I have been reluctant to write this post as it means that my first Indian adventure is truly over.
Note that I used the word ‘first’, as I think I left behind a little of my heart in the elegant surrounds of the Amber Fort in Jaipur.
One day I shall return to collect it…
The Amber Fort (yes, ABF – another bloody fort) is located on the edge of Rajasthan’s capital city, Jaipur.
Cruising into Jaipur from the relatively small town of Pushkar, the sheer volume of its three million residents felt a tad overwhelming. Well, the people themselves weren’t so bad, it was more the cacophony and chaos of their traffic that provided such a stark
Maybe that is one of the main challenges and joys of travel in India, the constant readjustments required to get through each day. Nothing ever stays the same.
The Amber Fort was way up near the top of my ‘must-sees’ on this trip. I don’t know how it sneaked into my consciousness. Maybe a photo or some enthusiastic word-of-mouth promotion by another traveller? Who knows?
By this stage of the tour some of the group were reaching their ‘fort threshold’, but a few of us just couldn’t get enough. Into the ubiquitous tuk tuk we jumped and out into the traffic we careened.
There was a fair amount of trust placed in our tuk tuk driver as we really had no idea where we were heading. We seemed to spend an overly long time weaving through the back streets and narrow alley ways of suburban Jaipur, but even the most indirect routes are fascinating in India. Eventually we reached the outskirts of the city and started the climb, much to the little tuk tuk’s distress, into the foothills. It was only as we rolled down the far side of the hill and into the wide valley that the magnificence of the Amber Fort revealed itself.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it was another jaw-dropping and speech-deleting moment. The scale, size and dominance of the Fort, as it crowds upon the entire mountain top, has to be seen to be believed.
I would love to have the ability to transport myself back in time and eavesdrop on the conversations, “how about that mountain? How about we build a thumpin’ great fort on top of that one?” What vision they had back then and yet our political and bureaucratic leaders struggle to build a new road!
Anyway, back to the Amber Fort…
The closer we edged to the Fort the more seriously it loomed over us. Standing at the bottom of the hill it seemed humans were mere ants scurrying up the steep walkways and the elephants looked like brightly clad beetles with saddles.
Yes, if you want to save your legs you can catch a ride on the back of the highly decorated, but eminently tired-looking, elephants. I felt sorry for them as they trudged their weary way up the steep slope, depositing their human cargo and turning around and slowly shuffling back to the base of the fort, only to do it all again. Each to his/her own, but I wasn’t going to add to the elephant’s load.
Construction of the Fort began in 1592 by Raja Man Singh. In addition to the Fort and the Palace within its walls, this mountain top is surrounded by the Jaigarh and Nahargarh forts, which provided further military support to the old capital. Another stunning sight is the view of the kilometres and kilometres of tall brick walls criss-crossing the surrounding mountain ranges. I reckon it would give the Great Wall of China a run for its money.
The Amber Fort complex was the former capital of this region. Eventually the fort could expand no further, it simply ran out of mountain top, and the royal family established a new city around 11kms away, called Jaipur. Jaipur became the vibrant administrative centre and the royal family proceeded to build an extravagant new palace in the centre of the city. Now, how’s that for vision and disposable income!?
Like the other forts and palaces I had visited on this trip to India, the grounds were a maze of courtyards, heavily decorated hallways, breezeways and gardens. Every aspect of the Fort exudes elegance or grace, even though it was constructed over a long period of time and added to by many different rulers.
With my trusty audio guide firmly in place, I was swept back in time and swept forward from gorgeous room to astounding view. The beauty of the building was enhanced even further by the many Indian visitors all clad in vividly coloured saris or kurtas.
Again I was dazzled by the cleverness of the building’s design to ensure maximum air and water flow to cool the rooms in the steamy Indian Summers, and then other parts of the Palace were used more in Winter time through the use of passive solar design techniques, long before that became a ‘thing’ in the West. They were light years ahead in those days.
I wish I could paint or sketch as these historic monuments are truly an artist’s paradise. Certainly the work of the artists and artisans that designed, crafted, painted and inlaid this building, has stood the test of time to delight us even 420 years later.
However, I am lucky if I can draw a stick figure and my camera rarely does the site justice. Perhaps that is why I carry a little of the Amber Fort in my heart and the rest in my gallery of happy memories.
Where did you leave your heart?
What: We stayed at Utsav Niwas hotel in Jaipur. It was out in the suburbs a bit, but very comfortable.
Where: Jaipur is located approximately 282km south west of Delhi, India. Don’t be fooled though, it can take over five hours by car to drive there.
When: Late November 2017. Cool nights and daytime temperatures of around 24C.
Why: When you haven’t had your fill of forts or dizzying India architecture and design.
How: Get to Jaipur by bus, train or plane. We simply flagged a tuk tuk to take us to Amber Fort, but many tour companies arrange guided tours if you prefer.
Who: Recommended for everyone – from artist to history lover to architecture buff to culture vulture.
Related Posts: To find out what to pack for a trip to India, have a look at my post that lists the bare necessities.
Related Blogs: For some stunning photos from another Amber Fort fan, check out this blog.
Read About It: Don’t forget your Lonely Planet Rajasthan, available from Book Depository