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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.
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.
For more than a thousand years, Amer has retained its rustic beauty. The original inhabitants of this village were a clan called the Meena Jaati until the Rajputs came along. Since then, Amer has been known as the land of the Rajput Kings. Flanked by the Aravali Mountains and later also guarded by the Jaigarh Fort, Amer is one of the very few impenetrable villages which remained untouched right from the Mughal to the British era, until finally India was deemed a democratic country, and Amer came under the Rajasthan jurisdiction. The history of this nutshell of a village runs as far back as 927 A.D. and is replete with many theories and myths. One can visit a total of 365 temples, the most prominent being the Surya temple, Temple of Goddess Shilla and Jagat Shiromani, to name a few. Of course, who can forget the ever so beautiful Sheesh Mahal and the Amer Fort, within which the former lies. One can even the visit the ancient houses of the village, some as old as the village itself, and which are still inhabited by the descendants of the Bengali Brahmins. Although a village in itself, Amer is now a part of the Jaipur Muncipal Corporation, and being just 11 kilometers away from the main city center, it spells convenience to all tourists who would like to explore the secrets of this desert state.