Icon of Jaipur – Hawa Mahal


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 πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ™‚ and Tikam Chand happily agreed πŸ™‚ 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.Β  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 πŸ™‚

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 toΒ 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! πŸ˜€ Soon, I was on to the outer courtyard and I moved out through the other gateway which directly opens into the Market area!

Jantar Mantar – A UNESCO World Heritage Site


11.15 hrs – The place started to get crowded as more and more tourists are venturing out to have a look at the City Palace. I headed towards yet another important structure in the heart of the city which is in contrast with the intricate carvings and the ornate pols or gates of the City Palace – The Jantar Mantar. The entry ticket costs Rs. 50/- for Indians! Grabbing my ticket, I walked towards this most impressive and fascinating astrological marvel, which is an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of medieval India. In 2010, Jantar Mantar has been granted the UNESCO World Heritage Site Status.

Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II who is fond of astronomy and used to study works of celebrated astronomers all over the world constructed a range of astronomical observatories throughout North India in between 1724 and 1730, called the ‘Jantar Mantars’. Out of the five Jantar Mantars in Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi, Ujjain and Mathura (which no longer exists), the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is the largest one. In fact, it is said that some of the instruments here in Jaipur are constructed by him and he constructed it so near to the City Palace so that he can make all the observations by his own!

The term ‘Jantar Mantar’ is derived from the Sanskrit terms ‘Yantra’ and ‘Mantra’ meaning ‘instruments’ and ‘formula’ respectively. I hired a guide here who knows a lot about the instruments present here. Jantar Mantar is a collection of 19 fixed architectural astronomical instruments that offer precise measurements of time, the azimuth, declination of the sun and the positions of constellations, along with several other astronomical phenomena.

I came across the Nadivalaya (the equatorial instrument), the Krantivritta (the ecliptic circle instrument) used to measure the longitude and latitudes of the celestial bodies, the Laghu Samrat Yantra (Small sundial), Shastana Yantra (sextant instrument) with which the variation in the sun’s diameter can be accurately measured and many more. But the centre of attraction here is the Vrihat Samrat Yantra (the ‘Supreme Instrument’ or Large Sundial), which is 90 ft high and measures time to an accuracy of two seconds is the world’s largest sundial.

My guide explained me about each and every instrument with perfect examples and I was awestruct when he explained me about calculating the time on Laghu Samrat Yantra and asked me to check the time he told on my watch and to my sheer surprise, it’s accurate! So far, I found Jantar Mantar as the most significant, comprehensive, and the best preserved of India’s historic observatories. And people who are interested in astronomy, here is your best bet if you want a scientific holiday πŸ˜‰

Fusion of three architectures – Jaipur’s City Palace


07.30 hrs – My day started quite early :-p Finishing off my daily chores, I headed for my breakfast which is complimentary πŸ™‚ The day’s menu was comprised of Puri Sabji, bread and butter – not bad! Having had my breakfast, I headed to perhaps the most cherished attraction of the city – The City Palace. Uber again! Their services are too good in the city πŸ™‚

09.40 hrs – My cab stopped in front of a huge gateway which is so grand in nature! The gateway is made of lattice work, painted marvelously and two canons were placed on either side of the gateway. Just after passing through this gateway there is a ticket counter to get an entry ticket into the Palace. The ticket costs Rs. 130/- for Indians and Rs. 300/- for foreigners. There are also composite tickets available here, on which we can visit four to five places in the city!

The City Palace was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II when he wanted to shift his capital from Amber to Jaipur during the 18th century. The chief architect of this palace is Vidyadhar Bhattacharya (who also designed the Madhavendra Palace at Nahargarh Fort) along with Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob! The Palace was designed and constructed according to the texts of Vaastushastra, the ancient architectural science of India and was infused with a mix of Rajput, European and Mughal styles of architecture!

The entry into this palace can be through two gates namely the Udai Pol or Atish Pol and Virendra Pol. There is also a third entrance called ‘Tripolia Gate‘ which is only for the royal family! I chose Udai Pol and this leads us to a pink structure called the Diwan-i-Khas or the Hall of Private Audience, where the king used to meet his ministers, official guests and other important people. The main attraction of this Hall is the huge silver jars made by melting 14000 silver coins and were used to store the waters of the river Ganga. It’s said that they are the biggest silver urns in the world as per the Guinness Book of World Records! Also one can find huge crystal chandeliers and a collection of arms here in this hall!

The Sarvato Bhadra or Diwan-i-Khas is almost as if situated in middle of a red sandstone square courtyard! On one side we can the clock tower which can be seen from a distance from many places in the city and on the other far end is a doorway that leads to the seven storied Chandra Mahal or Moon Palace, which is the residence of the royal descendants. A gateway called the Riddhi-Siddhi Pol leads us to the most stunning part of this palace called the Pritam Niwas Chowk or “Courtyard of the Beloved”. A narrow hallway leads us to this courtyard.

This courtyard is used by the royal family for festive occasions and ceremonies and perhaps there is an upcoming event for which the arrangements were being made by the time I entered the courtyard! This is truly a architectural delight and would be every photographer’s choice! The courtyard has four beautiful doorways depicting the four seasons and each one is uniquely named. The Mor Gate or Peacock Gate represents Autumn, the Lotus Gate represents Summer, the Leheriya Gate or the Green Gate represents the Spring and the Rose Gate represents Winter!

It is said that the king used to enter the Chandra Mahal through the specific gate in the specific season. Though the 3D peacocks on the Mor gate attracted me a lot, I started to stare at the Leheriya Gate for a long time trying to recollect where I saw it! After a few minutes I fished out my mobile and checked for the cover page of the book ‘The Palace of Illusions‘ – and there it is! πŸ™‚ Not a bad memory huh πŸ˜‰

Walking out of this beautiful place, I moved towards a marble gateway named Rajendra Pol which leads to the Mubarak Mahal or Welcome Palace which is the last addition to the City Palace. Mubarak Mahal is truly a confluence of all the three architectures – Rajput, Mughal and European! This two-storied building has richly carved arches and doorways and hosts a museum displaying the textiles and costumes used by the royal Rajputs in the past. There is also a souvenir shop here πŸ™‚ Moving out of Mubarak Mahal, I headed to the opposite side where there is an art exhibition being held and one can watch the local artisans at work!

There is also another boutique being run in the same complex and it has got a huge collection of paintings and antiques! My exit is through the Virendra Pol which is just beside the Mubarak Mahal. City Palace is yet another awesome specimen of architectural brilliance in the city of Jaipur πŸ™‚ Before visiting this palace, I had Nahargarh hangover and now it’s City Palace hangover πŸ˜€