Thursday, July 29, 2021

Jaisalmer and Jaipur

It was end of the month of December 2020. Corona first wave was going down but here was a threat of it coming back soon. We were at home for many months now and geting desperate to visit somewhere. The idea of a long drive came into mind and so Jaipur - Sambhar - Pokharan - Jaisalmer was finalized.

Our elaborate plan was as below:

Day 1: Lucknow to Sambhar town via Agra and Jaipur

Day 2: Visit Sambhar Lake and Shakambhari Mata Temple, take road to Pokharan via Nagaur

Day 3: Visit Longewala War Place and Tanot Mata Temple, stay at Sam sand dunes

Day 4: Visit Kuldhara, Jaisalmer War Museum

Day 5: Visit Jaisalmer fort, Akal wood Fossil Park and Gadhisar Lake and dolls Museam

Day 6: Jaisalmer to Jaipur

Day 7: Jhalna Leopard Sanctuary, Lake Palace, three forts of Amer, Jaigarh, Nahargarh and Hawa Mahal

Day 8: Visit Albert Hall Museum

Day 9: Jaipur to Lucknow


Day 1:

From Lucknow, we took Agra expressway to Agra. Traffic was minimal and by afternoon we were doing lunch at outskirts of Agra at Agra Jaipur Highway.

For details about Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. Please refer my blog here.

One can stay at Sambhar Lake City as well but options are limited. Through internet, I found the suggestion to stay at Phulera town, about 6 KMs from Sambhar lake.

It was around 8 PM, as we reached Phulera. Its a small town. We got a couple of rooms easily at hotel Rajveer near small bus stand.

Immediately we went out for some food. Options are limited but we got a small dhaba nearby. Food was fine and a good sleep refreshed us for the next day.


Day 2:

Early morning, before sunrise, we took the road to Sambhar Lake. It was dark when we reached there near the Shakambhari Mata Temple.

There was a small shrine of Shiva (Bhairava) as we entered the territories of Sambhar lake. We paid our prayers to merciful lord and drive at the salt bed of Sambhar Lake.

Contrary to the thoughts, the water is very less in lake and that too in a very specific area closer to Lake city town. We could not found any water even after driving on for several KMs. The entire lake bed is white with salty sand and gives a feeling of like mini "Rann of Kachchh".

Driving on this dried salt bed is a fun.

The Sambhar Salt Lake is India's largest inland salt lake. Most of the lake is devoid of any water for several KMs. The lake is an extensive saline wetland, which receives water from five rivers: Medtha, Samaod, Mantha, Rupangarh, Khari, and Khandela.  The lake is elliptically shaped with a length of approximately 35.5 KM and a breadth varying between 3 KM and 11 KM. The circumference of the lake is 96 KM, and it is surrounded by the Aravali hills on all sides.

Sambhar lake basin is divided by a 5-6 km long dam. After the saltwater reaches a certain concentration, it is released by lifting the dam gates and salt is derived from the salt evaporation ponds after the water dries up.

Sambhar Salt Lake produces 196,000 tonnes of salt every year, which is around 9% of India's salt production.

The Indian epic Mahabharata mentions the Sambhar Lake as a part of the kingdom of the demon king Vrishparva, as the place where his priest Shukracharya lived, and as the place where the wedding between his daughter, Devayani, and King Yayati took place. A temple near the lake is dedicated to Devayani.

The legend says that Shakambhari Devi, the tutelary goddess of Chauhan Rajputs and the consort of Lord Shiva, converted a dense forest into a plain of silver as payment for some service. Subsequently, at the request of the inhabitants who dreaded the greed and strife that such a possession would beget, she transformed the silver plain into a lake.

In 1884, ancient sculpture art was discovered in the area as part of small-scale excavation work done in Sambhar Lake. During that excavation, some terracotta structures, coins, and seals were found along with a clay stupa. Later on, around 1934, a large-scale systematic and scientific excavation was conducted in which a large number of terracotta figurines, stoneware, and decorated discs were found. A number of these sculptures from Sambhar are present at the Albert Hall Museum at Jaipur.

