As our travels traversed through Northern India, we stopped in Jaipur for a day while staying north of the country in Delhi. Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan state in India, and founded by Rajputs during the 12th century CE. Rajput refers to sons of princes.
Jaipur has over 3 million inhabitants, and is a major producer of millet, barley, chickpeas, and cotton. As a commercial trade centre, their major industries include engineering and metalwork, and are known for their arts and crafts in jewelry, printed cloths, and ivory carvings. This makes Jaipur an excellent destination for souvenir shopping.
It is a city mixed with both Hindu and Muslim populations. Much of the city has a rosy hue to its buildings, therefore dubbed the “Pink City”.
At our arrival, on our way to the town of Amer to see the Amber Palace, the streets of Jaipur flooded with tall beautiful elephants marching in a line. Their faces and trunks were painted, and they wore colorful cloths over their backs. These majestic and peaceful creatures walked slowly up the hill towards the Amber Palace alongside us, their wide rounded feet crushing the pavement, eyes cast down hidden under hooded eyelids, and the sun behind the smog of the Indian sky casting shadows on the thick wrinkles of their tough skin.
Amber Palace and Fort
Amer Palace or Amber Palace is a fort, and part of the Rajput fortress. Amber Fort is a small town built on a hilltop surrounding the palace to protect the royals who used to reside there. The fort is incredibly grand, and offers a stunning view of the city from above.
The fort is the ancient citadel of the Kachwaha Rajputs, and is fortified with defence from the elevation. The Kachwaha were warrior rulers, and Amer used to be their capital state during the 12th century, continuing for 600 years after. In 1728 the capital of Rajasthan was transferred to Jaipur.
Within these walls was a major urban centre, with temples, palaces, and trading centres. Some of these buildings have stayed intact. Below, lies the Maotha Lake. Certain areas of the walls of the fort can be seen along the snaking mountainside, similar to the Great Wall of China.
Built during the 16th century, the surrounding fort is made of red sandstone and marble, similar materials used to build the Taj Mahal and its mosques, meaning that this fort was inspired by Mughal architecture which blends Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles. Certain parts of the fort are made of yellow sandstone.
The elephants we saw marching down the streets offered rides up the hill to the fort. Due to the mistreatment of the elephants we chose not to ride one, but gushed at their beauty from afar.
Along Hawa Mahal Road, it is impossible not to drop your jaws looking up at the marvelous facade of Hawa Mahal in Jaipur’s city centre. Built in 1799 by Maharajah Sawai Pratap Singh, a member of the Kachwaha Rajput dynasty, Hawa Mahal is made of red and pink sandstone. Hawa Mahal means “palace of the winds”.
From the top of the five-storey structure you can gaze upon the bustling urban life of Jaipur below. The front of the structure looks upon the streets of the city through its many open windows of Jharokhas, which are overhanging enclosed balconies. Hawa Mahal has 953 of them, resembling hundreds of little eyes. The windows are decorated with a lattice design.
The palace was initially built for royal women to enjoy the revelry of events and festivals occurring on the streets in the evening, while safely hidden away from public view. This is because at the time they had to follow the strict customs of the Purdah system. This religious and social system excludes women physically from certain areas or events, or requires women to fully cover their skin and form.
The building was built to resemble the shape of Lord Krishna’s crown. The structure is a testament to the creativity and brilliance of Rajput architecture.
Jal Mahal is a water palace serenely floating at the centre of the Man Sagar Lake, south of the Amber Palace. The symmetrical building also brings to mind the style of the Taj Mahal with four minarets at each corner. On the top of the building is a beautiful garden of trees decorating the terrace. The desert hue of the palace against a backdrop of mountains and the water provides a romantic view, especially at night when the palace is lit up.
Shopping for Shawls & Scarves
Near Hawa Mahal road in the city centre, is the Tripolia Bazaar where you can feast on colourfully decadent souvenirs. This bazaar sells scarves, leather bags, shawls, sari’s, various textiles, carpets, and bangles or jewelry. In addition, the streets of Hawa mahal road is also lined with markets.
We spent a couple of hours looking for scarves for our family and friends. It is important to haggle because the price the vendor starts with is generally overpriced. It takes practice and confidence to haggle. Remember, you can find a better price elsewhere, because there are many vendors around, and each of them are selling either the exact same product or a variant of it.
Although, keep in mind to be respectful since the game of haggling is meant to be an expert dance of negotiation, and not a cruel attempt at stealing.
Our day was too short in Jaipur. There are many beautiful wonders the Pink City has to offer, so if you get a chance, stay awhile.
Copyright © Beyond Here 2020
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