Exploring Rajasthan: Jaipur and the Amber Fort

25 Jun

Next stop was Jaipur – the capital of the state of Rajasthan and one of my favourite places thanks to its bustling vibe, filled with bazaars and busy streets. We had a lot of fun attempting to fit as many people in an auto-rickshaw as possible (eight! But apparently you can fit 12 if necessary) which resulted in lots of in-unison-screeching as pot holes sent eight heads bashing onto the rickshaw ceiling and butts slamming onto the hard skinny seats – but lots of laughs too of course!

A Jaipur highlight was seeing a bollywood film at the Raj Mandir theatre, deliciously retro with its candy pink and baby blue foyer complete with chandeliers and star-shaped lights. We felt like celebrities out the front where an Indian tourist came over to us to introduce his family and have photos with us. The film, Thank You (थैंक यू), was in Hindi, no subtitles, but still universally entertaining (cheesiness knows no language barriers).

Another Jaipur must-do is the trek up the hillside, past a heap of crazed monkeys, to the Galwar Bagh Monkey Temple at sunset. What a fabulous view of Jaipur from the top! The monkeys are spoilt, aggressive little brats that you have to avoid making eye contact with otherwise they will jump you and mug you for everything you have on your person. But apart from that, we enjoyed a perfectly pleasant visit speed walking past the monkeys and taking photos from the top.

There was some good shopping to be done in Jaipur’s bazaars, in particular for silver jewellery – proud to say I played my part in supporting the local economy. Yep, that’s what it’s all about! As I was wandering around the bazaars with the girls we stopped to window gaze at a silver store. The next thing we knew we had been whisked inside the door by a peppy young guy who smoothly had us all lined up in seats at the counter, offering to make us tea while pulling out trays and trays of shiny silver pretties! Normally I’d be backing out the door at this point but there was just something about him, his keen entrepreneur spirit seemed genuine and he chatted away giving us an art history lesson in Indian traditional and contemporary jewellery. We liked him and more importantly we liked his trays of shiny silver pretties so it was not long until we all had our wallets out.

The bazaars are brilliant to wander through; photo moments at every corner, each store packed with a colourful variety of produce, sweets, spices – well everything actually! And the store owners were only too happy to have their stock and themselves photographed.

The tour of Amber Fort near Jaipur was a favourite for me; what an awesome presence this late 16th century citadel has, staking its claim with stone walls running along the mountain tops wherever the eye can see. Predominantly constructed with red sandstone and white marble, the fort sits picturesquely next to Lake Maotha and stands four floors high. The imposing exterior fits into the rugged landscape perfectly but the interior is a piece of art. Intricately carved columns, mirror-inlaid patterned wall panels, paintings flaking away but still showing glimpses of vibrant colour – the attention to detail inside is exquisite and one can only imagine what life was like for those who lived and worked inside the fort when it was in its prime; especially with furniture and textiles further cosying up the ambience.

The four floors all seemed to serve a purpose, the bottom set the scene for parades and the bustling bazaar, another held offices of the ruling empire and halls for public and private audiences, and another housed the consorts (100+ of them!), gardens and temple. The top floor was home to the twelve wives, all set up in their own mini-palace apartments accessible by the Maharaja by a discreet common corridor so that no one but he knew who he was visiting and how often, diplomatically maintaining harmony in the household! Diplomacy was one thing the Amber Fort was lauded for; the careful attention to neutrality and strategic alliances with other ruling forces, from nearby kings to the British meant Amber Fort enjoyed relative peace and was never attacked or conquered. I’m sure the impressive walls and outposts on the surrounding mountains also helped :-).

Rajasthan adventures continue in the next post…!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: