Yet another day in Jaipur and today we are walking back in history. The Hotel Vimal Heritage, provided us with a complimentary breakfast buffet by the pool side. The spread included parathas, fruits and granola. After a hearty breakfast, we booked an ola auto and headed for Amer Fort.
The auto driver was friendly and courteous (just like every other person we met in this amazing city) and on the way the he showed us the famous Raj Mandir theatre in MI Road and the JalMahal palace. Also I spotted the blue pottery center but decided to stop there when we return.
We reached the fort and at the entrance, along the road, what you see first is the Maota lake. But at this time of the year, the water level has really lowered. On our way in, a man approached us and introduced himself as a government authorized guide. We were not really sure of getting a guide, but my husband being so interested in history, thought it would be good idea to hire him. This turned out to be the best decision of the day.
You can reach the fortress in elephant back or by walk. Since it is just about 10 min walk and also they use young elephants for the ride, I would suggest you walk just like we did. He started narrating the history, as we walked up the roads leading to the fort. We didn’t even realise that 10 min flew by,while we listened to the stories of the past, about the ambitious kings who built this fortress over generations and about the wars that happened in this very ground.
We entered the palace courtyard through the Suraj Pol(Sun gate. On the opposite side of this gate is the Chand Pol(Moon Gate).
The courtyard was very crowded because the upcoming Kangana Ranaut movie, about Rani Lakshmi Bhai, was getting filmed here. So there were several men, all clad in white rajasthani costumes, roaming around with fake weapons.
From the guide, we also came to know that many many movies has been filmed in the premises of the fort, including the last year’s hit Bajirao Mastani.
When you are in the first landing of the fort, there is a small temple. Attached on top of the temple doors, is a small idol of Lord Ganesha. This idol is carved from a single piece of red coral and I don’t think a coral of this size, can be found anywhere in the world now. Trust me, you wouldn’t notice this unless you have an informed guide.
The entry to the palaces of the Rajas is via a huge ornate three storied gate called, The Ganesh Pol .
This structure is absolutely stunning with intricate floral paintings, with a painting of lord Ganesh at its centre.
We passed another courtyard, to reach the next main attraction, Sheesh Mahal or the Mirror Palace. As you can see, entry is not allowed inside the Mahal as renovation is going on. We could see artists working on the old paintings.
The king got this palace made for the queen, when she shared her wish to sleep under the stars. Queens were not allowed to sleep in the open. So the king (he is a romantic for sure), got this mahal made for her, so that it gives the effect of sleeping under the stars. The palace walls and ceilings has mirror mosaics and intricate precious stone designs. Our guide took out his mobile phone and waved the torch light, at the ceiling. We were spellbound by the beautiful reflection, these millions of tiny mirror pieces made.
If in the daylight it looks this stunning, I can only imagine how magical it would be, when the candle lights gets reflected on these million mirror pieces at night. Also the candle light reflection was a means to keep the room warm at night, in those times.
Here is a puzzle
Identify 7 designs in this flower.
Hint : Most of these are body parts of animals.
This Magic flower is from one of the pillars in the sheesh mahal, made of marble. You can identify lotus, fish tail, snake, scorpion, elephant trunk, a cob of corn and a lion’s tail. If a single flower holds such mysteries, imagine the jewels of craftsmanship hidden in this entire palace.
It is a hall used by kings and queens to relax, as the name suggests. There is a garden in front of the hall, shaped like the star mosaics in the sheesh mahal. Did I mention that our guide was an amazing photographer as well?
This hall has a channel that carries cold water for natural cooling effect. Elements like these, are what astounds us about the architecture. About how well these structures mingles with the nature. The rooms are constructed based on the direction of winds or rains, there will be copper pipes with holes which transmits water and create the effect of rain in courtyards, there will be rain water harvesting techniques and way to run it through the garden and then later recycled. The ancient architects were true artists and much ahead of us in terms of technology.
Inspite of not having motor vehicles or roads, these kings have made it possible to get colored mirrors, precious stones and marbles transported from across the globe. Imagine how much sweat and blood would have taken for getting a palace made.
OK back to the present. Here is a picture of the Kesar Kyaari(Saffron Garden) in the Maota lake(the one we saw from the road). It is said that the Raja tried growing saffron in this garden but it didn’t go well because of the hot climate.
Also from the topmost courtyard, we could see the only Mira-Krishna temple in the world, among the ruins of havelis in the old amer city.
Now let us talk about the most interesting part of the day : Shopping.
There are shops inside the Palace premises that sells rajai(cotton quilts), home decor items and clothes. We bought a beautiful royal blue quilt and silk cushion covers from here.
But mind you, these are not government emporium (eventhough the shop keepers claims so). The shops are given on lease to private vendors by the government. I suggest you don’t purchase anything from the palace, because now we are heading towards an exclusive and authentic shopping place in the old city.
