November in Jaipur -4. Jal Mahal

In the afternoon sun - Jal Mahal

In the afternoon sun – Jal Mahal

This is the last post on these few days in Jaipur, in November. I chose to highlight each structure separately, because I felt that each needed separate treatment, that each deserved special treatment. The one structure that I have crossed many, many times, but never entered, is the Jal Mahal. In the English, this would translate loosely as “Water Palace”, because it is located in the centre of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur.

I took the picture above, and the picture below on the same day, the day that I was visiting Nahargarh Fort. As we drove up the hill, I parked the car on the side of the road, and shot various pictures of the palace, with varying focal lengths. In one, I placed it bang square in the context of the lake, the hill and the skies. In another, I zoomed into the palace, and in this one, I think that I have tried to give it a fair amount of prominence.

It certainly is a good looking palace. The Man Sagar Lake, it seems, was a natural depression in which water used to accumulate. In 1596, when there was a famine due to the lack of water, the ruling king of the times was motivated to build a dam. This dam has been renovated and enlarged several times, the last being, in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II.

The Jal Mahal At Night

The Jal Mahal At Night

The palace itself was a pleasure palace of sorts, and it seems to have filled that role very well. A palace in the centre of the lake cannot be a great establishment for the army, so I do believe that the kings built it for their fun. I have no idea if this is the inspiration for the Lake Palace in Udaipur, or if it was inspired by the Lake Palace, or if the two were built completely independently of each other. However, the kings did have the same idea in mind, I think!

And so, I was off, from Jaipur.

However, I will pause before I move on!

November In Jaipur – 3. Nahargarh

Sunset At Nahargarh

Sunset At Nahargarh

The Nahargarh Fort makes up, in a way, the third of the hillside forts in Jaipur. Starting from the Amer Fort, you move up to Jaigarh Fort, and then finally upto Nahargarh. This was built, on the top of the Aravalli Hills around Jaipur, in 1734 by Maharaja Sawai JaiSingh II. While it did offer some good protection to Jaipur City, one of the sources that I researched, claims that defense was not the prime motivation for building this fort. It was built largely as a retreat for the ladies of the court. When you are on the fort, looking down at the city, sitting and watching the sun go down then, yes, you can imagine why.

I took the photograph of the sunset from the main building, the Madhavendra Bhavan, that was built in 1880. This structure has about 12 suites. Nine, along three sides, were built for the queens, and the king had his along the third side. The passageways linking the apartments was constructed in a manner that allowed the king to make his way to the chosen lady of the night, without the others knowing. While this afforded him some degree of elusiveness in his escapades, I am sure that the ladies had their own little ways of finding out where he was the previous night! Anyhow, they could sit by in their apartments, at the windows and feel the cool breeze wafting in during the spring and autumn evenings. They could, possibly, sip their tea and watch the sun rise (or set), depending on the orientation of their chambers. Today, we climb up and down, with a scarce thought at the frolics of the past. The tourism department has, in two sections of the fort, created these rather crappy restaurants, with some unsightly dustbins. The old architect would have turned in his grave, but we don’t bury our dead. So, his ashes, floating somewhere in the ether space would flip and turn in agony.

Jantar Mantar And The City From Nahargarh

Jantar Mantar And The City From Nahargarh

The view from the Fort, of the old city of Jaipur is rather magnificent. Here, in this photograph, you will see the City Palace in the lower, left hand section of the photo. The Jantar Mantar occupies pride of place, and the Hawa Mahal is at the top end of the photo. When I looked down, I moaned a bit because of the haze that partially obscured the view, but I did hold my breath. The structures are truly magnificent and, in times gone by, in times less polluted than ours, the view would have been truly grand.

The Nahargarh Fort, it seems, was originally called the Sudarshangarh Fort, and was later named the Nahargarh Fort, or the Dwelling of The Tigers. Much of our phraseology does talk of the heart of the tiger, or the heart of the lion. Truly, our ancestors did want to imbibe some of the spirit of these wonderful cats, and I do hope that our future generations live to see the beauty of these creatures.

As per some of the sources, the fort was originally built on the site of the land that was owned by a Rajput prince called Nahar Singh. To appease his dead spirit, the fort was named after him. Once again, you see the underlying theme. The place of a structure, or name, is designed to appease an old holy man, or the spirit of a dead person on who’s land the structure was built. Call it respect, call it superstition, call it the acknowledging of old lineages and property lines, there was a deep rooted consciousness of the past and of powers that could appease or threaten. As we progress, these factors take on new forms. Yet, when we start something new, we pray to the Gods. Something of our collective consciousness stays within us, despite the proliferation of new technology. Something of the deep knowledge that there are powers in the universe that are beyond our span of knowledge and control does lie deep within us.

The Grand Old Tree

The Grand Old Tree

As you enter the fort, the first thing, almost, that you come across, is this tree. I was truly grateful for the blue sky, and the late afternoon sun. The warm colours of the sun bounced off the tree and the yellow brick buildings, creating a warm, warm atmosphere. I loved that tree, and walked around it, taking lots of pictures. Later, that evening, when we left the fort, the colours of the sky were blue and red. The pictures that I took in the late evening were entirely fuzzy. I was not allowed to carry my tripod into the fort, much to my eternal regret.

November in Jaipur – 2. Jantar Mantar

A View Of The Jantar Mantar

A View Of The Jantar Mantar

We actually started the day in Jaipur at the Jantar Manta, which is right next to the City Palace.  We didn’t have the time that day, else we probably would have gone into the City Palace as well. I have been into the City Palace actually, but that was years and years ago. I was accompanying a bunch of really rich blokes. They were really rich guys, and so I was invited into the private chambers of the resident king. I remember my jaws, which dropped open and touched the floor of the chambers, as I gawked like an awkward teenager at the gold work on the walls. I remember being really scared that I would drop one of the expensive cups that we were served tea in. Imagine dropping a king’s cup. Yikes!!

However, I have always been fascinated by the Jantar Mantar. We have one in Delhi, and my aunt used to live quite close to it, yet I never really ventured into it until quite recently. Once in, I could not get enough of the absolutely fascinating geometry of the Jantar Mantar.

This is quite an old set of structures, constructed by the astronomer king, Sawai Jai Singh, who served Aurangzeb and the later Mughal Emperor’s. The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is the largest and the best preserved one of the lot. There are 14 major geometric devices, used for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars as the earth orbits around the sun, ascertaining the declination of the planets etc etc. There are, it seems, a few inaccuracies in the structure and this is largely due to the workers who did not have the experitise, in those days, of constructing these structures with the desired level of accuracy. Of course, people two centuries down the line will say the same about what we make today.

Nadivalya Yantra

Nadivalya Yantra

From my end, the structures are endlessly fascinating, and I would love to go back to photograph them at different times of the day, and in different seasons.

The structures were renovated in 1901, and declared a National Monument in 1948. They are, today, inscribed in the World Heritage List, and this is a deserving honor indeed. I went to the Jantar Mantar in Delhi last May, and I fell in love with the structures. Now, on the one hand, you could call this the hobby of a king, but on the other hand, you could call them a great legacy, which this is.

Me, at the Jantar Mantar

Me, at the Jantar Mantar

The difference between the Jantar Mantar in Delhi and the one in Jaipur, is that the one in Jaipur is largely constructed of yellow stone, and very little is made of red stone. The little structure above, featuring my handsome profile, is made from red stone, and this is one of the few ones of red stone in Jaipur. However, in Delhi, most of the structures are made of red stone. Photographically, they present different opportunities.

These are brilliant, beautiful structures, and I believe that we are the richer, in India, for having them.

