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The City Palace came into existence pretty much around the same time as the city of Jaipur itself. The original palace was built by Sawai Jai Singh II, and over the years his successors brought about numerous additions to it. Clad in pink sandstone, the royal abode is one the city's most visited attractions; it's a treat for the travellers and pride of the locals. City Palace is more of a complex consisting of the Mubarak Mahal, Diwan-i-aam or hall of the audience, Sihel Khana, Chandra Mahal and Govind Dev Ji Temple. Even today a part of this complex is inhabited by descendants of the royal family, however entry to those section is restricted. The rest has been converted into museums, galleries, or shops. Today, the gallery displays paintings, pottery and various such art forms that can even be bought. Diwan-i-Khas still has on display, the humongous silver vessel that has found its way to the Guinness Records. The Buggy Khana, Shiel Khana or the house of weapons and Sabha Niwas still have traces of the glorious bygone Rajput era.
Jantar Mantar is a fantastic collation of astronomical instruments planned by the visionary ruler of Jaipur, Maharaja Jai Singh II. After a successful construction of Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the Maharaja built the same in Jaipur, which also happens to be the largest observatory in India. In 1901, the devices were restored with white marble and red sandstone for better clarity in denoting time. Jantar and Mantar mean instrument and calculation respectively. The Jaipur location comprises of 16 geometric instruments that measure time across various dimensions including latitude, longitude, position of the sun, planet inclination and declination. Starting from the small sundials, compass, Jai Prakash Yantra (instrument), Nadivalaya (Northern and Southern hemispheres), Yantra Raj, Rashivalaya Yantra (Sun Signs instrument) and moving on to the Rama Yantra, Digmasa Yantra, Chakra Yantra, all of which record accurate time. This biggest sun dial in the world standing 44 meters tall is the highlight of this center. Here, it is best suggested to book a guide who will provide a detailed insight into the center. A great place of interest for historians, scientists, artists and mathematicians, Jantar Mantar is highly educating and awe-inspiring for people from all walks of life.
Hawa Mahal or “Palace of Winds” as it is also called, has been a cornerstone of Jaipur's architecture for centuries. Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh’s brainchild, Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 to allow the protected womenfolk of the royal families to catch a glimpse of the bustling city life without having to defy the then-prevalent pardah system. The total of 953 “Jharokas” or screened windows made of sandstone make for a unique honeycomb-like facade of the Mahal. The unique pyramid-like structure was a later addition to the original City Palace Complex. Standing five stories tall, Hawa Mahal, like any other palace is complete with a courtyard or Jaleb Chowk, as it was called back then. An ornate remnant of the Rajput Architecture, Hawa Mahal narrates fascinating tales of the city's aristocratic past.
Nahargarh roughly means “Home of Lions”, and this fort is a part of the trio along with Amer Fort and Jaigarh Fort. Like the others, this one too has its share of myths and theories, for example, it is believed that the fort got its name from the fact that during its construction, a prince named Nahar Singh haunted the construction site. But other than that, Nahargarh has a history that ranges from the Rajput to the British era. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II had ordered for the construction of the fort somewhere in 1734 A.D. and subsequently got it extended to accommodate rooms for each of the king’s several wives. The main palace; the Madhavendra Bhawan, flaunts some delicately designed frescoes and paintings on the walls for which vegetable dye was put to use. Today most of the fort is undergoing restoration work, but one can still come up here for a glimpse of the breathtaking views of the “Pink City” below.
Situated in close proximity to the Man Sagar Lake, Gaitor is a the resting place of the royalty that once ruled Jaipur, but have now moved on to the afterlife. The Egyptian pharaohs built mammoth pyramids to preserve their mortal remains, which now stand as an eternal reminder of the powerful rulers that reigned there. Similarly, the Gaitor stands as cremation ground for all of Jaipur's royalty, barring Maharaja Sawai Ishwari Singh the Second. It holds numerous intricately carved marble cenotaphs, each unique in design, which narrates the story of the life of the king it belongs to.