The Best Place to Shop Authentic Rajasthani textiles, jewelry and everything else:
Our guide encouraged us to visit an emporium located a few minutes away from the fortress. To encourage local artisans and sell original products at very nominal rates, the government has provided free transportation to and from the emporium, which sounded great. So we got into a jeep and headed towards this emporium along with our guide.
We met an elderly man here who took us around the building. Each floor is literally a treasure trove. On the ground floor, he demonstrated the art of block printing using vegetable dyes and dyes made from semi precious stones. He showed us how the color changes from red to blue, when the dyed cloth is dipped in a salt solution. Then he took us to the jewelry section, where beautiful jewelry made of precious and semi precious stones set in silver were displayed. These jewelry comes with a gurantee and can be returned to the nearest Khadi shop in your city, and they assure a cash back.
I spend much time looking around, ogling at the huge precious stones and stunning strings of multicolored corals. Next we headed to the textile section. All the clothes sold here are dyed using natural colors and has hand block prints. From dupattas to intricate wall hangings, from saris to reversible jackets each piece is made by hand and is of high quality.
The next two floors had beautiful Rajasthani miniature paintings, camel leather footwears and a stunning display of the largest model of Taj Mahal in original marble, completely hand made. Another section showcased inlay work of semi precious stones, in small marble boxes. There is something for everyone here and this is a must visit place to enjoy the marvels, created by these gifted artisans.
We didn’t have the energy to walk anymore. So we were relieved to find a restaurant inside the same complex. We savoured on hot chole baturas and dal batti churma and was all set to explore more.
We took the free return trip, back to the fort gates. Our plan was to visit the nearby forts like Jaigarh and Nahargarh. But no Ola cabs were available and the local cabs and autos were quoting steep rates for less than 8km travel. So we waited for a while and got into a public a/c bus that was going in the direction we were heading to. The bus had a stop right at the foot of the road, leading to Jaigarh fort. But one elderly passenger suggested us to get down a little ahead near Jal Mahal, as it would be difficult to get transportation towards the fort gates from this stop. So we got down ahead as he suggested and saw him get down as well. He started following us for a while asking us to hire him as a guide. We didn’t see that coming! We ignored him and walked ahead.
We didn’t quite like the Jal Mahal area, as it was crowded with street vendors and not so nice public. We also didn’t want to go back to Jaigarh fort, unsure about getting cabs for returning to the hotel later in the evening. So we hired an auto to go to the shop I was most looking forward to visiting, The Jaipur Blue Pottery Art Center.
Jaipur Blue Pottery Art Center:
This store is easy to locate as it is the most colorful building, that stands out among the earthy hued buildings in Amer road. There are many blue pottery stores in Jaipur, but this one is the real deal.
The entrance is decorated with wall plates in various colors, but mostly blue and white. Mr Anil Doraya, a President award winner, for working towards reviving this art form and making it popular, welcomed us to his abode. He asked one of his students to give us an idea of the procedure of making these stunning pieces.
The ink blue color is imparted from cobalt oxide and the lighter blue shades, yellow, browns and greens are also derived from natural stones or plant dyes. The raw materials for the ceramic includes quartz, glass, rock salt, gum, sodium bicarbonate and fullers earth. He said that around 60-70% of the ceramic products breaks before it gets to the painting stage, which makes each piece very precious. Mr Anil Doraya has done much research and experimentation to discover more colors and shades that could be used in this art.
From small magnets to large pots and plates, from tiny buttons to soap dispensers and tea sets, this store will leave you in awe of the eye catching colours and patterns in everyday objects.
This is another famous shopping street near Johari bazar, where we stopped next, for a late evening walk. We were standing outside one shop and I noticed some unique block printed fabric inside. Unlike other vendors, who calls out from their shops forcing you to take a look, here there was even a board that said something like ‘only customers well informed of quality textiles are welcome’.
PC:Googleimages. A print similar to this was what I liked the most in their collection.
If you have heard of high end brands like Good Earth, Kilol and Jaypore, that sells very unique and stylish block printed attires for the modern woman, this shop is an affordable and equally good version of them. Incase you are interested, this is shop no: 106, called Jaipurwala (if I am not wrong), in one corner of the long row of shops in bapu bazar.
We promised to stop by again, another day incase we could spare some time, as the owner wanted us to take a look at their latest men’s clothing range, which would be available the next day. As stepped out of the shop, we were caught in the middle of a colorful and loud procession on the road by the Sikh community. We watched the festive displays and dancers for a while and returned back to our hotel in an Ola cab.
We got talking to the cab driver and told him about our plans to visit Agra. He quoted a much cheaper rate than the price we saw online and showed interest in taking us there. We took his number once we reached the hotel , incase we decided to accept his offer.
This was the most happening day of our travel, so far. We met some amazing people (we were so caught up talking to them about everything else, that we forgot to ask their names), had some scrumptious food and time travelled to the pages of some royal history.
PS: If you have a vehicle to travel around, you can plan to spend some time at Jaigarh and Nahargarh forts in the evening. The sunset from Nahargarh fort is highly recommended in many travel blogs.
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