November in Jaipur -1. Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal

I was back in Jaipur after a gap of many years. I did make the attempt to get to the city in August, but the traffic was so bad that I only made it to the outskirts of the city. That was the time I ended up in the Amer Palace. This time, we were smart. We took the train. I do, I think, have some pictures of us trying to get through the long, long, long line at the security check at Delhi Railway Station at 6 am. This is New Delhi Station, by the way. We took the Shatabdi Mail (Express?), which goes from New Delhi to Ajmer, and alighted at Jaipur. It was a peaceful journey indeed. I got into the train, proceeded to snore until the man brought me my morning tea. Then, I proceeded to snore again until we had a welcome omelette break, with some more tea. Then, I snored again until we reached Jaipur.

It was unusually warm for November. This is the middle of November we are talking about, and it was after Diwali. In all the years that I spent growing up in the North, the temperatures would dip right after Diwali. Our festivals are based on the lunar calendar, which is a great predictor of the seasons. However, I think something went wrong this year. I really cannot blame it on global warming, as we had a colder winter after that, than is usual. The US had it’s polar vortex, and the world’s climatologists stood on their heads. However, there I was, in the middle of November, walking around in a T-Shirt.

The Hawa Mahal, or the Windy Palace, was built by the king of the times, Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799. It was designed by Lala Chand Ustad, who also designed Jaipur city. When I walked around the city, I realized that the city – the old city – was remarkably well planned. The market streets are well laid out, and when I stood on the pavement, I thought, wow, these guys had vision! The roads must have been really wide those 200 odd years ago, and have still managed to handle the traffic these days. What happened to our urban planners in the meanwhile.

The Hawa Mahal is actually quite narrow, and was designed to allow the ladies of the palace to stand and look out at life on the streets, while being able to stand behind in the privacy of the palace. It is a pyramidal (sort of ) structure, that stands 50 feet high. The upper three stories are one room wide, so it is quite narrow. The lower floors have a patio, so it is almost like a crown. It was indeed, it seems, designed to resemble the crown of the God, Krishna. The windows, called jharokhas are decorated with pretty intricate lattice work.

Built in red and pink sandstone, it is quite a sight. However, it is, for all it’s splendor, not my favorite structure in the city. Standing there at the crossroads, you can look straight onto the Amer Fort in the distance.

This whole area is really quite small and is really well planned. The Hawa Mahal, the City Palace, the Jantar Mantar are all quite close to each other. The Hawa Mahal is in the main market area, and is quite close to one of the more famous sweet shops – Lakshmi Mishtan Bhandar, or LMB, – as it is called. We did pop in there for a snack, some typical Rajasthani stuff.

Life Flows

Life Flows

But, standing there on the road-side, I could not help but notice the traffic flowing. This was quite different from the last time that I was there, in 1996. At that time also, I stood on the road side with my camera. Now, I had a digital camera. Then, I had my faithful Olympus OM-2n, with black and white film. Now, I use photoshop. Then, I could buy film, and processed it myself. Now, it is very hard to buy film. I have to travel 60 km from where I live, to buy film, and there is only one chap I know of, in Delhi, who processes it. Amazing.

Then, scooters dominated the roads. The old cars – Ambassadors, Fiats competed with Suzuki’s offering. Now, the Ambassador and the Fiat (the Premier Padmini was the model) are dead ducks, and practically every auto major is active in India. These snazzy cars now compete with centuries old buses and cycle rickshaws and gas guzzling auto rickshaws. The traffic has increased, and crossing the road alive makes you want to believe in God. So, I stood on the roadside, placed my camera on the tripod, and shot the traffic flowing by, against the backdrop of the Hawa Mahal.

Life had indeed changed from my last visit, and life has certainly changed from the gentler times in 1799 when the good Maharaja built this palace for his queens. Now, they would probably stand by at their jharokhas, with masks on their faces, to avoid being choked by the fumes. Yet. there is energy in the flow, the energy of an India that wants to move.

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