After driving for several KMs and taing a lot of pics of Lake and the rising Sun, we went to the nearby temple of Mata Shakambhari. Main gate was channled and from tehre only we were allowed to do the darshan.

Mother blessed us with her divine presence. Mother goddess Shakambhari is an incarnation of mother Parvati. Her name means "The One who nourishes mankind with fruits and vegetables".

I feel that Sambhar Lake’s beauty and vastness is best explored on a full moon night when a walk on it feels like a never ending land of silver.

I heard that the night sky from the chhatri (cenotaph) near Maa Shakambari Devi Temple is incredible.

Now its time to take road towards Jaisalmer. But first we went to town of Phulera and did breakfast of "Mirchi Bhaji" with excellent "Kadhi". The Kadhi of Rajastha is famous and now I came to know why.

It was incredibly delicious.

From Phulera we drove to Nagaur. It was noon as we reached there. The plan was to have a quick look at Nagaur Fort and then move to Pokharan.

To our utter disappointment, the fort was closed due to covid pandemic and nobody was allowed inside.

Nagaur fort was also known as Ahichhatrapur durg, which literally translates into ‘fort of the hooded cobra’. It is situated middle in the Nagaur city.

Spread over 36 acres, The Nagaur Fort is of historical importance. Nagaur fort is the fort built by the ancient Kshatriya clans. In the medieval era, the town of Nagaur sat astride trade routes coming north from Gujarat and Sindh and those on the west crossing the Indus from Multan. With a dead flat plain all around, the defense of the fort depended on the military and economic power of its rulers.

After repeated attacks by Ghaznavi and other Turk invaders, it fell into the hands of them and became one of the first Muslim strongholds in northern India.

Unfortunately, we could not see the fort and remain devoid to feel the times that is still there in its buildings and air!

It was quite hot and humid. We decided to take road to Jaialmer and to take lunch some one the way dhaba. We didnt found any eatery for many KMs, finally one very small dhaba, helped us to regain some energy in that harsh weather.

Just before entering the Pokharan town, we took a left turn on a small road to see the place for the first nuclear blast site, "The Smiling Buddha".

This Nuclear Test Site is located about 45 KM north-west of Pokhran town and 4 KM north of Khetolai village. The test range was built by the Indian Army Corps of Engineers and is under the control of Indian Army. It hosted the detonation of India's first nuclear device on 18 May 1974.

There is no road to the actual site and no markings also. We left the tar road and took the village route. It was able to drive car up to certain distance and after that we went on foot. Soon we spotted a area surrounded by barbed fences. The entire area is desert one with bushes and a very few trees. A board at the locked gate confirmed that it was the site.

We were there only for a few minutes as though "Buddha smiled" here almost 47 years ago, the nuclear radiation is still active.

While returning we encountered a deer on the way. The life thrives even in such harsh conditions.

It was getting dark and we took the road to Pokharan. Initaily we were in double mind as to stay at Pokharan for night or go directly to Jaisalmer, but after some deliberation, we decided to stay at Pokharan.

There are no good places to stay at Pokharan (atleast we didnt found it). It was a small hotel we stayed and took dinner there itself as outside there we couldn't find good eateries.

Its said that the night sky from Pokharan is excellent.But its same from any of te desert town. Also its good only if its dark. In cities and towns, with electricity its difficult to witness that.

There is also a small fort at Pokharan, though we did not visit it. This 14th century citadel also known as "Balagarh", stands amidst the Thar Desert. This monument is the fort of the chief of the rathore, the clan of Rathores of the state of Marwar-Jodhpur.

Day 3:

Early morning, we took the road to Jaisalmer. We discussed and decided to go directly to Longewala and Tanot first before coming back to Jaisalmer.

We did breakfast at a small eatery infront of Jaisalmer Railway station.

With advent of modern irrigation technologies and the availability of waters from Indira Gandhi Canal, the agriculture has started booming in Jaisalmer area as well. I saw many mustard fields being irrigated with sprinkler technology.

Also one can witness a lot of windmills in area.

But still major part of this land is barren with sand and bushes.

There were many small villages on the way, in that desolate land. One can only imagine how tough their life has been since generations!

We were on the way to Longewala.

