Day 73 Of 111. Jaipur, India
Amer Fort is one of several forts in the city of Jaipur. This is way up on a hill and there are three ways to reach the top, by jeep, by elephant, or by foot. Unfortunately, we had hired nine jeeps. The elephants looked like a lot of fun, but the line to get on an elephant was very long and would not fit in our tight time schedule. There is a tall terrace in the fort where the people who rode up on the elephants could get off. The jeep ride up the very narrow streets was actually exciting enough.
The fort itself was also associated with a wall reminiscent of the Great Wall in Beijing. The fort also housed the royal family, so much of the inside was decorated with inlay and deeply pigmented paints. One of the high spots was a hall decorated by thousands of convex mirrors. The mirrors were set into the plaster and the candle light at night was reflected all over the room. It must have been an impressive sight. We visited the woman’s quarters where all of the royal wives lived. This is a Hindu kingdom, so the wives thought of themselves as sisters and helped to take care of each other’s children. This is in stark contrast to the Mogul kingdoms we visited where each wife was constantly scheming and working to move her child closer to the throne. No royal wife in the Mogul empire would allow her child to be “taken care of” by a competing wife.
Our guide, Ashok, is standing near a huge storage pot for grain. This would be opened for feasts or celebrations and huge pots were used to cook the rice or grain. There were small windows near the top of the entrance way where the wives would wait and watch for the king so they could throw flower petals down as he entered. This was similar to the flower petals we were pelted with as we entered our hotel, the Oberoi Rajvilas, in Jaipur.
After leaving Amer Fort we traveled to the City Palace. On the way, we passed quite a few elephants without riders. It turns out that the elephants only work until 11:00 a.m. As the temperatures rise, the elephants can get aggressive, so we were watching them go home for the day. The City Palace is still where the royal family stays when in town. Part of the palace (the yellow buildings) are off-limits to visitors. The rest of the palace is a series of museums, cafes, museum shops, and open areas that can be used for celebrations. There were preparations being made for a wedding the next day. Someone also said that this site has been used at various times for Bollywood productions. The textile museum was especially interesting because of the intricately embroidered robes and shawls on display. There was one dress that was mostly gold wire and weighed about 30 pounds. Some of the building walls were richly decorated with inlay work. Jaipur is known for its hand-cut and polished stones.
The highlight for me was a visit to the giant observatory and sundials at Jantar Mantar designed and built by Jai Singh. The sundial will tell the local time to within two seconds! There were several sundials of various designs to tell the local time and in which constellation we were currently in. These measurements were used for astrological forecasts. Maharajah Jai Singh built five different observatories, but this one is the only working one remaining because it has been maintained. The triangular wall is 90 feet tall and 147 feet at the base.