal families during winter.
Another attraction of Sheesh Mahal is a marble pillar with carvings of flowers and hovering butterflies; the flower has seven unique designs of scorpion, elephant’s trunk, lion’s tail, lotus, fish tail.
Amber Fort overlooks Maota Lake, which has a garden in the center. This garden is called Kesar Bhag as the Maharaja wanted Saffron plantation so that the fragrance would hit his Diwan-i-Khas. Due to unfavourable weather conditions, saffron was not grown here, however, a garden was still maintained. The architecture of this garden is in Persian style.
Taking it all in, we left Amber for lunch followed by some shopping. On our way back we made a quick stop at Jal Mahal and Hawa Mahal.
Hawa Mahal is located in the City Palace complex. Built mainly for the ladies of the royal families to watch the city from their veiled comfort (purdah system). City Palace includes Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal. The palace houses a museum but the greater part of it is still a royal residence. When we visited the palace, a part of the complex was being readied for a ‘Shahi Wedding’.
Jantar Mantar is just around the corner from City Palace. It is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments built by Jai Singh. Delhi also has a Jantar Mantar but the one in Jaipur is the largest observatory and is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The observatory consists of fourteen geometric devices to measure time, eclipse, locate constellations etc.
Jantar Mantar just proves that people of the yore were geniuses! Calling it a day we returned to our hotel for an overnight stay. We started our day 2 by visiting another fort of the Royals- Nahargarh Fort, constructed on Aravali hills.
The fort is divided into many apartments where each apartment contains a lobby, bedroom, toilet, kitchen and store. The architecture is a combination of Indian and European style. The signature style of coral Ganesh idol over the main gate could be found here as well. The most beautiful part of Nahargarh Fort was Zenana (part of the palace reserved for the women)
After exploring Nahargarh Fort we left for Jaigarh Fort, which is also built on Aravali hills mainly to protect Amber Fort. On our way to Jaigarh, we saw many peacocks. However, we were not lucky enough to see them dance (my ‘mhare hiwda mein naache mor’ is still an unfulfilled wish ) Jaigarh fort has many watch towers and houses Jaivana Canon, which happens to be the world’s largest cannon on wheels. A plaque at the entrance gives relevant information on the history of the canon, from which we learnt that it was fired just once.
Food and Cultural Exploration
Apart from its heritage sites, the Pink City is famous for Sanganeri block printing. Sanganer is a town near Jaipur from where the style originated.Traditional Rajasthani print generally comprises of animals like horses, elephants, peacocks, camels and Rajasthan’s famous romantic couple – Dhola and Maru riding a camel. The block is made of wood with carvings which is then dipped in a tray of dye made from vegetable and fruit extracts.
It is also famous for Lac Bangles made of white clay. We got a chance to see how these bangles were made and I can only admire their skill.
A visit to Jaipur is incomplete without visiting Chowki Dhani – a Rajasthani village themed hospitality. Though Chowki Dhani is present in many locations of the country, I wanted to visit the one in Rajasthan (feels more authentic, you see ) Entry to the theme park costs 500INR for open air dining and 750INR for Royal dining. One can enjoy the puppet show, Rajasthani folk dance- Ghoomar, Elephant, Camel or Bullock cart ride, boat ride, play different recreational games and try their hands on pottery. We could find kiosks where artifacts were sold, ladies applying Mehendi (Henna) for free and artisans working on their crafts.
Thus my Jaipur exploration comes to an end. The princely nature of this land leaves a fascinating experience.
For ease of reading, I have separate posts on the rest of the places from my trip – Udaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner.
Thanks for reading!