So, the next day we left the house early in the morning around 9:30 am. Our driver, Mr. Dilipsingh was a friendly old man and before taking us to Amber Fort, he took us to this wonderful chai stall on the way claiming they made the best chai in the whole of Jaipur.
After a nice, hot and promisingly wonderful cup of tea, we got back into the car to go to Amber Fort, thanking the driver, who said the stall's owner makes better tea than the owner's son whose chai we had! :D
Amber Fort's unique artistry must be seen to be believed. The Amber palace was commenced under the reign of Maharaja Mansingh I who led Akbar's army. Mansingh I's sister Jodha Bai was Akbar's love interest and wife. As such, the fort bears both Hindu and Muslim elements to signify the union of the two.
A spiral, stoned road leads to the fort, and there are little shops on the way.
Here is where we hired a Govt. approved guide. It's best to hire Govt. approved guides (they wear badges) than to take the private ones who'd agree to show you around the fort for as less as Rs. 30, the reason being they aren't allowed to enter a lot of places inside the fort; the Govt. approved ones can go where they please. As I mentioned in my earlier post though, everything here is bargain able, and the guide agreed to show us around for Rs. 100.
The first thing we saw from Amber was, Jaigarh fort, where Akbar's army men got their weapons from. It can be seen from the western gate (Chand Pol) of Amber Fort.
You can also see the Nahargarh fort from here- the place where we had dinner the day before:
As we went further ahead, our next stop was at the Shila Mata Devi temple. I wasn't allowed to take pictures here unfortunately. The temple was beautiful though.
After a bit of prayers there, we walked to the Diwan-E-Aam or the public hall in those times. This has 23 pillars- 15 of red marble, and 8 of white, each signifying one of the two religions (Hindu and Islam), again depicting the union of King Akbar and Jodha Bai. This is where the general discussions would take place.
Next to it was the Diwaan-e-Khaas, for the king's members. This is where decisions about administration and accounts were made.
And just next to Diwaan-e-Khaas, facing Diwaan-e-Aam, is the magnificent Amber Palace:
The interiors of the palace were beautiful. None of these designs here are painted. The colours are all stones:
Next was the Sheesh Mahal or the Hall of Mirrors:
They say that it takes just a single lamp to light the entire hall because of the number of mirrors within and on it. In winter, the mirrors kept the room warm. Just above this is the summer hall.
Us outside the Sheesh Mahal
Next we went to the garden of the kings- Aram Bagh.
We then went to Suhag Mandir. The queens would come here just before marriage to dress up. There are rooms for two queens here, one on each side.
Finally, we made our way to the zenana or the womens' quarters. In those days, there was always a fear of women of the royal household getting kidnapped by the enemy army men. This courtyard houses 12 rooms, 3 on each side, with 2 guard posts on each side. No men were allowed to enter these rooms. The guards were the eunuchs. If the king wished to see any of his wives, he was allowed to do so in a small 12 columned pavilion called the "Baradari" in the centre of the courtyard.
This is where the guard would sit.
As I mentioned before, there are little shops on the way to Amber and we went to these stalls on our way out. I bought some lac bangles for mom, some purse mirrors for my girl friends and some pens for the guys.
We were supposed to go to Jal Mahal from here, but we stopped at an RTDC tourist shop on the way. The RTDC tourist shops have fixed rates and good quality goods. There are two to three of them in the city. I bought a red salwar kameez with Rajasthani prints all over. :) I'll post a pic of it once I wear it!
We also stopped at Kanak gardens, but just spent some time outside without going in. We were really tired and had to go see the other places too. The outside was really beautiful though; I can imagine how beautiful that garden must've been!
And off we went to Jal Mahal...
The Jal Mahal, erected by King Madho Singh, the fifth king of Jaipur, stands in the middle of the Man Sagar lake. They say there are two more levels of the palace under water!
All that travelling made us hungry and we asked our driver, Dilipsingh, to take us to a nice dhaba where we'd get to have authentic Rajasthani food. He took us to this small place called "Balaji Veg Restaurant" where we had to pay Rs. 150 for a Rajasthani/Punjabi thali with unlimited food. The thali was mouth-watering! The food was undoubtedly delicious..
Our thali consisted of three different sabzis (vegetables), a roti, a "missi ki roti" (Rajasthani speciality- made of wheat and gram flour), papad, raita, rice, chhas (buttermilk) and Gulab Jamun for to top it all!
I know y'all are swearing at me for putting these pictures up! :D Just had to! :D
After lunch, we made our way to Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory built by Maharaja Sawai Mansingh II, the tenth king of Jaipur. He got five of these built in the whole country.
We first stopped at the Unnatamsa, which is used to measure the height of an object in the sky.
The Samrat Yantra, or the giant sun dial, is used to find out the time of the day.
Then there was also the Vrihat Samrat Yantra that gave an accuracy of time upto two seconds. We spent a lot of time at the Rasivalaya or the zodiacic circle looking for our sun signs! There were twelve different instruments here, representing the twelve signs of the zodiac. And that's my sign:
My cousin said I'm a cusp considering my birthday falls on the 23rd of November, but I'm more of a Saggi. Anyway, so now that you know my birthday, you must also know I love gifts! :P
So, after Jantar Mantar was shopping outside the gates in a local store and then in the streets of Hawa Mahal. I picked up a couple of t-shirts with Rajasthani elephants printed on them from the store just outside Jantar Mantar. Then we made our way to Hawa Mahal. This palace was also erected by the fifth king of Jaipur, Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh.
I shopped for some paintings and jootis (shoes) here and I got a pair that matched with the Rajasthani salwar kameez that I got from RTDC! We bought some wall hangings to gift Lakshmesh, our cousin whom we had been staying with. Lakshmesh joined us here and we went to Bapu Bazaar. There's a garment store in Bapu Bazaar called M.K. International where you can never get cheated and can trust the quality of the clothes they sell (as told to me by Lakshmesh). He bought two dress materials for each of us (my cousin Rohini and me) from there, and I bought a lovely pair of earrings with elephants on them from just outside M.K. And yes, they match the Rajasthani dress too!
We quickly rushed home, our hands full of shopping bags. After some packing, we rushed to the station for our 9:30pm train to Haridwar.
Jaipur is an awesome, awesome city and I'd love to go there again! Soon. :)
More pics here.
P.S: After some googling, I learned that there has been a controversy about the Jodha-Akbar story. It's said that Jodha was actually married to Akbar's son Jahangir and not to Akbar. Whatever information I've been giving out here has been passed on to me by the guides and local people, so trusting the authenticity of the information is upto you.
P.P.S: Will try to shorten my posts in future! Thanks for all the patience! :D