Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jaipur

About eleven kilometres outside Jaipur is the amazing, the beautiful Amber Fort (and palace). The fort and its palace complex were home to the Kuchwaha Rajputs from 1137 - 1727. It was never placed under siege by any invaders, such was its strategic position and impregnability (and no doubt also due to the political skills of its successive Maharajahs too), so today it is in remarkably good condition for the enjoyment of the thousands of people who visit it each year..



During the reign of the ruling Maharajahs visitors to the fort always arrived by elephant, so we retraced the steps of visitors in ancient times today!











This large entrance courtyard was where the elephants were "parked".  There is a big 9 day holiday festival starting in Rajasthan tomorrow so all those canvas shelters were being erected to provide shelter for the expected crowds of locals attending the festivities.








This beautifully decorated Ganesh Gate, named after the Hindu god Lord Ganesh, who removes all obstacles in life, is the entry into the private palaces of the Maharajahs.



Once inside this gate the building to the left is the breathtakingly beautiful Jai Mandir (Mirror Palace) which is exquisitely decorated with glass inlaid panels (from Murano in Italy), and a multi mirrored ceiling. The mirrors are a convex shape and designed with coloured foil and paint which must have looked amazing at night under candlelight.






Opposite the Mirror Palace is a decorative garden patterned on the lines of a Mughal garden and the Hall of Pleasure which had a piped water supply perfumed with rose petals, very cooling in the hot Rajasthan summers.



Surrounding the palace on all sides are the impregnable walls of the Amber Fort.




In the fourth courtyard we found ourselves in the private palaces of the Maharajah and his 12 (yes 12) wives. the courtyard has 4 sides, three wives, and three palaces to each side. The corner in the pic below is where the Maharajah's rooms were, overlooking the soap opera below. You can just imagine the politics that went on here!



Meanwhile, these days, the people of Amber have lives to live and money to earn!



The Fort overlooks a man made lake, Maota Lake, which only fills in a good monsoon season. This palace was built during dry times. It's not open to the public - it's awaiting restoration.



Just opposite where I took the pic of the lake palace is the local "camel stop".



We drove back through "old Jaipur", noting the terra cotta painted buildings (giving Jaipur its moniker as the "pink city") and its underlying grid like plan. Apparently the Maharajah at the time of Prince Albert's visit to Jaipur in 1853 ordered all the buildings in the city to be painted this dusky terra cotta pink in order to impress his royal visitor - and the practice has stuck to the present day.

The pic below is of the beautiful "Palace of Winds" in the centre of old Jaipur. The building has 953 small windows decorated with intricate latticework - to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street without being seen.



We were on our way to one of Jaipur's leading jewellery manufacturers, for a look around the factory floor and a chance to view some of the merchandise. After all Jaipur has the biggest jewellery market in all the world.  There are significant precious gem resources being mined in the region (one of the reasons this region was so wealthy in the past) but as the major player in the trade, precious gems also come into Jaipur from all over the world.



A delicious bowlful of uncut rubies, amethysts, aquamarines, emeralds, lapis lazuli et al...




Some serious shopping was done here too by some in our party. And Jennie wants her children to know that some of their inheritance was spent on RUBIES today! Sophie scored an aquamarine ring which suited her to a Tee!



Our lovely Jaipur guide directed us to a great lunch place today - the Peacock Restaurant: classic Rajasthan flavours with a modern twist. I had a vegetarian platter, prepared tandoori style - probably the best lunch of the trip so far!! I could easily be a vegetarian if I could eat food like this all the time



I was really looking forward to seeing the Jantar Mantar - an astronomical observatory built in the early 1700s as the focal point of the new capital of Rajasthan - Jaipur. It was constructed using local expert astronomers, and others from Persia and Europe.

The huge scale of the "instruments" and their reliance on the sun - measuring time and latitude and longitude and alignment with the planets and constellations, made it much easier for me to follow these really complicated concepts - we really should construct one of these in Canberra!!

This wonderful sundial tells us the time in Jaipur with only a 2 second error factor. We were lucky the sun was out during our visit today.




I loved this "instrument" which uses the sun to indicate what constellation is in the night sky at what time of the year.



And this is the largest sun dial in the world..




Our last tourist stop of the day was the City Palace and Museum. The yellow building in the pic below is still a royal residence but large sections of the courtyards are now open to the public, including the museum.



We were probably a bit too tired by now to do this visit justice, but we were intrigued by seeing how one of the palace guards tied this 6 metre length piece of cotton cloth, creating his distinctive red turban.





For a small tip of course!

Back at the Samode Haveli by around 5.00pm we enjoyed a chance to swim in the beautiful pool and imagine having a full day here to be completely self indulgent lolling in the day beds and drinking cocktails and cooling off in the pool as the need arises!!

2 comments:

Claire Primrose said...

looks like you are all having a great time. lovely photos. WISHING YOU A HAPPY BIRTHDAY for the 2nd. We were thinking of you.
love you both xx
c j o and a xx

Roslyn Lawrence said...

Your accommodation in Jaipur does look very luxurious. What fun. What amazing lives these maharajahs lived.
Not too many people can say they have ridden on an elephant. More comfy than a camel I would imagine.
I now know where the little mirrors on our hippy Indian t shirts in the 70s were inspired by.
Love Ros xx