Monday, 6 November 2017

24th October - Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

It was another early start for our tour of Jaipur, this due mainly to the fact that as we would have to make our way through the city the traffic would be much lighter early on, and the light too was much better, later in the morning the sun would be much harsher, while early on the warm morning light was the perfect tone for the colours of the city.

Jaipur is the capital and the largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan. It was founded on 18 November 1727 by Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amer after whom the city is named.  During the rule of Sawai Ram Singh, the city was painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, in 1876. Pink is considered in Hinduism, the colour of hospitality and welcome, and the whole exercise took five years to complete.  Many of the avenues and buildings remained pretty in pink, giving Jaipur a distinctive appearance and the name the "Pink City".  

Once through the gates of the city our first destination was to be the Hawa Mahal, or the "Palace of Winds".  It was so it is named because it was essentially a high screen wall built so that the women of the royal family could observe street festivals while unseen from the outside. It is Constructed of red and pink sandstone, the palace sits on the edge of the City Palace.   

Our car pulled up to the side of the road where lots of people were milling around, we were told to get out of the car, and looking up we could see the palace.

We were then instructed by the guide to cross the road, which Helen described as akin to trying to cross the M25.  We managed this just by being assertive and hoping that the cars, motorbikes, cows, camel carts and just carts (delete as is appropriate), would slow for us!

On the other side yest we did get a better view but the pavement was full of tourists trying to getthe same view, while cobras danced to the tune of pipes in baskets, once again absolute madness.

The unique five-storey exterior of the Hawa Mahal is akin to the honeycomb of a beehive with its 953 small windows called jharokhas decorated with intricate latticework.  The original intention of the lattice was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen, since they had to obey strict "purdah" (face cover). The lattice also allows cool air from the venturi effect through the intricate pattern, air conditioning the whole area during the high temperatures in summers.  We were seeing the Hawa Mahal from the street view and it looks here like the font of the palace but in reality it this the back of that structure.

Our visist to the hawa Mahal was over ass quickly as it began, and we took our lives in hands once again and fought our way back across the road and into the car, we then set off for the Amer or Amber Fort, which is situated on a forested hill promontory that juts into Maota Lake near the town of Amer, about 11 kilometres from Jaipur city.  The Amer Fort, as it stands now, was built over the remnants of this earlier structure during the reign of Raja Man Singh, the Kachwaha King of Amber.
As we pulled up the early morning light was enhancing the yellow ochre colouring of the walls of the fort and reflecting in the waters of the lake.

The still water sending mirror like reflections from the adjacent buildings.

As is the case in India, wildlife is never far away even in the busiest cities, and Whiskered Terns flew low over the water, but just too far away for my shorter lens, but a Black-winged Stilt flew low across the water that was turned ochre by the reflection from the buildings.

High above the Amber Fort is Jaigarh Fort, located on the Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles) within the Aravalli range of hills.

The Amber Fort and Jaigarh Fort are considered one complex, as the two are connected by a subterranean passage. This passage was meant as an escape route in times of war to enable the royal family members and others in the Amber Fort to shift to the more fortified Jaigarh Fort.

Included in the tour was a ride up the side of the palace and into the main courtyard on an elephant.  We could see the elephants making their way up to the fort.

Having experienced an elephant ride on our last visit to India, I swore then never to get on one again, and we declined the offer, choosing instead to be driven up in the car.  We were deposited once again with our guide, and walked the remaining few metres, which allowed us to look down on the town of Amer, and its impressive temple.

As we walked into the main courtyard the elephants were winding around from the main gate and allowing their passenger to disembark which along with getting on are the two most uncomfortable acts of riding an elephant.

The elephants are owned by the goverment, and we were assured that their work is correctly controlled and that they have breaks and are only allowed a certain number of trips, but having seen the way the handlers control them, it is still for me a shame to see these magnificent beasts used in such a way.

The Palace is divided into four main sections each with its own entry gate and courtyard. Main entry is through the Suraj Pol (Sun Gate).  This gate was built exclusively and was provided with guards as it was the main entry into the palace. It faced east towards the rising sun, hence the name "Sun Gate". Royal cavalcades and dignitaries entered the palace through this gate.  Today this is also the gate when tourist arrive on the back of an elephants.

This then leads to Jalebi Chowk, the first main courtyard. This was the place where armies would hold victory parades with their war bounty on their return from battles, which were also witnessed by the Royal family's women folk through the latticed windows.   

We climbed the steps to the look out over Jalebi Chowk.

 All around the palace is a wall that runs along the top of the hill sides to act as further fortification.

Looking into the sun it silhouettes with the sky showing the unique pattern of the top of the wall that was built to allow vision and protection for the guards.

 From many places around the fort there were views of Jaigarh Fort, that probably afforded further assurance of the fortifications.

An impressive stairway from Jalebi Chowk leads into the main palace grounds. Here, at the entrance to the right of the stairway steps is the Sila Devi temple where the Rajput Maharajas worshiped. Everywhere there were arches that allowed the cool air to flow through during the heat of the summer.  With the morning light and the colour of the material this produced some wonderful shapes and angles.

The second courtyard, up the main stairway of the first level courtyard, houses the Diwan-i-Aam or the Public Audience Hall. Built with a double row of columns,The glare of the sun was never far away, but some how the whole complex felt cool.

Every one is looking to make some money, and this lady in traditional sari was happy to pose for ten rupees!

Steam rooms and bath rooms were also present on the side of the fort, and from the windows there were views of the elephants bring in more tourists.

You can see the elephants moving in both directions now.