Here we did one mistake. Anyone coming from Jaisalmer should first go to Tanot and then to Longewala and then to Sam village to stay in sand dunes or can return back to Jaisalmer.

I was quite excited to be at the "Land of Braves" the Longewala village, the site of famous battle in the cold night of 4th and 5th December 1971.

A battle that became a legend and being taught in all military schools acroos the world. This is story of how 120 soldiers with rifles and two gun mounted Jeeps fought with 3000 enemy soldiers and 4 dozen tanks!

The Battle of Longewala was one of the first major engagements in the western sector during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

A Company of the Indian Army's 23rd Battalion, Punjab Regiment, commanded by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, was left with the choice of either attempting to hold out until reinforced or fleeing on foot from a Pakistani mechanized infantry force. Choosing the former, Major Chandpuri ensured that all his assets were correctly deployed and made the most use of his strong defensive position, as well as weaknesses created by errors in enemy tactics.

By noon the next day, the assault ended completely, having cost Pakistan 22 tanks destroyed by IAF, 12 by ground anti-tank fire, and some captured after being abandoned, with a total of 100 vehicles claimed to have been destroyed or damaged in the desert around the post. The Pakistani attack was first halted, and then Pakistani forces were forced to withdraw when Indian tanks from the division's cavalry regiment, the 20th Lancers, commanded by Col. Bawa Guruvachan Singh, along with the 17th battalion, Rajputana Rifles, launched their counter-offensive to end the six-hour engagement. Longewala had proved to be one of the defining moments in the war.

The bunkers have been preserved. The entire area is dotted with tanks and trucks of enemy destroyed or abandoned by them.

We lost two of our soldiers but not before killing over 200 of enemy soldiers. As dawn surfaced, IAF fighters concluded the battle by destroying over 3 dozen tanks and forcing already demoralised and deject enemy to flee.

It was like a pilgrimage. I remembered the braves, who were there in that odd situation, who decided to defend the motherland and the cost of their lives and came with flying colors.

Its the courage which shows the path to Victory! Salutations and bravo to our army!

We spend a few hours there. There is also a small museum, but it was closed due to pandemic. Hence we took the road to Tanot Temple.

The roads are excellent here.

It took us around an hour to reach Tanot. On the way both side its barren desert land. We also saw a few villages on the way. I was was thinking how the villagers here can survive...but life goes on.

Goddess Aavad, the daughter of Mamadia Charan (Gadhvi), is worshiped as Tanot Mata. As per the oldest Charan literature, Tanot Mata is an incarnation of divine goddess Hinglaj Mata.

Legend goes like this, long time ago there was man named Mamadia Charan, who had no child, he traveled completely on foot to Hinglaj Mata seven times to attain child. One night, when the hinglaj mata asked that mamadiya Charan (Gadhvi) in her dream, whether you want a son or a daughter, Charan said that you should take birth at my house. By the grace of Hinglaj Mata, seven daughters and one son were born at that house.

One of these was Aavad Mata, who is known as Tanot Mata.

The temple was constructed and the idol of the reigning deity was installed by the Bhati Rajput King Tanu Rao in 828 AD. Since then, the temple has been revered and worshipped by the Bhati Rajputs and the people of Jaisalmer for generations.

Tanot was attacked by the Pakistan Army during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 during which 3,000 bombs were fired towards the temple. However, the bombs either missed their target or did not explode. The unexploded bomb shells still lie in the temple premises. After the 1965 war, India's Border Security Force (BSF) took charge of the temple and the responsibility of managing and maintenance.

After the 1971 war, the Indian Army built a Vijay Stambha (Victory tower) inside the temple compound to commemorate the victory in the Battle of Longewala.

We were blessed by the darshan of mother. We also saw the unexploded shells there.

Pakistan border is about 15 KMs from here. To go there one need permission from BSF officials. So we decided not to pursue that and took the road back to Longewala one the way to Sam sand dunes.

Sam sand dunes are about 125 KMs from Longewala and it us about 2 hours to reach there.

It was evening as we reached there. There are many tent hotels/resorts who tries to surround you and negotiate the price. Heavy bargaining is required here.

