Friday, September 14, 2012

Amer Fort - Part 2


When you think of a fort, you think of huge walls, cannons, turrets... and most of the forts I have seen are in quite a bad shape, having suffered during the wars they were built to brave. Which is why, Amer comes as a surprise. It looks more like a palace than a fort, and is remarkably well preserved, considering that it was built and enlarged from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Of course, one reason for this could be that Jaipur was quite a safe place during that period, seeing only minor skirmishes in the area, not full-fledged wars. It would also have helped that the rulers of Jaipur chose to side with the Mughal Emperors and thus earned their protection. Wars fought by the Rajputs of Jaipur were fought, not in Jaipur or Amer, but at other places, not only Rajasthan but all over the Indian Subcontinent. It was first Raja Man Singh, and later, his descendents, who built and beautified Amer. It is their combined efforts that we see today, and, it gives us a glimpse of the life the royal rulers of Jaipur led.




Continuing from my last post, we climbed the impressive set of steps and entered the second courtyard of the fort. Here is the Diwan-e-aam, or the Public Audience Hall. This is where the king held open court to hear petitions from the public.


The Diwan-e-aam is built of red sandstone and marble, just like the rest of the fort, and has 27 columns holding it up. Each column is beautifully decorated, and it is only when you go further into the palace that you realise how simple this decoration is!





In this courtyard is the Ganesh Pol, or Ganesh Gate, which leads us to what were once the private quarters of the Maharaja. While Amer is a beautiful fort, with lots to see and appreciate, it is Ganesh Pol, which is the most famous sight here, and it is this gate which appears on all postcards and literature about the fort!


And the intricate details on this gate are simply amazing. It is quite obvious, even from a distance, that here is something special – something that makes it clear that it leads to a special parts of the palace, and that not everyone can gain entry through this gate.



The Ganesh Pol might just be a gate, but the attention paid to it is amazing. 





As we entered the gate, and looked at the beautiful paintings, our guide waited for the crowd to pass. He then told us to look up at the paintings on the ceiling. They appeared to be simply decorative paintings. He then made us move just outside the gate and look up again. It was such an amazing sight to see the paint shining, seen at this angle. This was apparently gold and silver leaf work, which the artisans here were famous for!








On the top level of the gate, is a gallery with latticed windows, which allowed the women of the royal family to have a good view of the happenings at the Diwan-e-aam without showing themselves.








Entering the gate, what we can see is a beautifully laid out garden. This was created during the reign of Mirza Raja Jai Singh (1623-68). 


It is a sunken bed, with a hexagonal design. The garden is fed with water from the cascades in the Sukh Mandir.



On one side of this is the Sheesh Mahal, or palace of mirrors. 





Every inch of this hall is decorated with intricate mirror inlay work, from the walls to the ceiling!!!!








It is said that just one candle lit in this hall used to make the whole hall glow with the multiple reflections!





Incidentally, most of this intricate work – both the inlay work as well as the paintings here, had deteriorated at some point thanks to negligence. But thankfully, it has now been restored to its former glory.







One of the most famous attractions here is the carving of a flower. It is said to be the signature of the artist (of course, as is usual, the name of the artisan has been forgotten, though his work lives on).



It looks like a simple flower at first glance, but when you cover different portions of the flower, stem, etc, it appears in various forms , such as en elephant trunk, a fish tail, a lotus, a hooded cobra, a corn cob, and a scorpion!



Right opposite the Sheesh Mahal is the Sukh Mandir or Diwan-e-khaas. 



This is a large oblong chamber, with two side rooms and a verandah in front overlooking the garden. The back wall of the main chamber has a beautiful marble cascade formed by a perforated marble screen, which is connected with a stripped channel. 



At one time, the cascade was provided with running water from a tank built on  the roof. The water flowing over this cascade, adn the breeze passing through the perforations served to cool the chamber during the summers. It is said that swings were attached to the ceilings and the women used to enjoy swinging, while dipping their feet in the water channel from the cascade!


Two sandal wood doors with marble inlay work led to the inner rooms. Interestingly, the patter of the marble inlay work is said to be the same as the pattern of the garden it looks out to!




Going further into the palace, we come to the Zenana – or the womens’ quarters, which is a single corridor with doors leading into the rooms of the various queens.



Our tour of the Amer Fort is still not over. We are still in the newer sections of the fort, the oldest sections are yet to come!!! And there a lot more interesting things to see. But this post is getting too long, so  I will stop here now, and keep the rest for Part 3.



16 comments :

  1. You have covered the fort in such detail!

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    1. Yes, Mridula!!! the photos had been lying on the comp for so long, i decided to use all of them :D

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  2. What a journey, Anu. I remember the Sheesh Mahal, but not the Ganesh Pol. Memory is such a funny thing. Now I'm waiting for part 3

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    1. Thanks Sudha!!! memory is such a funny thing indeed!!! almost everyone i showed the pics to, only remembered the ganesh pol :D

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  3. So many pictures. Love the details you have captured.

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    1. Thanks Indrani!! I just went on clicking and clicking.. and decided to post all the pics!!

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  4. It was great to revisit the fort after nearly two decades -- this time virtually. One thing that stood out for me in the narrative was the fact that all the opulence has remained untarnished largely because of the rulers of Jaipur chose to take the path of least resistance. Isn't it the same in today's scenario? If you want to safeguard yourself and yours, join with the rulers, so what if they are 'democratically' elected?

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    1. Thanks Zephyr!! 'the path of least resistance' is absolutely the perfect way to put it.... and I wondered how many of my readers would pick out that from this post.. as of now, you are the only one!! these days, wherever i go, i feel more and more aware of this.. it all began in jodhpur, when a watchman who showed us around the palace museum told us "while the real rajputs were busy fighting and losing their lives, their homes and their families, these kings took the easy way out, joined hands with first the mughals, then the english, kept their palaces, went abroad to study and live, and came back to claim their heritage and are still making money...while little remains of the families who actually fought for their independance'...
      and as you pointed out, it is exactly the same today....and not just politically, even in our day to day life, dont we see that those who take the path of least resistance manage to hold on to their material stuff,, while those who fight end up with nothing (mostly at least)

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  5. Great post and a beautiful comment coming from Zephyr. In fact I got lost there. I is really a palace par excellence.

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  6. an absolutely fascinating place,more interesting than'pink'jaipur! and how well have you captured it in these photos!
    when i visited the place last in, 1961,it was disturbing to the dilapidated place and the rubble. evidently,a lot of commendable work has been carried out to spruce up the place. thanks,
    srinivasan

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    1. THanks so much, Mr Srinivasan!! I had heard that the place was in quite a bad shape earlier, but had no idea it was actually in ruins.. seeing it today, we would hardly believe it! they have done a good job!

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  7. Nice post. I like Amer fort too. Went there about six year ago and have a wonderful memory of it.

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  8. Amer fort is among the most visited spots in Jaipur, n Jaigarh Fort, on the same Aravali range, 400ft above Amer fort. Jaigarh fort means "Winning fort" was a classic exemplar of the best architectural patterns of those times. If you want to peek in the beauty of the forts fort Amer is the best, but opt Jaigarh only if you want a peek at a hard-core fortress of Rajasthan.

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  9. Beautiful Beautiful Beautiful , I am not getting any other word apart from this one. I think each and every moment of this tour of Jaipur will etched in your soul for life long time not only by this post but also by memory.

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