As well as the elephants there were views of the lake and gardens that provided the water and and food, the water being brought up by block and tackle to the many water tanks located in the domes of the buildings.

In the steam room the lattice windows through shadows across the floor.

The next gateway was that of Ganesh Pol, or the Ganesh Gate, named after the Hindu God Lord Ganesh, who removes all obstacles in life, this is the entry into the private palaces of the Maharajas. It is a three-level structure with many frescoes that was also built at the orders of the Mirza Raja Jai. Not wishing to be too disrespectful, but it looks a little like Peppa Pig to me.

Above this gate is the Suhag Mandir where ladies of the royal family used to watch functions held in the Diwan-i-Aam through latticed windows, and shower flowers on the returning armies.

The third courtyard is where the private quarters of the Maharaja, his family and attendants were located. This courtyard is entered through the Ganesh Pol or Ganesh Gate, which is embellished with mosaics and sculptures. The courtyard has two buildings, one opposite to the other, separated by a garden laid in the fashion of the Mughal Gardens. 

Corridors run along side the courtyard, all with holes and lattice windows that allow sufficient light in to be able to see while keeping them cool.

The perfect place for the model to pose again for ten rupees.

The building to the left of the entrance gate is called the Jai Mandir, which is exquisitely embellished with glass inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings. 

The mirrors are of convex shape and designed with coloured foil and paint which would glitter bright under candlelight at the time it was in use. Also known as Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), the mirror mosaics and coloured glasses were a "glittering jewel box in flickering candle light".

Incredible detail that must have taken years of time and patience to complete.

The fourth courtyard is where the Zenana (Royal family women, including concubines or mistresses) lived. This courtyard has many living rooms where the queens resided and who were visited by the king at his choice without being found out as to which queen he was visiting, as all the rooms open into a common corridor.

Once again we were taken more about wondering what this palace must have been like when it was full of people.  Large mats were draped from the buildings while curtains of water fell from holes in pipes to allow the wind to cool the occupants.  Were there the colours you expected to see, on the people in the same way they were present on the buildings.

We took the time to wander around and take in the majesty of what must have been quite a spectacle.

With our visit over we made our way back through the fort and the gauntlet of people trying to sell you veils, hats, packs of pens (why?), and guide books for ten rupees.  Back at the car more chaos ensued the cars were all blocked in and a mammoth game of tetras began as the white tourist cars were slowly moved to allow the tightest of space become a route away.  at one point I nearly had my toe run over, but I managed to get my foot out of the sandal to leave it under the tyre.

We were heading back into the city, but on the way passed Jal Mahal, the Water Palace located on the Man Sagar Lake.  We had passed it on the way to Amer, but didn't stop, this time we had the chance, but unfortunately the light was now not as good as it was first thing in the morning despite what our guide said.

The lake is man made and formed by the construction of a dam on the river that flowed through the distant hills.  The Palace built in red Sandstone, has five storeys, the bottom four are under water when the lake is full.  Constructed in 1750 by Maharaja Madho Singh, it was originally intended to act as a palace for his duck hunting parties.

We looked out over the lake from a waterfront area that once again was busy with local traders.  The edge of the lake was littered with rubbish, but here Black-winged Stilts and Great Egrets foraged.  The Stilts behaving very tamely and coming very close.

Some of the best views I have had of this elegant wader.

As well as the wading birds more Whiskered Terns flew past us, but too distant for the short lens.

We left the lake and headed into the madness that was Jaipur city.  Some lovely pink buildings once again.

And a rather sad and dying tut tut van.

The next stop was the Jantar Mantar monument which is known as the City Observatory, and is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments, built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, and completed in 1734.  It features the world's largest stone sundial, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.   it is located near City Palace and Hawa Mahal of Jaipur, the monument features masonry, stone and brass instruments that were built using astronomy and instrument design principles of ancient Hindu Sanskrit texts.  The instruments allow the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye.

Amazing to see the detail and accuracy of these instruments, but it didn't hold the attention, in fact the best bit was being able to see the front of the Hawa Mahal we had visited early this morning.

From the Observatory we walked to the City Palace, which includes the Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal palaces and other buildings, which was the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur, the head of the Kachwaha Rajput clan. 

The Chandra Mahal palace now houses a museum, but the greatest part of it is still a royal residence. The palace complex, located northeast of the centre of the grid-patterned Jaipur city, incorporates an impressive and vast array of courtyards, gardens and buildings. The palace was built between 1729 and 1732, initially by Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amber. He planned and built the outer walls, and later additions were made by successive rulers continuing up to the 20th century.

We visited the three main museums where we were not allowed to take photographs but could see weapons from the past and the many robes and clothes worn by the Maharajas, colourful garments made from silk and cotton.

All around the palaces there were the now familiar arches casting their shadows.

While the buildings were surrounded by the pink painted walls.

We declined to visit the craft markets, the last few days had been extremely busy, and with a whole afternoon in front of us we decided it would be better spent relaxing and getting ready for the next part of this Indian adventure, the National Parks of Ranthambore.

We spent the afternoon by the pool, along with a few hundred Feral Pigeons that would come down to drink the water.  As the sun started to drop in the sky I went upstairs to catch the sunset.  From about 16.30 the sun turns into a red ball, and loses its heat as it fights with the haze and pollution of the city.  It finally sets around 17.45 but before had hovers "Bladerunner" like over the buildings of the city, turning the sky pink over the Pink City to the soundtrack of the rumble of traffic and the incessant car horns.

Another early start tomorrow, but for us maybe the real adventure starts then.


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