Jaipur

Rajasthan, literally meaning Land of Kings, was once a collection of states ruled by individual Rajas (Kings). Today it is the largest state in India, and the region's sumptuous past is recalled through the many palaces and forts. Arriving in Jaipur, the state's capital, we noticed that camel carts now accompany those pulled by cows and horses. And the vibrant reds, saffrons, limes, cobalts and golds of the many sarees, punctuate the sandy colours of the desert and the pinky red tone of the Old City's architecture.

 

Photos by Ben Journee

 

Amber Fort 

Amber Fort 

We visited Amber Fort the afternoon we arrived in Jaipur. Amber (or Amer) was once the capital of the Kachhwaha Maharajas (before Jaipur) and was built by Raja Man Singh I in 1592. The fort resides on top of a hill, and overlooks the small village of Amber and the manmade Maota Lake and gardens. 

 

We followed the route that dignitaries and royal cavalcades (processions on horseback) would once take, entering through the Sun Gate after winding up the wide pathway, into the first main courtyard (called the Jaleb Chowk, which means place for soldiers to assemble). From here, one enters the main palace grounds, which houses the Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audiences), through another gate at the top of an impressive staircase.

Pathway to the Sun Gate

Pathway to the Sun Gate

The Sun Gate  

The Sun Gate  

View of Jaleb Chowk

View of Jaleb Chowk

Diwan-i-Am on the left and Ganesh Pol to the right of the courtyard

Diwan-i-Am on the left and Ganesh Pol to the right of the courtyard

Diwan-i-Am

Diwan-i-Am

Meeting room next to the Diwan-i-Am 

Meeting room next to the Diwan-i-Am 

A focal point of this space is the stunning Ganesh Pol (Ganesh Gate). This is the entrance way into the private palaces of the maharajas, and its intricate design and careful inlay work befits the lifestyle of Mughal royalty. Above this gate is the space called the Suhag Mandir where the women of the royal family would watch functions in the Diwan-i-Am from behind lattice windows, where they could see without being seen, and thereby maintaining purdah (female seclusion and veiling, the term literally means 'curtain').

View of Ganesh Gate 

View of Ganesh Gate 

Ganesh Pol

Ganesh Pol

Suhag Mandir

Suhag Mandir

Latice work of the Suhag Mandir which allowed the women to see out without being seen.

Latice work of the Suhag Mandir which allowed the women to see out without being seen.

In the private palaces there is the summer palace, on the second story to catch the breeze, and the winter palace directly below which is covered in mesmerising mirror mosaics.  

 

Summer and winter palaces, with Mughal garden dominating the courtyard

Summer and winter palaces, with Mughal garden dominating the courtyard

Mikayla posing for a photograph (a relatively common occurrence at popular tourist sites, we have discovered)

Mikayla posing for a photograph (a relatively common occurrence at popular tourist sites, we have discovered)

Mirror mosaics of the winter palace

Mirror mosaics of the winter palace

The roof, along with every other square inch of the winter palace, was covered in intricate designs

The roof, along with every other square inch of the winter palace, was covered in intricate designs

We passed a group of school children when we were looking around the winter palace. Upon seeing the camera around Ben's neck, they all wanted their photo taken, we certainly didn't mind!

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After winding through the hallways and ramps, which are corrugated to act as brakes for the wheeled chairs that royal women (with heavy garments) were pushed around on, you come to the closed off zenana (meaning 'of the women') apartments or harem, where the (many) wives and concubines of the maharaja would spend their time.

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The Zenana

The Zenana

A central pavilion where the wives and concubines would congregate (their private apartments surround the central courtyard).

A central pavilion where the wives and concubines would congregate (their private apartments surround the central courtyard).

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Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II became King of Amber at the age of 11 in 1699. Facing the problem of living space in the small town of Amber, Jai Singh founded the new capital of Jaipur, and turned the walls of the planned city pink (to imitate the red sandstone found in Delhi and Agra), a now identifying feature of this city.

The pink walls and gate leading in to the 'old city' of Jaipur

The pink walls and gate leading in to the 'old city' of Jaipur

When he founded his new city, Jai Singh II also decided on the location for the royal cremation grounds, and we visited the awe-inspiring, miniature Taj Mahal cenotaphs belonging to him and his family. The complex is called Gaitore (believed to be a mispronunciation of the Hindi phrase 'Gaye ka Thor' meaning 'resting place of departed souls'). It was peaceful, with only a handful of other visitors, and such a beautiful place to wander and admire.

Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II's pure white marble cenotaph

Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II's pure white marble cenotaph

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Our time in Jaipur was also spent visiting the City Palace, which is still the seat of the royal family, the Jantar Mantar, or royal observatory developed by Jai Singh II who had a sincere, and possibly obsessive, love of astronomy, and the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) that was the harem for the wives and concubines of the maharaja, and originally connected to the main palace complex by underground tunnels.

Inside the public area of the City Palace. This gate leads to the (once) private courtyard.

Inside the public area of the City Palace. This gate leads to the (once) private courtyard.

Internal courtyard of the City Palace

Internal courtyard of the City Palace

Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences)

Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences)

Inside Diwan-i-Khas with view of one of the two silver jars (the largest silver objects in the world) that Madho Singh II took with him on a trip to the England in 1902, full of water from the river Gangas to keep him pure during his time abroad.

Inside Diwan-i-Khas with view of one of the two silver jars (the largest silver objects in the world) that Madho Singh II took with him on a trip to the England in 1902, full of water from the river Gangas to keep him pure during his time abroad.

Jantar Mantar (Royal Observatory) and the interesting astrological devices

Jantar Mantar (Royal Observatory) and the interesting astrological devices

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The identifiable honey-combed exterior of the Hawa Mahal, with lattice work to allow the women of the harem a view onto the busy streets below (without being seen).

The identifiable honey-combed exterior of the Hawa Mahal, with lattice work to allow the women of the harem a view onto the busy streets below (without being seen).

Internal courtyard of the Hawa Mahal

Internal courtyard of the Hawa Mahal

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Iswari Minar Swarga Sal (minaret erected by Jai Singh II's son, Iswari, who later killed himself by snakebite rather than face the advancing Maratha army). From the top one has unencumbered views of the streets of the Pink City.

Iswari Minar Swarga Sal (minaret erected by Jai Singh II's son, Iswari, who later killed himself by snakebite rather than face the advancing Maratha army). From the top one has unencumbered views of the streets of the Pink City.

View of Jaipur from the top of Iswari's Minar

View of Jaipur from the top of Iswari's Minar

A painted elephant and his mahout (under his tarpaulin) meandering down the road

A painted elephant and his mahout (under his tarpaulin) meandering down the road

Drinking coconut water in our rickshaw to Amber Fort

Drinking coconut water in our rickshaw to Amber Fort

A bangle store on the street below Hawa Mahal

A bangle store on the street below Hawa Mahal

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