12.15 hrs – Time to visit the signature building of Jaipur – the b! Hawa Mahal is about 10 minutes walk from the Jantar Mantar. I preferred walking over a tuk-tuk since its the best way to explore a place 😉 I came across a Pol or gate which actually leads into the City Palace area. Jaipur is one such place which needs to be explored by walking around the surroundings to immerse ourselves in it’s architecture and culture. Hawa Mahal is surrounded by a cluster of buildings whose architecture is a blend of Mughal, Rajput and European styles. The market area here is also a fine one to hit at!
While nearing the Hawa Mahal I came across a street photographer whose name is Tikam Chand. His prized possession is a 1880’s Carl Zeiss Wooden Box camera with which he takes the old-fashioned black-and white portraits. Though he offered me one, I simply denied but requested him that I would like to peep through it’s viewfinder 🙂 and Tikam Chand happily agreed 🙂 Bidding a bye to Tikam Chand, I walked into a narrow pathway which leads to the ticket counter of Hawa Mahal. The entry ticket costs Rs. 50/- for Indians.
If Jaipur is synonymous to anything else, it is this unique piece of architecture – the Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds. It is a five-storied Palace built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh under the supervision of his able architect Lal Chand Ustad. The entry to this building is through AnandPol and there is another entry further called the ChandraPol which leads to a spacious courtyard in middle of which there is a water fountain without water :-0 surrounded on the three sides by two-storey buildings. In the courtyard, there is a also a souvenir shop selling various souvenirs and postcards and also Cafe Coffee Day for refreshments.
The Palace is constructed in red and pink sandstone and is in the form of the Hindu God Lord Krishna’s crown. Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh who is a great devotee of Lord Krishna had dedicated this Palace to him and worshipped him at the Vichitra Mandir. There are no staircases available to reach the upper floors, but ramps connected all the various floors. It is said that the main motive behind having these ramps is to facilitate the movement of palanquins of the queens! What a royalty 🙂
There is something unusual about this palace. Firstly, there are no staircases which should be the common case in a five-storied building; secondly, though each floor is named uniquely as Sharad Mandir, Ratan Mandir, Hawa Mandir and so forth, we can’t literally see a mandir or Palace as such. The base two are courtyards, while the top three are just a single room thick. And the most important feature of this structure are the ‘Jharokhas’ or windows adorned with intricate designs. It is said that there are 953 such Jharokhas throughout the Palace.
There are two motives behind having these Jharokas or windows – one was to make the royal women enjoy freedom of watching the royal procession on the streets through these windows without being seen in public and the other is for the wind circulation throughout the palace. But in totality, the Hawa Mahal was built as an extension of the Royal City Palace to allow the women of the royal household to witeness the street festivities without being seen 😦
The Ratan Mandir is perhaps the only one which has got intricate glass work and to climb up to the Hawa Mandir which is the last floor of the palace, I had to wait for 10 minutes as there is no much space up there and I can enter only if someone gets down! From the top, we get a view of the neighboring Jantar Mantar and the bustling streets of Badi Choupar. The Palace is an excellent blend of Rajput and Mughal architectures. While the former style is palpable from the fluted pillars, floral patterns and domed canopies, the arches and stone inlay filigree work are manifestations of the latter style. The palace also has an archaeological museum.
The exit is through another dimly lit and long narrow passage. Passing through it, I almost felt that entering Hawa Mahal is far more easier than exiting it! 😀 Soon, I was on to the outer courtyard and I moved out through the other gateway which directly opens into the Market area!