Amber is located at a distance of 11 kilometers from Jaipur and was the old fort of the Kachhwaha clan of Amber, which used to be the capital, till it was moved to Jaipur.
The construction of the Amber Fort began in the year 1592 and was started by Man Singh I, but it was finished by his descendant Jai Singh I. The exterior of the Fort is not in the least like its interiors. The outside is very imposing and rugged looking whereas the inside is a comforting and warm interior which is influenced by both Hindu and Muslim style of ornamentation. On the walls, are paintings depicting various hunting scenes, and there is also a lot of work on walls,
which are covered with intricate carving, mosaic and minute mirror work that make the halls look very majestic and imperial.
The fort is built with white marble and red sandstone and look even more attractive because of the Maota Lake in the foreground. The fort in itself is a beautiful sight to behold but as one looks on the fort with its clear reflection on the lake in the front, one cannot help but wonder if it is a dream or a beautiful illusion.
Amber Fort also called the Amer Fort is a must-see if you are visiting Rajasthan. The tourists to this fort can either approach the fort by road or take an elephant ride, which though is quite slow yet is a lot of fun.
The Hawa Mahal, which adjoins the famous City Palace wall, was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh and has now become one of the major landmarks of Jaipur. The palace is shaped like a pyramid and is a five-storied building, with number of small windows and screens, with arched roofs. As one looks at this building, one realizes that the rear side of the building is comparatively very plain and lacks much of ornamentation. One is rather surprised at the contrast, since in the front there is intricate carving and much attention has been paid to even minute details yet the backside is more a mass of pillars and passages.
Since the Hawa Mahal was built at a time when women of the royal families had to observe strict purdah, many believe that the Hawa Mahal was built, just so these ladies could watch the processions and various activities taking place on the streets. This does explain why Hawa Mahal has such tiny windows and many screened balconies. The royal ladies could look below at the people without showing themselves and thus enjoy a sense of freedom.
The Hawa Mahal is a great example of the Rajputana architecture, which was strongly influenced by Mughal style of architecture. This particular style of building that we observe in Hawa Mahal, uses the best features of Mughal architecture with other features that could better adapt to the inhospitable weather conditions of Rajasthan.
The Hawa Mahal is a popular place among visitors to Rajasthan because of the amazing view it offers of the city and particularly Jantar Mantar (another tourist attraction). Many insist that the best time to visit Hawa Mahal is in the early morning, right when the sun is rising. As the palace bathes in the golden light of the sun, it looks like a fantastic image conjured up by the mind in a trance. The palace glows like an impalpable dream, which makes you feel that even if you dare blink your eyes, it will quickly dissolve into thin air.
Jaigarh Fort - Jaipur
At a distance of 15kms from Jaipur, stands the imposing Jaigarh Fort. Also called the Victory Fort, the Jaigarh Fort stands in the midst of thorn-scrub hills that impart a sterner look to the already forbidding Fort. As one approaches the fort from the steep road that leads to the main gate, the Dungar Darwaza, one cannot help but remark at the amazing view it offers of the city below.
The Jaigarh fort was built to bolster up the defense of Amer, so one should not be amazed to find that the fort unlike most palaces and forts of Jaipur is quite plain and simple. It has moats and all the features you would expect of a full-fledged citadel.
The highlight of the tour of Jaigarh Fort is definitely the Jaivana, which is the world's largest cannon on wheels. It was built in Jaigarh's foundry in the year 1720. Many say that the cannon was only used once and the ball fell some 35kms away on a village. But that's quite doubtful, since a closer inspection of the cannon actually revealed that it has been fired at least a couple of times.
The Fort has a lot of wide water channels, which were a part of a rainwater harvesting system. There are 3 underground tanks at the fort, the largest one of which could store 60,00,000 gallons of water. An interesting story about this tank is that, many believed it contained hidden treasure but unfortunately Indian Government searched for it and did not find anything at all.
While you are taking a tour of the Jaigarh Fort, you might want to visit the armory and the museum. The armory has many swords, shields, guns, muskets and even a 50 kg cannon ball. One can also see old photographs of two of Jaipur's Maharajas, Sawai Bhawani Singh and Major General Man Singh II, both of whom were senior officers in the military (Indian Army). The Museum has many photographs, of Maharajas, royalty, buildings and processions and even a circular pack of cards besides many other relics of the past.
There are various other structures you can check out too, such as open halls. The most interesting one is the Shubhat Niwas (the Meeting hall of Warriors), which has many old things of the old times.
Nahargarh Fort - Jaipur
The Nahargarh Fort was built by Sawai Raja Jai Singh in 1734. Since Jaipur was his capital, the Nahargarh Fort was strategically important and was built as a means of bolstering the defense of Amer. It was also known as the Tiger Fort. New additions were made to the fort in the 19th century by Sawai Ram Singh II and Sawai Madho Singh II. The older parts of he fort are being hard hit by the ravages of times but the newer additions are quite captivating.
According to a legend, the Fort was named after a prince whose spirit used to haunt the site and would cause mischief so as to delay the construction of the fort. After too many disturbances, finally after a Tantrik prayer the ghost or the spirit, agreed to leave on the condition that the fort should be named after him.
One of the major attractions of the Nahargarh Fort is the view it offers of the Man Sagar lake and the surrounding area. If you are visiting Jaipur, then do take out the time to visit Nahargarh Fort, which stands as a symbol of the royal past and reminds the visitors of the glory of the former age that belonged to kings and Maharajas.
