My Rapidfire trip to the Pink City

Indranil Mutsuddi

Prologue

I was watching Jodha Akbar on Zee TV. The episode aired had nothing so special – Raja Bharmol, the king of Amer, had come to the court of his son-in-law emperor Akbar. His daughter Jodha Begum was looking highly elated – perhaps she was overwhelmed to see her “Babusa” after a long time. Something was about to shape, when my smart phone chimed loudly. It was none other than the research head of my institute. I knew something urgent was about to shape in at 8.15pm in the evening. With an annoying mood I picked the call. My God, I was not disappointed at all. What a coincidence! It was a call for a two day’s official trip to Jaipur. I was supposed to make a presentation at an Edu-Fair to be held at Hotel Maurya Palace, Jaipur.

Hotel Maurya Palace Jaipur

It took me two more days to board the morning Spicjet flight to Jaipur from the IG International Airport Delhi. Jaipur was way beneath us within 35 mins of flight from Delhi. After a smooth landing and hassle free check-out at the Jaipur airport, I was feeling quite happy and relaxed to find a representative of the organizers at the exit gate.

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Way from Jaipur International Airport to Hotel Maurya Palace (Courtesy: Google Maps)

I hardly got any time to change at my hotel room (Hotel Maurya Palace, located about 11 Km from the Jaipur International Airport) and had to rush to the Conference room for my presentation which was on the cards within an hour time. By Gods grace it went smoothly and I was free by 3.30 pm in the evening.

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Hotel Maurya Palace, Jaipur

This was the opportune moment to explore. I found the Hotel Maurya Palace Jaipur quite pretty and comfortable in its ambience and overall infrastructure. The food was good. And the hotel staff members were cordial and helping.

Exploring the evening streets of Jaipur

Seeing me moving out, the hotel manager asked me whether he should call the cab which was booked by the organizers. I was immediately against the idea of moving around on a cab. After all when I had a prior experience of being around Jaipur – moving around all by myself was a better choice.

The Three Important Gates of Jaipur

My immediate destination was being at old Jaipur. The city is flanked by three massive red sandstone gates, namely the Chand Pol (Moon gate), Ajmeri Gate and Sanganeri Gate located at the western, northern and eastern parts of the city.

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The memorable evening..under the Royal Gates……….04052009415

The gates present great architectural feat – in terms of their unique design, artistry and glamour quotient. It is believed that these gates used to house the “Nahabat Khanas” or the galleries for the royal musicians.

Despair at the City Palace

My next destination was the City Palace. But unfortunately I had to return as it was already 5.10 pm in my watch and time for close.

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The City Palace

I had to oblige myself by having a few snaps of the exquisitely painted arched galleries and gates of the royal palace of Jaipur built by the famous Maharaja Jai Singh (on whose name Jaipur got its name).

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Another snap at the City Palace

The Amazing Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal is an amazing architectural splendour and a proud monument of our country after the majestic Taj Mahal. It was built by Maharaja Pratap Singh in the year 1799 under the supervision of master architect Lalchand Usta. The majestic five storied mansion is meticulously designed out of honey comb shaped precious pink sandstone galleries. It is located just in front of the busy market street.

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My evening at the Hawa Mahal

It is believed that the royal ladies used to spend their leisure times in the balconies and galleries (jharokhas) of the mansion to enjoy the cool evening breeze during the hot summer months. The top floors offered majestic view of the royal city and the busy market streets buzzing with trade and commercial activities. This street still represents the buzz of old Jaipur. Hundreds of tourists and on-lookers like me gather here to move around the unique memento shops selling Jaipur gems, dolls, nagra chappals, wooden artifacts, carpets, bags, rugs, the traditional Jaipur turbans and the list is never ending.

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The busy streets of Old Jaipur

Having a cup of Tea from a local tea and snacks stall could be an amazing experience, which I obviously enjoyed. Riding a cycle rickshaw in and around the streets of old Jaipur is a special experience for any tourist. It was going to be 7.40 pm, I was exhausted and had a session to attend in the next morning. I asked the rickshaw wala to take me back to my hotel.

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My rickshaw ride selfi on the way from Hotel Maurya Palace towards Old Jaipur

My precious two hours at the Amer Fort

The next day was full of busy schedule. I had a session to attend at 10 am. I had plans to visit the famous Amer Fort and most importantly there was a late afternoon flight back to home. I had already packed my bags in advance and asked the cab person to take me to the Amer Fort immediately after the valedictory program. The program was bundled out half an hour before the lunch. Finishing my sign-off duties, it took me less than five minutes to be on the cab and within 10 minutes we were on the outskirts of Jaipur speeding towards the Amer Fort.

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The Amer Fort, Jaipur …and the Maota Lake & its surrounding garden

With my return journey on the cards, I had only two hours which was hardly sufficient to even have a run around each and every important part of the famous Amer Fort.

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A snap at the Maota Lake side Garden…. View of the Majestic Amer fort from the Maota Lake Garden

Amer fort is a majestic fort strongly built over a hillock located about 11 Km from the city of Jaipur. The Fort, often known as the Amber Fort, is a gorgeous presentation of the Rajput grandeur in its architectural mastery and artistry. During the bygone royal era, Amber fort was the capital of the princely state of Jaipur. The fort (construction started in the year 1592) was built by the charismatic Rajput King Man Singh who was one of the powerful commanders of emperor Akbar’s Court. The remaining works were completed under the rule of Raja Jai Singh under whose rule the state of Jaipur had a Golden era in terms of development and prosperity.

As my cab was parked way below at the designated parking space, I preferred to choose a short cut entry to the fort rather than going for the long 10minute climb through the paved pathway winding up to the fort entrance. This entry is from the Maota Lakeside garden which led me to a small stair joining the main paved pathway to the fort entrance in the middle.

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The paved pathway leading to the Suraj Pol

The paved pathway

The paved pathway was a sight of lots of buzz. Groups of tourists were slowly strolling up along with their guides. There was an unwritten competition among the local hawkers for selling snacks, post cards, local toys, gift items and mementos. Among these the obvious star attractions were the beautifully decorated elephants carrying foreign tourists on their backs. It was a majestic aura.

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The Elephant Ride to Suraj Pol

I just could not stop myself thinking what kind of grandeur the real Rajput Maharajas had during the processions and royal festivals. The paved pathway ultimately took me towards the Suraj Pol (East facing Sun Gate).

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Jaleb Chowk

The gigantic Suraj Pol led me into the wide paved courtyard of the fort complex commonly known as the Jaleb Chowk. This was used as an assembly for the royal army and organizing royal events, festivals and celebrations. The ticket counter for entering the palace complex was located a few yards ahead. But this was not my immediate destination. I turned towards the famous Siladevi Temple which was unfortunately under renovation work.

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The entry into the Jaleb Chowk…Guides welcoming the foreign guests

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The Ganesh Pol…

The Ganesh Pol

After getting my ticket, I climbed the stairs leading to the large paved courtyard housing the palace complex. The gate leading to the palace is commonly known as the “Ganesh Pol” due to the beautiful portrait of Lord Ganesha centrally painted amidst the exquisite display of tiled mosaic work  (pietra dura) on the large arched gateway. The display of pietra dura here is nowhere less majestic than any of those one can observe in the Jewel Box Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah located at Agra.

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The amazing art works at the Ganesh Pol

The Diwan-i-Am and the Royal Palace

The Ganesh pol took me into the royal palace – a huge three storied mansion made of red sandstone base. The amazing display of frescos on the walls and ceiling are too good to describe in words. It is said that the legendary Maharaja Jai Singh was the inspiration behind these artistic marvels. The top floor of this mansion is known as the “Suhag Mandir” which used to be the residence of the royal ladies.

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The Diwan-i-Am

The ladies of the nobility used to see the royal proceedings at the Diwan-i-Am or the court of Public Audience from their balconies covered by latticed marble screens. The Diwan-i-Am of Amer Fort was so similar to the Mughal palaces at the Agra and the Fatehpur Sikri Royal palace complex (famous for emperor Akbar) – indicating a rich cultural and administrative assimilation of the Mughal and Rajput Royal families which was started by the marriage of Akbar with the princess of Amber (the legendary Jodha Begum).

The third Courtyard

Moving up through the Ganesh Pol, I entered a third large courtyard housing the palaces of the king and his nobility. To the left side of the courtyard I came in front of a beautiful rectangular mansion pricelessly decorated by mosaic of tiny mirrors on its ceilings. This was the famous “Sheesh mahal” – the palace of mirrors (also known as the Jai Mandir). Probably this used to be the exclusive chamber for his highness during the evenings amidst the aura of thousands of mirrored lamps and candles.

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The amazing Sheesh Mahal

Opposite to the Sheesh Mahal there is another interesting mansion known as the “Sukh Mahal” or the Pleasure Palace. The palace features remarkable marble pietra dura work. I would remember it for its beautifully decorated sandalwood door.

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The Char-Bagh Garden and the Sukh Mahal

Both these mansions are separated by a typical Mughal garden (Char-Bagh design) which again speaks highly of the cultural integration of the Mughal influence in the Rajput family.

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Some more memorable shots in and around the Amer Fort

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Some of the favorite shots

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Sweet memories at the Amer Fort

My way back

Time was running short for me. After quickly moving around Man Singh palace, I could not map out how quickly I had spent more than one and half hours at a wink of an eye. Yet I could not forget my interaction with two interesting people.

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One person was a remarkable folk singer and artist who was having a small function in the honour of the foreign tourists. The other person was a humble violin artist. He was a master of his art. His tunes were mesmerizing all of us by creating the aura of the bygone Royal era.

Epilogue

While returning back on my cab, I looked at the fast disappearing Amer Fort for one last time. I knew this was not the end of it. I had to return back to Rajasthan and Jaipur along with Rimi and my son. It would be a blast of a royal tour for all of them…

Photography & Written By: Indranil Mutsuddi

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