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AMER FORT, JAIPUR

 

Amer Fort: The indomitable Bastion

 

BY HARPREET KAUR

 

 

 

4 August, 2005: In my last job, I attended so many press conferences that ultimately, I got fed up. But one such I remember, for I had to go to Jaipur - a fashion show for the World Gold Council. I stayed at Raj Mahal. I had a great time and we were treated like celebs.

The best thing I remember was the sightseeing tour we went on the following morning after landing at 9.30 the previous night. We went around Jaipur, seeing historical monuments and went shopping (buying jewellery to be exact).

The best of all was the trip to Amer Fort. We went right up close to the fort in our luxury bus, but from below the fort, we went up in a jeep. I had once before come here and gone up to the fort on the elephant's back; I did not want to experience that ride again.

Surrounded by the Aravali range covered in scrub and trees, this massive fort has been built over many years across the 15th and 16th century, a bastion complete with pavilions and palaces looking down on the city of Jaipur. It gives a bird's eye view of the entire city.

It was the capital of the Kachhwaha rulers for 700 years, till Jaipur was built. Constructed by three successive rulers Raja Man Singh, Mirza Raja Jai Singh and Sawai Jai Singh, it took full two centuries to build, much of it in the 1500s. The fort rises above the waters of the Maotha Lake. The Kesar Kyari (saffron garden) lies in the centre of this lake. This fort was a pleasure-palace, a centre of administration and a military stronghold.

You enter the premises and see the elephants, the Rajasthan Tourism office and the ticket counter close to a Charbagh called the Dil-e-Aaram Garden, laid out in traditional Mughal style. Buy your tickets from a counter on the right and climb the stairs you will pass the elegant temple of Shila Mata is situated inside the palace complex on the first flight with its silver doors and marble carvings. The image is of Kali Mata, brought in from Jessore, Lower Bengal (now in Bangladesh) by Raja Man Singh. It draws thousands of devotee’s everyday and on religious occasions for the Goddess’ blessings.

On the second flight you will enter the first courtyard, which is a wide expanse and is dominated by two buildings. The pillared red sandstone Diwan-e-Aam (the Hall of Public Audience) sitting besides it you can look down at a sheer drop of over a 200 ft. And on the right rising gracefully is the intricately painted double-storied Ganesh Pol (gate). On the outside massive painted scenes of hunting and war adorn the walls with precious stones and mirrors set into the plaster. The Jai Mandir - Temple of victory is perched on the upper floor of the Ganesh pol.

Entering the pol you will find a series of pillared corridors, centring around a typical Mughal Charbagh garden with Sukh Niwas on one side and Jas Mandir on the other. Sukh Niwas (hall of pleasure) has a door made of sandalwood, inlaid with ivory. It also has a channel running through, which formerly carried water that acted as an air cooler.
A lovely piece of architecture combining Rajput and Mughal features such as delicate mirror work, stucco, paint and carving and exquisitely carved jaalis (screens). The most beautiful building is the exquisite Sheesh Mahal- the Mirror Palace- covered liberally in mirrors, patterned mosaics, coloured glass from floor to ceiling. The room’s lights up with even a small matchstick, that reflects of the mirrors giving a feel of a thousand stars glittering in the room.

Across the entire fort there are fountains, waterways, gardens and courtyards. The ramparts actually go through the mountains for miles. The fort has narrow passages, staircases, ramps and high walls that cannot be easily scaled and windows at the highest levels. The interiors also have small corridors just two feet wide at a slant, leading from one room to the next – kitchen, puja room, weapons room, queen’s chambers covered in jails from where they could watch the proceedings of the court etc.

The guide gave us quite a spool as to how the raja built the chambers of his concubines in such a way that the queen would never know which one he was visiting. So the queen could never be jealous.

There is use of alabaster pillars and panels with fine inlay work -- the kind of craftsmanship for which Jaipur is famous. Typical of the Mughul period, the rooms are small and intimate, whereas the palace's successive courtyards and narrow passages are characteristically Rajput.

From the Charbagh garden look at the breathtaking view of the valley, the palace courtyards, the formal gardens adjacent to the octagonal pool next to the lake. The vast Jaigarh Fort, the ancient fortress on the crest of the hill above you with the cannons lying silent today.

Exit the palace by the gate near the temple, and just a few minutes down the road is the 450-year-old Jagat Shiromani temple. Dedicated to Krishna, this exquisitely carved marble-and-sandstone temple was built by Raja Man Singh I in memory of his son.

How to get there

Amber fort and palace is a 10-minute steep climb through Jai pol (Gate of Victory), 11 km from Jaipur on the Delhi-Jaipur road. Facilities available for an elephant back ride or a jeep ride up to Amber fort.
Air: Jaipur is well connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Aurangabad, Calcutta and Varanasi.
Rail: The train service to Jaipur is available from all the major parts of the country.
Road: Jaipur can be accessed from all the major places in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Delhi and Mumbai by bus.

Where to stay

Visitors to Jaipur can chose from luxurious palace hotels and deluxe modern hotels to modest three-star ones, economical lodges, guest houses and tourist hostels run by government agencies. The Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation can also arrange for home stays for those visitors who would like to stay with local families.
When to visit: The best time to visit Jaipur is between September and March.

BY HARPREET KAUR

 

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