We had saved Jaipur’s best treasures for the last and to think it was so close to our hotel. Amber fort was seven minutes away from the Hotel Trident. Set on top of one of the hills in the Aravalli range, it’s in Amer town and is also called Amer Fort and is more of a palace than a fort.
The fort overlooks Maota Lake that was once filled with alligators. The Jaigarh fort which we saw in Rajasthan Diaries: Day 2 is connected to Amer Fort by a passage that was an escape route for the royals in case of an attack.
To get a feel of the fort, you can watch the video below and you will say that the experience was nothing short of breathtaking.
The music you hear in the video was being played by a snake charmer, and I had no idea when I shot the video, what an amazing addition the music would make to the video – I’m sure you agree; it kind of makes it all come alive.
While I was shooting the video of the fort, a turban seller took me by surprise by placing a turban on my head. I couldn’t tell him anything as I was recording the video but it made me laugh and that is the sound you hear in the middle of the video.
Note: To buy a turban it costed Rs 100 and to take as many photographs as you want with it, it costs Rs 20. We chose the latter.
Now about the fort.
We went by car to the fort. However, that’s the only way you can go. You can walk or even go up on an elephant if you feel like it.
The first thing you see on reaching the fort is the enormous gates of the fort – their sheer size tells you they served their purpose in keeping enemies at bay.
Stepping in through the gates, we found ourselves in a massive courtyard where bedecked elephants walked with their mahouts. One of the many guides standing around pointed us to the ticket counter- Rs 200.00 for foreigners, Rs 25 for Indians, Rs 10.00 for students. Amer Fort is best seen with a guide. There’s so much to know about the fort that going without one would keep you from truly appreciating the architecture and history behind the fort and each of the buildings there. For all the wealth of information that guides provide (and they take your picture too at vantage points!), they charge barely Rs.200.00. You can always give them more if you like, but they don’t ask for it or make you feel guilty if you don’t give them extra. We were fortunate to get a guide who not only spoke in English but was also very well-informed and extremely patient while we took our photographs or asked him questions.
The fort is made of red sandstone and marble which gives it a royal, mysterious and rather rustic look. Despite the fact that the architecture is Rajputana (specific to Rajasthan), the influence of the Mughals on the architecture is everywhere – from the shape of arches on some of the doors which resemble that of a mosque to the intricate mosaic and latticework on the walls, for example on the wall of the Sila Devi temple (below). Also, animal sacrifice was done at the temple but was stopped in 1975. The influence of the Mughals is everywhere because a) Maharajah Man Singh was the Chief Commander of Mughal King Akbar’s army and b) one of the Rajput princesses was married to Akbar.
On the doorway of the temple is a carving of Lord Ganesh, made of a single piece of coral.
The palace/ fort is on four levels and each level has a courtyard. A stairway from the first courtyard leads you to the second where the hall of public audience or ‘Diwan-e-Aam’ is which has 27 columns and was as the name states, where the King held an audience.
There are around 47 chambers around the courtyard used in the old times for official work
The third courtyard is where the royal family and their attendants lived. It housed the very famous and beautiful Sheesh Mahal or the Palace of Mirrors. The ceiling is covered in convex-shaped mirrors that twinkle like stars when candles are lit. As the story goes, it was built by the King for the Queens so they could use it when they wished to experience sleeping under starry skies, but it wasn’t safe to be outside.
Check out the video to get a feel of Sheesh Mahal. It was mesmerizing by day. I can only imagine how it would be at night. The fort is open until 8.00 p.m. so it is possible to view it at night.
The third courtyard also has a building called the ‘Sukh Niwas’ or the Happiness Abode. It was kept cool through water pipes. A garden with a star-shaped pool in the centre is between the two buildings. A short video of the garden is below
Here are a few more photographs of the palace which is a UNESCO heritage site.
1) Imagine the queens’ rooms were connected in a way that the king had direct access to each of the queen’s rooms without the others knowing whose room he’d gone to.
2) The magic flower is made on a pillar in the Sukh Niwas and has seven designs on it which can be seen by covering parts of the flower. You cannot identify the designs without the help of a guide. The designs are – fishtail, hooded cobra, lion’s tail, scorpion, lotus, elephant trunk, cob of corn
3) Though Makrana marble was from Jaipur, none of the structures in Jaipur were built using this marble except the slab on which the magic flower is carved. This was done as a show of respect to the Mughal rulers, who used the Makrana marble for their palaces. The Taj Mahal has been built using this marble.
4) Though the Jaipur kings were brave, no major wars were fought here. This was because they knew how to ensure peace in their kingdoms – by maintaining cordial relations with the Mughals first, and then the British.
5) Bhajirao Mastani, a hit Bollywood film with Deepika Padukone was shot at Amer Fort
Views from the top of the fort
After Amer fort, on the way down, we saw ‘Panna Meena ka Kund‘ which is a stepwell and again, has been shown in a few Bollywood movies. Stepwells played an important role in Rajasthan. Being a desert state which gets very little rainfall, stepwells allowed for rainwater harvesting. To read more about stepwells or Jaipur, check out fellow blogger, Arv’s blog.
Behind the stepwell was this beautiful temple (you can see it in the background of the above picture) that has been deserted for some reason. Something about the architecture is hauntingly captivating and despite being so close to other tourist attractions, it had no visitors except for pigeons who perched over the open roof. The stone floor was covered in dust and bird dropping.
I’m not sure why but the quietness here stuck with me, as we made our way back.
It was a surprise that the temple had not been maintained as the rest of the city (despite the crowds) was clean at any time of the day. It’s obvious that the people of Jaipur have a great civic sense. I noticed how agitated our driver was when he saw a few people throwing groundnut shells on the road- they had to be ‘outsiders’.
Here’s a video of the market street taken in the morning. Check out how clean it is.
After spending a good four hours in and around the fort we returned to the hotel for lunch. As per the plan the evening had been chalked out for the authentic Rajasthani experience at Chokhi Dhani which is a mock village 20 km from Jaipur old city. My husband and I had loved the experience twenty-one years ago and we wanted the girls to experience it too, as it provides a taste of Rajasthani culture, dance and food. Sadly, this time, however, it was nowhere close to the first time we’d been there in terms of the quality of food offered or the activities. It could be because of the pandemic or simply because the quality has indeed fallen. But, it was definitely not worth the price we paid for it – Rs 1000 per person. Thanks to the game stalls, all was not lost. We enjoyed trying our hand at shooting balloons, playing darts, dropping cans placed like a pyramid with a tennis ball, and several other games one finds in carnivals. The folk artists were also good and we enjoyed watching the dances of Rajasthan such as the ghoomar and chari, the puppet show and the acrobat who walked on a rope, mid-air.
Below are a few pictures from Chokhi Dhani. If you’re going there for a taste of Rajasthani culture then I suppose Chokhi Dhani is fine (which means you can take the lowest ticket available) but if it’s the food you want to try out then Chokhi Dhani is no longer the place. The ticket prices change based on the dining option you choose which really doesn’t matter as the food is all the same. That was how it was when we went there and that was what, the driver we spoke to on the way back, said.
Here is a video of the dance
It had taken us an hour and a half to get to Chokhi Dhani because it’s located on the other end of the city. However, because of the location, we got to see the newer side of Jaipur which is like any other modern city with skyscrapers, lights and malls, or else we would have returned thinking that Jaipur was still stuck in its rich past. It was great to see that Rajasthan knew how to move on while preserving its
heritage so beautifully.
With this, came the end of our Jaipur visit. I hope you enjoyed travelling with us. In case you have not read the previous posts, you can check it out here Travel : Rajasthan Diaries Day 1 and Rajasthan Diaries: Day 2
After three days in Jaipur, we drove down to Jodhpur. It took us around 7 hours to reach the city but the journey was comfortable thanks to the wide roads, absence of traffic, pleasant weather in December, and good roadside restaurants. There was nothing much to see, though, on the way, as the landscape changed dramatically to dry and rocky from the green of Jaipur. We passed by quarries, barren fields and herds of sheep on the way. Now and then, there was a patch of green and yellow where some farmer was beating all odds to grow mustard plants. If you’d like to know about Jodhpur, don’t forget to check out the blog next week.
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