Rajasthan had always been on my list. It represented the total India for me; having seen camels, turban-people, and heavy bangles as icons of India. The other reason was that it is a desert. I had never seen a desert my whole life and I did not have many bucks to spend to go to Africa! I searched about Rajasthan on Google, and it gave me a perfect picture of vibrant colors, glamour and glistening clothes which made the urge to go there quite critical.
Rajasthan is the largest state in India. Taking an area of 342,239 km², Rajasthan homes many beautiful cities such as Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer and many more. I haven’t had the fortune to cover all these, as one city is about 6 hours away from another and I never had that much time in each visit.
I was traveling from New Delhi, with my friend from Sri Lanka who was on a visit. Jaipur falls within the historical triangle, which includes three cities; Jaipur, Delhi and Agra. (All being rich in historical value and architecture after being ruled by different emperors)
Royal Vibes and Desertified!
The journey from Delhi is around 4 hours, which can be completed by bus. There are many starting points of buses to Jaipur, but Ifco Chowk was the nearest for me. Every 2 hours, one can find buses with high seats. The best is to catch one in the night and sleep all the way and reach by early morning. We had already made reservations at Rawla Mrignyani Palace, which was a regional palace long back and now a boutique hotel. The bus ride was pretty tiring that the moment we hit the pillows at around 4 AM, we were already snoring. I think it was around 7 AM that I woke up to listen to the birds singing outside my window, as the hotel was a house of nature. With such atmosphere, and cooling marble flooring, and the smell of fresh scrambled eggs and steamed vegetables, it was almost impossible to sleep any further. The breakfast was served at the roof terrace, with a golden sun sinking into the world, warming the cold sands from last night. Perfect deserty feeling!
Jaipur is also known as the pink city, having multiple myths around the name. Some say that it’s the color of hospitality, and the king at that time painted the whole city in pink in order to welcome his guests better. It was mainly because the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on a tour in 1876. I also heard that the queen of King Maharaja Ram Singh, adored the color pink, and had the whole city built in pink. I was actually impressed by that plan of the King, taking such small wishes of the lady to a high scale as such! We got these details from Dev, the owner of the exotic hotel we lodged. We were really glad that all the tourist attraction points were within walking distance from the venue, cutting down a lot of taxi costs. The Hindi language came really handy at this point. Our first day target was the world famous Amer Fort also knows as Amber Fort. The palace became more “talked of” overnight with the release of the movie “Jodha Akbar”as it was the home of Princess Jodha, before she was married to Jalaludeen Mohommad Akbar, the Mughal emperor. Princess Jodha hailed from Amer/Amber and was a Hindu Rajput royalist whom Akbar married in order to get more sustainable in his reign, despite his invasion of Rajasthan. I had watched the movie when I was back in Sri Lanka, and always had the question whether the backdrops were artificial or natural. The answer from many saying its real actually got me on my feet towards Amer Fort.
The Enormous Palace of the Raja
We were told that the fort tour will take more than half a day, if one plans to peacefully observe it, reading through the scripts, and examining the marble carvings and the glasswork. Not wanting to rush through it, we took a day on Amer Fort. An auto (three wheeler) took us to the venue at 150Rs. (the road is an up-way climb) and the thought of having to spend tiring walks inside the fort, made us book an auto. I can still remember how the first sight of the palace made me feel. It was wordless and a place out of this world. It reminded me of these castles in royal movies like Lord of the Rings but with more of an Eastern touch to it. The fort was bordered with a pool of water. This acts as a shield from all enemy attacks, to slow down sudden break through. The fort had two huge metal doors, rusted to death today with chains and wheels so that it can be pulled up at any moment.
The place was filled with people, from many parts of India and many countries. I wished that it was less crowded, so that I could experience the ultimate serenity of this historically magical place. The entrance had marble carvings, where colorful stones were inserted into forming a floral design spreading over the high walls. In front of the entrance was a courtyard, with carved pillars. The balconies that bordered the courtyard offered a spectacular view of the Amer locality and Jaipur city. The sun was becoming too powerful, and the rock fort was releasing such heat that it was almost difficult to climb the stairways leading to the lounge. The lounge was called the Sheesh Mahal (glass palace) which was literally decorated with pieces of shining glass, arranged in a pattern on the walls of the building. We never hired a guide, because I never believe what they say personally (they add a lot of exaggeration to the speech). But I overheard one talking to his French tourists that the royal ladies of the palace spent most time in the Sheesh Mahal, as the scorching sunlight was used as an asset. The glasses were used to reflect the light and to bring light in between the marble walls. (I am not writing about all the photo stops we had here)
The palace was humongous, and the question struck upon me in the communication mode used by the people at that time. How does one reach out to a family member living in the same house; how does one go searching? It was an issue we laughed about, my friend assumed that they called out so loud across the walls. I did not buy that for sure. In fact I had a better explanation, like having thousands of servants attending to every royal family member’s need, who would have done the running around the fort, conveying messages. We were dehydrated and panting for breath after covering half of the tour, and to our luck the tourism ministry had established a “Café Coffee Day” (popular coffee chain in India) on one of the floors. Sipping ice chocolate and tasting a donut was definitely priceless at that moment of time. People were gathered around the puppet shows inside the palace premises, conducted by locals. It demonstrated how the royal procedures and lives used to be, mixed up with folklore and jokes on animals. I was able to spot some snake charmers as well.
The Amer Fort is truly mesmerizing. Even today I always encourage people who visit Delhi to take the Jaipur tour and they have come back thanking me!
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