Friday, May 08, 2009

Amber Fort and Hawa Mahal

Amber Fort
The next morning one friend and I (the other travel mate was not feeling well) decided to hire an auto rickshaw for the day and see some sights - as well as doing more shopping. On the 11 km road out to the Amber Fort, we passed by a tiny chariot pulled by two horned cows wearing bold floral clothes. Coming back from the fort were several elephants whose ears, face and truck were painted with colorful decorations. The ramparts of Amber Fort snaked across the contours of the hilly landscape like the ridge of a lizard. The sandy-colored Amber fort, built in 1592 by Maharaja Man Singh commanded a large hill. As soon as the rickshaw stopped we were accosted by men and boys trying to sell postcards, carvings, camera flash cards, film, and other trinkets. Apparently detecting my disinterest, they left me alone and focused on my friend. Now at the top of the winding steps, we were greeted with grand doors and arched openings, with painted nature motifs covering every inch. From above, the gardens of Kesar Kyari Bagh resembled geometric tiles found on Islamic architecture, its star-shaped flower bed walls looking like the tracery.

From there, our rickshaw driver took us to a place that did block printing (and also sold beautiful fabric, textiles of Rajasthan, etc.). Next we visited a place that specialized in the Jaipur blue pottery. The designs and colors reminded me of the ceramics from Nabeul, Tunisia. Our driver paused for a few moments while we took a few shots of the Jal Mahal, an 18th century water palace inspired by the Lake Palace at Udaipur.

Hawa Mahal - Palace of the Winds
We also took a few photos of the famed Hawa Mahal, otherwise known as the Palace of the Winds. This pink landmark of Jaipur built in 1799 reminded me a bit of the honeycomb-like architecture at Tatouine, Tunisia. This structure, essentially a tapered 5-storey fa├žade that is only one room deep, was built in this manner to enable the females of the royal household to watch the goings-on below without being seen. We also saw the landmark Tripolia Gate and Jami Masjid “Friday Mosque” structures. After all that sightseeing, we were ready to do more shopping. Although it was a challenge trying to also pay attention to the store windows and pedestrian traffic, I did manage to sometimes look up and take some shots of once-beautiful havelis, some of which had remnants of decoratively painted murals.

See more photos of the Amber Fort and other Jaipur architecture on Flickr

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