Quickly we finalized one and took the jeep from them to dunes.

There are a total of 3 popular sand dune areas in Jaisalmer which are:

1.      Sam sand dunes

2.      Khuri sand dunes

3.      Lodhruva sand dunes

Here Sam Sand Dunes is quite popular among travellers, as this area of 3-5 km has pure sand with no plants, along with desert camps, camels & jeeps for Jaisalmer desert safari tours and a spot which is now called as Sam sunset point.

Evening I sat on the dunes looking at vast expense of land...far away the Sun was setting and glowing with its golden hue, making all the land shine like gold.

Even in midst of so many fellow travelers, there was peace!

As the night fell, we returned back to resort. There was cultural programs and dinner. A good sleep followed us.

It was bitter cold. Though we were packed with all woollens but still it felt chilled.

 Day 4:

Morning, we again went to dunes, this time we took camels. Two folk sinegers approached us and sang a few songs delighting us with their skills and melody.

 Returning back, we took quick breakfast and packed our bags to the village of Kuldhara, about 40 KMs away.

Kuldhara is an abandoned village about 20 KMs from Jaisalmer. It was established around 13th century and was once a prosperous village inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins. It was abandoned by the early 19th century for unknown reasons, possibly because of dwindling water supply, or as a local legend claims, because of the atrocities by the Jaisalmer State's minister Salim Singh. People who migrated from Kuldhara have settled in different parts of India but the majority of people are living in Sirmaur of Himachal Pradesh. The Dutt's Clan of Sirmaur is believed to be the descendant of migrated Brahmins of Kuldhara.

Over years, Kuldhara acquired reputation as a haunted site, and the Government of Rajasthan decided to develop it as a tourist spot in the 2010s.

The local legend claims that while deserting the village, the Paliwals imposed a curse that no one would be able to re-occupy the village. Those who tried to re-populate the village experienced paranormal activities, and therefore, the village remains uninhabited.

We talked to many locals there and felt that they do not believe in the ghost stories, but propagate them in order to attract tourists. In the early 2010s, Gaurav Tiwari of Indian Paranormal Society claimed to have observed paranormal activities at the site. The 18-member team of the Society along with 12 other people spent a night at the village. They claimed to have encountered moving shadows, haunting voices, talking spirits, and other paranormal activities!

We roamed there for some time. A few tourists were there. Administration has reconstructed one house to give impression, how it would have looked like in those days. That’s a good initiative. Nearby temple is also in good condition.

From Kuldhara, we moved to Jaisalmer war museum.

The Jaisalmer War Museum was conceived by Lieutenant General Bobby Mathews, General Officer Commanding, Desert Corps and constructed by the Desert Corps of the Indian Army.

It was dedicated to the Nation by Lieutenant General Ashok Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command, Indian Army, on 24 August 2015. The Museum displays war exhibits which include vehicles and equipment captured during the course of operations in 1965 and 1971. The Jaisalmer War Museum, has an Honour Wall engraved with the names of the Param Vir Chakra and Maha Vir Chakra gallantry award winners, two large Information Display Halls - Indian Army Hall and Longewala Hall, an Audio Visual Room, a souvenir shop and a cafeteria. A Hunter Aircraft of the Indian Air Force, which destroyed enemy tank columns during the Battle of Longewala is also displayed.

The Jaisalmer War Museum is located 10 km short of Jaisalmer on the Jaisalmer - Jodhpur Highway. The inauguration of the Museum took place in the Golden Jubilee Commemoration Year of the 1965 India Pakistan War.

There was a little queue and only a limited number of people were allowed inside to maintain social distancing. WE followed the norms and spend some good times going through each gallery and vehicles/guns/equipment’s displayed.

It was afternoon now, we returned back to Jaisalmer and looked for a good hotel. The hotel we chose also gave us a good view of Jaisalmer fort.

Evening, we spend some time at hotel, relaxing and shooting the glimpses of legendary fort.

 Day 5:

Morning after breakfast, it was time to visit the Jaisalmer fort.

The fort is majestic and I am always eager to explain forts. But our enthusiasm dipped when we came to now that fort will remain closed due to death of the current Maharaja of Jaisalmer.

Still we went there. Its tough walls give the idea how it would have been in bygone days. As many of the civilians reside inside the fort, hence the door was open. We explored the fort as much possible. Buildings related to Royal family were closed.

There is a very beautiful Jain temple also inside the fort.

It is believed to be one of the very few "living forts" in the world (such as Carcassonne, France), as nearly one fourth of the old city's population still resides within the fort. For the better part of its 800-year history, the fort was the city of Jaisalmer. The first settlements outside the fort walls, to accommodate the growing population of Jaisalmer, are said to have come up in the 17th century.

Jaisalmer Fort was built in 1156 AD by the Rajput Rawal (ruler) Jaisal from whom it derives its name, and stood at the crossroads of important trade routes (including the ancient Silk road).

 The fort's massive yellow sandstone walls makes it famous as the Sonar Quila or Golden Fort. The fort stands amidst the sandy expanse of the great Thar Desert on Trikuta Hill. It is today located along the southern edge of the city that bears its name; its dominant hilltop location making the sprawling towers of its fortifications visible for many miles around

Many of the strategic places are still fortified with Guns, which adds to its majestic look.

Somehow I feel that residents who live inside need to leave the fort. Their presence is eroding the structure and thus eating its life.

After Jaisalmer fort, it was time to visit Akal Fossil Museum.

Akal Wood Fossil Park is a National Geological Monument. It is located in Akal village, about 15 KMs from Jaisalmer in a barren and rocky terrain.

The park contains fossils of wood and shells of the Early Jurassic period, that is almost 180 million of years old. There are about a dozen fossilised wood logs lying horizontally oriented in random directions.

The Geological Survey of India (GSI) declared the site a National Geological Monument in 1972. The park was maintained by GSI till 1985, when maintenance was handed over to the Forest Department of Government of Rajasthan. Now, the park is maintained by the authorities of the Desert National Park. The exposed tree trunks have been protected by iron grill cages with tin sheet roofing.

The fossils are considered to be of non-flowering trees such as Chir, Deodar and Redwood, as only non-flowering plants existed during the geological time when the fossilization took place.

Existence of fossils of shells also suggests that the region was a sea once upon a time.

Not many people were there. We climbed a small hillock and sat there with a mesmerizing 360 degree view of the surrounding!

That evening we also visited the dolls (Puppet) museum and then to Ghadisar lake.

There was a show of folk dance and song using puppets. It was quite good. Its a must visit place if you visit Jaisalmer.

Gadhisar Lake was built by the founder of Jaisalmer, King Rawal Jaisal in 1156 AD and later rebuilt by Gadsi Singh in the year around 1367 AD. It is said that this lake once provided water to the entire city. The lake also has many chhatris and shrines.

 We were there at lake for quite some time. We visited the lake twice, once in afternoon while returning from Akal Museum and then again in late evening. We saw the sun set from there as its golden hues illuminated the waters. The shrines and Chhatries around were glowing like gold!

It was our last day at Jaisalmer. We returned back to hotel and did dinner there while witnessing the golden rampart and walls of the majestic fort!

Day 6:

We started from Jaisalmer early morning and reached Jaipur by evening. It was almost dark by the time we checked in at Hotel.

Day 7:

Luckily our hotel was next to Jhalna National Park. so early morning, when this was still dark, we decided to have a safari.

Jhalana Safari Park is the best place to witness leopards and many other wild animals. Though we could not spot it and had to remain satisfied with blue bull, deer, peacocks, monkeys etc.

Safaris are allowed inside the park in two shifts Morning and Afternoon.

Jhalna is a deciduous forest and trees shed their leaves in dry seasons. Leopard is on top of food chain here.

Our safari driver took us to various water holes and other area where there was possibility of getting the big cat, but we remained unlucky.

Jhalna had been a hunting ground for Jaipur kings. We visited the "Shikar Audhi", which was built to help hunting the big cats. Last of the tigers was killed in 1948. Since then Leopoard is the top predator here.

It was good to see this dense forest very far from Jaipur. Though we were a little disappointed as not able to see the Leopard.

We returned back and then drove to Nahar fort. On midway, we stopped at a eatery for much needed breakfast.

On the way we saw "Jal Mahal" (meaning "Water Palace"), which is in middle of the Man Sagar Lake. It looked very beautiful with Sun rising, Lake and the Red Palace in between them.

The palace was originally constructed in 1699, the building and the lake around it were later renovated and enlarged in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amber.

The interior of the Jal Mahal Palace is not open to visitors. So we can see it only from a distance. The palace, built in red sandstone, is said to be a five-storied building, of which four floors remain underwater when the lake is full and only the top floor is exposed.

A lot of pigeons are there, fed by locals and tourists alike.

Our next destination was Nahargarh Fort.

Nahargarh Fort stands on the edge of the Aravalli Hills, overlooking the city of Jaipur. Along with Amer Fort and Jaigarh Fort, Nahargarh once formed a strong defence ring for the city. The fort was originally named Sudarshangarh, but it became known as Nahargarh, which means 'abode of tigers'.

Another legend is that Nahar here stands for Nahar Singh Bhomia, whose spirit haunted the place and obstructed construction of the fort. Nahar's spirit was pacified by building a temple in his memory within the fort, which thus became known by his name.

Built mainly in 1734 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, the fort was constructed as a place of retreat on the summit of the ridge above the city. Walls extended over the surrounding hills, forming fortifications that connected this fort to Jaigarh.

During the Indian first war of Independence in 1857, the Europeans of the region, including the British Resident's wife, were moved to Nahargarh fort by the king of Jaipur, Sawai Ram Singh, for their protection.

The fort was extended in 1868, during the reign of Sawai Ram Singh. In 1883-92, a range of palaces was built at Nahargarh. The rooms are linked by corridors and still have some delicate frescoes.

Until April 1944, the Jaipur State government used it for its official purpose, solar time read from the Samrat Yantra in the Jantar Mantar Observatory, with a gun fired from Nahargarh Fort as the time signal.

The fort and the view from fort are excellent. The palace rooms gives a glimpse of luxury of the time.

Now was time to go to Jaigarh Fort.

Jaigarh Fort is situated on "Cheel ka Teela" (Hill of Eagles) of the Aravalli range; it overlooks the Amer Fort and the Maota Lake.

There was quite a rush and with some difficult we got the parking slot for our car.

The main attraction of the fort is a cannon named "Jaivana"(Jaivana Cannon), which was manufactured in the fort precincts and was then the world's largest cannon on wheels.

Another attraction here, in my view view, is to see the water collection and conservation techniques. Rain water was very efficenty preserved and stored to be used for entire year.

Jaigarh Fort and Amer Fort are connected by subterranean passages and considered as one complex.

During the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, Jaigarh Fort, became one of the world's most efficient cannon foundries mainly due to the abundance of iron ore mines in the vicinity of the fort. The cannon foundry at Jaigarh Fort had a massive wind tunnel that sucked air from the high mountains into its furnace and heated to melt the metal. The molten metal would fill a reservoir chamber and pass into a cannon mold in the casting pit. Most of those cannons were massive and had to be prepared within a single day.

The fort is highly fortified with thick walls of red sandstone. The palaces have court rooms and halls with screened windows. There are two temples within the fort precincts, one is the Ram Harihar temple of the 10th century and the other one is the Kal Bhairav temple of 12th century.

The water supply facilities in the fort was met by creating water harvesting structures in the vicinity in the Aravalli catchment and conveying water through a canal on the west side of the fort over a 4 kilometers distance to be stored in three underground tanks below the central courtyard. The largest tank had a capacity of 6 million gallons of water.

One gets just amazed by the engineering skills of those days.

The armory chamber here has a wide display of swords, shields, guns, muskets and also a 50 kilograms cannonball. Pictures on display are old photographs of Jaipur's Maharajas namely, Sawai Bhawani Singh and Major General Man Singh II who served in the Indian Army as senior officers.

Jaivana, manufactured in 1720, was the world's largest cannon on wheels of the Early Modern Era. The foundry where it was manufactured is also located here. A plaque at the entrance to the enclosure where the Jaivan Cannon is displayed gives relevant information on the history of the Cannon, its size and use. This cannon was never used in any battleThe cannon is said to be fired only once with a charge of 100 kilograms of gunpowder and when fired covered a distance of about 35 kilometers.

It was past mid-day and so time was to visit Amber fort.

Amber fort is the main fort at Jaipur, which was used as residence of royal family. Jaigarh was a foundry and a treseury fort while Nahargarh was to keep safe the royals during any war like situation.

The town of Amber and the Amber Fort was built by Raja Alan Singh Chanda 967 AD, later ruled by kachawaha rajputs. Amber Fort is known for its artistic style elements. With its large ramparts and series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks Maota Lake, which is the main source of water for the Amber Palace.

Among all forts, this fort is always more crowded.

Mughal architecture greatly influenced the architectural style of several buildings of the fort. Constructed of red sandstone and marble, the attractive, opulent palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. At the entrance to the palace near the fort's Ganesh Gate, there is a temple dedicated to Shila Devi, whose idol was given to Raja Man Singh when he defeated the Raja of Jessore, Bengal in 1604. 

Raja Man Singh had twelve queens so he made twelve rooms, one for each. Raja Jai Singh had only one queen so he built one room equal to three old queen’s rooms.

This palace, along with Jaigarh Fort, is located immediately above on the Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles) of the same Aravalli range of hills. The palace and Jaigarh Fort are considered one complex, as the two are connected by a subterranean passage. This passage was meant as an escape route in times of war to enable the royal family members and others in the Amer Fort to shift to the Jaigarh Fort.

The Palace is divided into six separate but main sections each with its own entry gate and courtyard. The main entry is through the Suraj Pol (Sun Gate) which leads to the first main courtyard. This was the place where armies would hold victory parades with their war bounty on their return from battles. This gate was provided with guards as it was the main entry into the palace. It faced east towards the rising sun, hence the name "Suraj Pol". Royal cavalcades and dignitaries entered the palace through this gate.

Jaleb Chowk is an Arabic phrase meaning a place for soldiers to assemble. This is one of the four courtyards of Amber Palace, which was built during Sawai Jai Singh's rule. Adjacent to the courtyard were the horse stables, with the upper-level rooms occupied by the guards.

This is a must visit place in Jaipur.

We were getting tired now with our exploration of Jaipur City. But there was no time to take rest as a lot was still left and sun was setting fast, so we rushed to the Jantar Mantar.

Many tourists miss this place, but I suggest to include it in you itinirary to get amazed by the advances that India had in those days in astronomy.

Jantar Mantar is a collection of 19 astronomical instruments built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur city. The monument was completed in 1734. It features the world's largest stone sundial. It is near City Palace and Hawa Mahal. The instruments allow the observation of astronomical positions of planets and stars including different Zodiacs.

Close to Jantar Mantar is one of the most famous attraction of Jaipur, The City Palace.

The City Palace at Jaipur was established at the same time as the city of Jaipur, by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, who moved his court to Jaipur from Amber, in 1727. It now houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh Museum, and continues to be the home of the Jaipur royal family. The palace complex has several buildings, various courtyards, galleries, restaurants, and offices of the Museum Trust.

The history of the city palace is closely linked with the history of Jaipur city and its rulers, starting with Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II who ruled from 1699 to 1744. He is credited with initiating construction of the city complex by building the outer wall of the complex spreading over many acres. Initially, he ruled from his capital at Amber, which lies at a distance of 11 kilometres from Jaipur. He shifted his capital from Amber to Jaipur in 1727 because of an increase in population and increasing water shortage. He planned Jaipur city in six blocks separated by broad avenues, on the classical basis of principals of Vastushastra and another similar classical treatise under the architectural guidance of Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, a Bengali architect from Naihati of present-day West Bengal who was initially an accounts-clerk in the Amber treasury and later promoted to the office of Chief Architect by the King.

Maharaja Ram Singh sided with the British in the first war of Independence of 1857 and established himself with the Imperial rulers. It is to his credit that the city of Jaipur including all of its monuments (including the City Palace) are stucco painted 'Pink' and since then the city has been called the "Pink City". The change in the colour scheme was as an honor of hospitality extended to the Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VII) on his visit. This color scheme has since then become a trademark of the Jaipur city.

