Jaipur – India

Our next stop on our Golden Triangle tour of India was Jaipur.  Jaipur is the capital and largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan in Northern India.  It is also known as the Pink City of India because of the color of the stone exclusively used for the construction of all the structures. The pink color has its own history. In 1876, the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on a tour. Since pink denotes the color of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur painted the whole city pink in color to welcome the guests. The tradition has been sincerely followed by the residents who are now, by law, compelled to maintain the pink color.  Jaipur is located 260km from New Delhi.

We started our day in Jaipur by going to the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds or Palace of the Breeze).  The palace was built and designed as a high screen wall so the women of the royal household could observe street festivals while unseen from the outside. Constructed of red and pink sandstone, the palace sits on the edge of the City Palace, and extends to the zenana, or women’s chambers.  Its unique five-store exterior is akin to the honeycomb of a beehive with its 953 small windows called jharokhas decorated with intricate latticework.  The original intention of the lattice was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen, since they had to obey strict “purdah” (face cover). The lattice also allows cool air through the intricate pattern, air conditioning the whole area during the high temperatures in summers.

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After stopping at Hawa Mahal, we made our way to the Jantar Mantar.  Jantar Manta is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments, built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh and completed in 1734.  The instruments allow the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye such as measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking location of major stars as the earth orbits around the sun, ascertaining the declinations of planets, and determining the celestial altitudes and related ephemerides. The monument expresses architectural innovations, as well as the coming together of ideas from different religious and social beliefs in 18th century India.  It features the world’s largest stone sundial, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A couple of the instruments below.

Jai Prakash Yantra – Two hemispherical bowl-based sundials with marked marble slabs that map inverted image of sky and allows the observer to move inside the instrument, measures altitudes, azimuths, hour angles and declinations.

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Vrihat Samrat Yantra – world’s largest gnomon sundial, measures time in intervals of 2 seconds using shadow cast from the sunlight.

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Next stop, City Palace.

City Palace includes the Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal palaces. The Chandra Mahal palace now houses a museum but the greatest part of it is still a royal residence. The palace complex incorporates an impressive and vast array of courtyards, gardens and buildings. The palace was built between 1729 and 1732.

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Chandra Mahal is the most commanding building in the City Palace complex, on its west end. It is a seven-storied building. At present, most of this palace is the residence of the descendants of the former rulers of Jaipur. Only the ground floor is allowed for visitors where a museum is located that displays carpets, manuscripts and other items that belonged to the royal family. There is a beautiful peacock gate at the entry to the Mahal. It has screened balconies and a pavilion at the roof from where a panoramic view of the city can been seen.  Seen at the top is the flag of the royal family which is seen unfurled when the Maharaja is in the palace.

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Pritam Niwas Chowk

Pritam Niwas Chowk is the inner courtyard, which provides access to the Chandra Mahal. Here, there are four small gates (known as Ridhi Sidhi Pol) that are adorned with themes representing the four seasons and Hindu gods. The gates are the Northeast Peacock Gate (with motifs of peacocks on the doorway) representing autumn; the Southwest Lotus Gate (with continual flower and petal pattern) suggestive of summer season; the Northwest Green Gate, also called the Leheriya (meaning: “waves”) gate, in green color suggestive of spring, and lastly, the Rose Gate with repeated flower pattern representing winter season.

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Northeast Peacock Gate

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Southwest Lotus Gate

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Northwest Green Gate

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Rose Gate

Diwan-i-Aam

Diwan-i-Aam, the Hall of Public Audience, is a marble floored chamber located between the armory and the art gallery. There are two huge sterling silver vessels of 1.6 meters (5.2 ft.) height and each with capacity of 4000 liters and weighing 340 kilograms (750 lb), on display here. They were made from 14,000 melted silver coins without soldering. They hold the Guinness World Record as the world’s largest sterling silver vessels. These vessels were specially made by Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II, who was a highly pious Hindu, to carry the water of the Ganges to drink on his trip to England in 1901 (for Edward VII’s coronation) as he was finicky about committing religious sin by consuming the English water. Hence, the vessels are named as Gangajelies (Ganges-water urns). There are a number of crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling (normally covered with plastic sheets to prevent dust collection), which are uncovered on special occasions.

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Diwan-E-Khas

The ‘Diwan-E-Khas’ (Sabha Niwas) or the ‘Hall of Private Audience’ is an enchanting chamber, with the ceiling painted in rich red and gold colors, which still looks vibrant. It is a major attraction in the Mubarak Mahal courtyard. At the entry gateway to the hall, two large elephants, each made out of single marble rock are on display.

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Next stop, Amber Fort.

Amber Fort is located in Amber, 11 kilometers (6.8 mi) from Jaipur. Amber Fort is known for its artistic Hindu style elements. With its large ramparts and series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks Maota Lake. It is the main source of water for the Amber palace.

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Constructed of red sandstone the palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. It consists of the Diwan-e-Aam, or “Hall of Public Audience”, the Diwan-e-Khas, or “Hall of Private Audience”, the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace. Hence, the Amber Fort is also popularly known as the Amber Palace.

Maota Lake in front of the Amber Fort collects rain water flowing down from the nearby hills and was the main source of water for the Amber Fort and common people. The lake contains an island in the center, named Kesar Kyari Bagh. The island has a saffron garden, whose plants are said to have been planted by a Maharaja in the 15th century.

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The Palace is divided into four main sections each with its own entry gate and courtyard. Main entry is through the Suraj Pole (Sun Gate) which leads to Jalebi Chowk, the first main courtyard. This was the place where armies would hold victory parades with their war bounty on their return from battles, which were also witnessed by the Royal family’s women folk through the latticed windows. This gate was provided with guards as it was the main entry into the palace. It faced east towards the rising sun, hence the name “Sun Gate”. Royal cavalcades and dignitaries entered the palace through this gate.

Ganesh Pol, or the Ganesh Gate, named after the Hindu god Lord Ganesh, who removes all obstacles in life, is the entry into the private palaces of the Maharajas. It is a three-level structure with many frescoes that was also built at the orders of the Mirza Raja Jai Singh (1621–1627). Above this gate is the Suhag Mandir where ladies of the royal family used to watch functions held in the Diwan-i-Am through latticed windows.

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Views from the fort.

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More shots around the fort.

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After touring Amber Fort, we headed back to Jaipur, making a stop at the Water Palace. Jal Mahal (meaning “Water Palace”) is a palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur, India. The palace, built in red sandstone, is a five storied building out of which four floors remain under water.

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After a full day or touring around Jaipur, our driver took us back to our hotel where we relaxed and had a nice dinner. The next morning we made a short stop where the Amber Fort elephants are kept. People have the option to ride an elephant up into Amber Fort rather than walking.

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After checking out the elephants, we continued on back to Delhi to end our Golden Triangle tour and head to the Darjeeling area and our Himalayan trek.

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