Far away from the city centre, lies the historic Galtaji Temple which was a drought-stricken place in the past. Centuries ago an ascetic named Galav meditated for more than a hundred years to appease the Gods and Goddesses, who then blessed him and the fervent locals with a perennial natural spring in this region. In the 18th Century, this temple was built in honour of the selfless effort of the saint. Galtaji has many temples within its premises. The pink sandstone exteriors and spellbinding architecture of these temples might easily be mistaken for palaces. Situated atop the hill, this temple dedicated to the Sun God, is considered the most sacred of all the shrines here. On auspicious occasions, devotees cleanse themselves in the holy natural springs and offer their prayers to God. Positive vibrations of devotional hymns and expansive views of the city, contribute to the tranquility of this sacred space.
Certain sports are usually associated with Royalty, and hunting is one of them. Jal Mahal is one of the remnants of the bygone era, where animal and bird hunting was a royal sport. This five-story palace which was an architectural marvel of its time served as a hunting palace since the time it was built by Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 AD. It got its name because of its location in the middle of the Mansagar Lake; Jal means water. Four of its floors are now submerged into the lake, with only the top-most story and the terrace visible to anyone standing on the edge of Mansagar. For decades, the Mansagar Lake has attracted various species of fauna and birds, thus making it a fitting spot to hunt that perfect game. Unfortunately today, Jal Mahal is closed for public visits, though one can still enjoy its beauty from afar, which is not a bad deal at all as the Mansagar Dam and Aravali Mountains in the backdrop make for some stunning views.
Jaigarh Fort was constructed more as a protective measure than as a palace, unlike the Amer fort that has extravagance written all over it. Built atop a hill, Jaigarh fort stretches for 12 kilometres (seven miles) and serves as an impenetrable fortress protecting both, the Amer Fort and Amer Village. Back in the day, it served as a cannon foundry. Though defense was its main purpose, the fort wins one over with its ornate palace complexes too. It further fascinates onlookers with its underground tanks that delineate the ingenious nature of the fort's foresighted architects. However, Jaivan, the wheel-enabled canon continues to be the most important feature of the Jaigarh Fort. With its 6.15 meter (20 feet)-long, ornately-carved barrel and a range of more than 32 kilometers (20 miles), this behemoth of a weapon is believed to be the largest of its kind in the world.
Foundations of the Amer Fort were laid by Raja Man Singh I in 1592, and expanded by successive generations of the Kachwahas over a span of 150 years. Flanked by the Aravali mountains and overlooked by Jaigarh Fort, this Rajput fortress reigns over the historic town of Amer with the Maota Lake sprawled at its feet. Inside, the fort is split into four individual areas, each with its own courtyard and palatial enclaves. Right from the Shilla Temple to the Sheesh Mahal, this fort is as monumental as it can get. Be it the paintings and glass work from Belgium, the vivid frescoes, or the traditional inlay and relief work that adorns the opulent palace, Amer Fort is a monumental jewel of historic art and architecture hewn from sandstone and marble; a fitting abode for the Rajput Kings and their household. The entire fort is equipped with ramps, which at one point of time were helpful in pushing around small buggies, used by the queens to get around as their heavy clothes and jewelry made it difficult to walk.
When visiting the Amber Fort, one absolutely must stop to admire the beautiful craftsmanship of the Ganesh Pol Gateway. The towering structure shows a mix of the Rajput and Mughal styles of architecture and is full of ornate designs in the form of murals and intricate lattice work. The center of the gate has a picture of the Indian god, Ganesha, while the rest of the murals are mostly decorative floral vines. The incredible and varied lattice work on the upper widows and arches are also amazingly intricate.
Curious travelers who would like to get off the touristy trail and observe a traditional Rajasthani village lifestyle up close, should head to this theme village. Fake mud houses and a wait staff dressed in traditional attire add the rustic ambiance, while folk dancers, acrobats and stilt walkers keep up the entertainment quotient. One can also engage in some knick-knack shopping or get your future read. A ride on a ferris-wheel or camel-back riding is something that should not be missed. All of this is bound to make you hungry, well even if you aren't, you will end up binging on the lip-smacking snacks served at the food stalls, that are as randomly placed as the charpois for you to sit on. Dinner served around eight, comprises a variety of vegetable preparations, and three kinds of rotis and khichdi: a preparation made of rice and lentils. If you still have room for more, then the traditional churma is served for dessert. This feast, prepared by chefs from Bikaner is the best way to end your little excursion here. Too late to head back? Just book yourself a room at their resort next door. With the whole “Village Theme” setup, throngs of crowds are inevitable. However, it is the heartfelt hospitality of the staff that makes visitors come back for a second round.