Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Jaipur part one - Amber Fort and the Pink City

Today we have reached Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. Our driver Shyam and guide Himmat, both locals, explained that it is really three cities - the modern Jaipur, with glass buildings and shopping centres, within that the Pink City, built in the last 3-4 centuries surrounded by terracotta red (locally known as pink) city walls with high gates decorated with white designs.

And finally Amber, high on the hill beyond the Pink City, a fortified palace for the royal household of the Maharajah Jai Singh II (founder of Jaipur) who had many wives (maharanis) and even more children plus associated maids and other servants. The maharajah built his fort in this place on top of a hill, surrounded by more hills as this was easy to defend. Although a Hindu he made an alliance with the invading Mughals which brought a degree of peace to the area. 

To get to the Amber Fort first we drove through the Pink City with its once elegant buildings now faded. This was the first Indian city to be built on a grid system, with shops designed to be set inside a colonnade to provide shade. 

The most notable building is the Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal), a five-storey building looking like a beehive, built with pierced stone panels so that the ladies could watch without being seen. The pillars on top were once real gold and apparently it has 1000 windows.

Opposite lies this building, with a chhatri (canopy) on top to provide shade from the sun.

Then past rows of shops and crumbling buildings with the bustle of life continuing as normal.

Indian Acro-props!

The metro is being extended in the Pink City, so traffic is even more chaotic than normal - here's the milk-man stuck in the traffic jam.

Finally out the other side, past the Maharajahs' summer palace on the lake (Jal Mahal)

and up the hill to Amber, passing this magnificent creature

before our first glimpse of the fort above the lake.

The walls extend round the neighbouring hills, like an Indian version of the Great Wall of China

As usual, some locals were alert to the presence of tourists - look carefully and you will see the snake charmer . . . Whilst others went about daily live oblivious to our presence

Being a hill fort, the way up is steep, so what better way to travel than by elephant? It's a strange, rocking and rolling experience, but quite pleasant once you get used to it.

Our mahout was called Khalid, and his elephant was Monica. They had been working together for 15 years, and when he called her name she responded by lifting her trunk.

Elephant traffic jam!

It is a huge palace, built in a mix of the Hindu and Mughal architecture we are by now beginning to recognise. Huge gates called Singh Pol (Lion gate) - a symbol of strength.

The colonnaded Diwan-I-Aam (hall of public audience) with Hindu carvings of elephants and plants - spot the peacock - and Lotus flowers at the base of the columns;

great views down to the garden on the lake;

the locals looking on, bored with the whole idea of tourists; 

and loads of intricate decoration ...

even the Turkish baths were decorated.

But the undoubted jewel of this place was a glass summerhouse  - encrusted with convex mirrors to reflect the light, and stained glass imported from Belgium.

Doesn't look much from here, but close up it was stunning

I've had to stop myself from including about 40 photographs here!

These panels look the same as those at the Taj Mahal, but look again - the little butterflies show that this is Hindu rather than Islamic decoration

The rings are curtain hooks

and there's a garden complete with a cooling fountain

which is linked to the air conditioning system inside the palace - that's not a fireplace but a water channel to encourage evaporation of water and cooling of the atmosphere 

The Mughals destroyed most of the Hindu decoration in this place, but some still remains in the private apartments for the wives and children and their maids, and the Maharajah's bedroom.

Elsewhere, typical Persian perfume bottle motifs appear in various guises

and the peeling walls have their own beauty (and more curtain rings)

They are renovating this building - hope they don't ruin it's patina of age

So we left the Amber Fort, through the narrow streets of Amber, past Hindu temples

and local wildlife

a business on every street corner

headed for lunch (delicious Thali) 

and a look at some of Rajastan's craft workshops.

1 comment:

Joanne Crewdson said...

Wow - stunning! love all the intricate patterns in the stonework.