The most prominent and most visited structures in the complex are the Chandra Mahal, Mubarak Mahal, Shri Govind Dev Temple, and the City Palace Museum.

The Udai Pol near Jaleb chowk, the Virendra Pol near Jantar Mantar, and the Tripolia (three pols or gates) are the three main entry gates of the City Palace. The Tripolia gate is reserved for the entry of the royal family into the palace. Common people and visitors can enter the place complex only through the Udai Pol and the Virendra Pol.

Diwan-e-Aam, the Sabha Niwas, is a hall of the public audience. It has multiple cusped arches supported by marble columns and a beautifully painted plaster ceiling.

Sarvato Bhadra was the Diwan-e-Khas, or the Hall of Private Audience, which meant the ruler could hold court with the officials and nobles of the kingdom. Because of its location between the public areas and the private residence, it has traditionally been used for important private functions like the coronation rituals of the Maharajas of Jaipur.

There are two huge silver vessels of 1.6 metres height and each with capacity of 4000 litres and weighing 340 kilograms are on display here. They were made from 14,000 melted silver coins without soldering. These vessels were specially commissioned by Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II to carry the water of the Ganges to drink on his trip to England in 1902 (for Edward VII's coronation). Hence, the vessels are named as Gangajalis (Ganges-water urns).

There is a Textile gallery, situated on the ground floor of the Mubarak Mahal. On display are various kinds of textiles and fabrics used by different Kings and royal family.

Also there is a Armoury Museum, the Sileh khana, which showcases the many arms used by the Rajputs of Jaipur and Amber. The collection features swords, spears and guns etc.

In Painting and Photography Gallery, where paintings and photographs from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Jaipur are showcased.

It was good to visit City Palace. It gives an opportunity to feel very closely, how the royals lived in those days.

Evening was approaching now and so it was time to visit Hawa Mahal nearby.

Hawa Mahal (English translation: "The Palace of Winds" or "The Palace of Breeze") is built from red and pink sandstone, in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, the grandson of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, who was the founder of Jaipur. He was so inspired by the unique structure of Khetri Mahal that he built this grand and historical palace. Its five floor exterior is akin to honeycomb with its 953 small windows called Jharokhas decorated with intricate latticework. The original intent of the lattice design was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life and festivals celebrated in the street below without being seen. This architectural feature also allowed cool air from the Venturi effect to pass through, thus making the whole area more pleasant during the high temperatures in summer


The top three floors of the structure have the width of a single room, while the first and second floors have patios in front of them.

As the dark descened, we were back to hotel, satisfied by our exploration of the day. Key thing is that if one can start early, say 7 AM, then almost all main spots of Jaipur can be covered in a single day!

Day 8:

It was a leisure day, most of the sightseeing done so started our day a little late and visited the Albert Hall Museum.

It is the oldest museum of the state and functions as the state museum of Rajasthan. The building is situated in Ram Niwas garden and is a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. It is also called the Government Central Museum.

This building looks very beautiful, particularly at night with all lights lit!

The building was designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob and was opened as public museum in 1887. Maharaja Ram Singh initially wanted this building to be a town hall, but his successor, Madho Singh II, decided it should be a museum for the art of Jaipur and included as part of the new Ram Nivas Garden.

It is named after King Albert Edward, during whose visit to the city as the Prince of Wales, its foundation stone was laid on 6 February 1876.

After taking a few pics from the outer area, we started exploring the museum.

The museum has a rich collection of artifacts including paintings, jewelry, carpets, ivory, stone, metal sculptures, and works in crystal. The collection includes coins from the Gupta, Kushan, Delhi Sultanate, Mughal and British periods.

An Egyptian mummy is the main attraction of this museum.

It is also a must visit in Jaipur, particularly if you are with kids.

Evening, we kept for some marketing across the walled Pink city.

Day 9:

We started early from Jaipur for Lucknow. We took breakfast at Agra and then proceeded to Lucknow, reaching there by late afternoon.

It always feel so good to be at home, sweet home!

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