Central Museum - Jaipur
Rajasthan is known for its rich traditional and cultural heritage, so it should not come off as a surprise to anyone that it is the perfect place to find some of the best Museums in India. Being the land of maharajas and maharanis, the state of Rajasthan is such a rich treasure trove that one cannot help but be awe-struck at the extensive collection of antiques it holds. Jaipur, in particular, the capital of Rajasthan, has many of the Museums in the state, that house the rarities and objects of the past, that are today seen as a symbol of the rich heritage and cultural prosperity of India.
One of the oldest and the most famous Museum is the Government Central Museum or Albert museum was constructed under the supervision of a British Army officer, Lt. Swinton Jacob in the year 1876. Maharaja Ram Singh, who was then the king of Jaipur, wanted this building to be used as the town hall but his successor Madho Singh decided to convert the building to an art museum.
It is located in the Ramnivas Gardens and is the oldest museum in Jaipur. The Central Museum not only houses many rarities and beautiful objects but its own building is also a sight to behold. The Museum is in the Albert Hall and is inspired by the Indo-Sarcenic style of architecture, which uses the best features of both styles of building. It has many pillars, courtyards and arches that give it a very traditional yet elegant look.
The upper floor/level of the Museum mainly has portraits of royalty and Jaipur Maharajas. That does not in the least mean that the museum only showcases the royal and imperial relics, but it represent "all of Jaipur". It has an extensive collection of jewelry, metalwork and sculpture. There are also many objects made of brass, which display the skills of the expert hands that have hammered and chiseled them to perfection.
The Central Museum also has a huge collection of miniature paintings from the Udaipur, Jaipur, Bundi, Kota and Kishangarh schools of painting. There are also fine specimens of woodwork, metal objects and other arts & crafts. One can also see the old traditional ceremonial dresses of the Kings and the royal families besides a whole lot of pottery objects, painting and sculptures.
City Palace - Jaipur
Jaipur city is known for its many palaces and forts, which are a major attraction for tourists to Rajasthan. One of these major landmarks of the 'pink city' is the City Palace Complex.
The City Palace was built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of the Kachhwaha clan of Rajputs, but a lot of changes and additions were made to the original structure by his successors.
The architecture of the City Palace is a synthesis of Rajasthani and Mughal styles. The Complex comprises of many structures, courtyards, gardens and buildings. There are many splendid small palaces and halls in the complex, such as the Chandra Mahal, Mubarak Mahal and Badal Mahal. There is also a famous temple called the Shri Govind Temple and a museum inside, named the City Palace Museum.
As one enters the first courtyard, one comes across the Mubarak Mahal, which was built in the 19th century by Maharaja Madho Singh II. Here is a splendid gateway, which leads to the Diwan-I-Khas (Hall of Private audience). It is an open hall, where there are two silver vessels on display, which are in the Guinness book of World Records! One can also check out the Diwan-I-Aam (Hall of Public Audience).
As one moves on, one sees the Chandra Mahal, which many consider being the highlight of the whole tour of City Palace. It has a lot of paintings, mirror work on walls, and floral decorations that make the Moon Palace truly magnificent.
It is a seven-storied Palace, where each level has a distinct name. The lower two levels have the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, which has a large collection of 15th century weapons, carpets and rarities. There is also the Sukh Nivas or the 'Hall of Rest', which has the drawing and the dining area. On the fourth floor is the 'Shobha Nivas' or 'Hall of Beauty' which is decorated with mirrors all over and has gold leaf and mica decorations.
The fifth floor is the 'Chavi Nivas' or the 'Hall of Images' and the sixth floor is known for the beautiful view it offers of the surrounding area. The uppermost floor is called the 'Mukut Mahal' or the 'Crown building'. When one moves forward to Badal Mahal from the Chandra Mahal, one comes to the Govind devji temple, which is also quite like the others, a must-see.
The Kanak-Vrindavan Valley
As one moves down from Amber, one gets a sweeping view of the beautiful Kanak valley. The valley, which is formed by the Aravalli ranges, is next to the Amber town and extends to Jaipur. As one moves further down, one comes across green hills and valleys with dhok and kadamba trees. On the way are lots of cascading waterfalls, brooks, ponds and tons of vegetation, including many flowering and fragrant variety of plants.
Amidst such scenic beauty is the temple complex that is three centuries old. In the complex is the temple dedicated to Govind deoji and Natawarji, and also a garden, which is called the Kanak Bagh. On the side of the valley is the Dharbawati River, which earlier used to flow through the Jaipur city but now has more or less become a lake, Mansagar.
The beautiful valley received it name about 280 years ago by the ruler and founder of Jaipur, Sawai Jai Singh. Strangely, the Kanak valley made the ruler think of Vrindavan, where Lord Krishna spent his childhood, which is why an idol of Shri Govind Deoji (an incarnation of Lord Krishna) was installed here. Even now the place has not lost its significance and is considered a sacred place, which is why during the many festivals such as Gangaur and Teej, the procession that come from Amber make a stop here to pay respect to the Lord. When one visits this place now, one is amazed to hear that, for a long time this place was completely neglected by everyone and was fast turning into a ruin. The screens, intricate carvings, chhatris and arches all seemed to be falling apart. If that was not bad enough, even the vegetation and natural surroundings of the place were quickly deteriorating. Fortunately, before it was too late, restoration work started on this site and further damage was prevented.
The temple is truly a sight to behold with its chhatris, jali and mirror work. The 'panni' work on the garba griha , the seat of the lord is truly beautiful. There is also a fountain, parikrama, which has been carved from a single marble block. Between the two temples is the Kanak Garden. It has a series of fountains, and is divided into eight sections. It has lush green grass and bestows even more beauty to the temples.
Though the Kanak valley is simply breathtaking, many say that if you really wish to enjoy the beauty of the temples, then you should visit them at night, when they are lit up and hymns and prayers are sung to lord Krishna, which make the place seem even more heavenly and divine.
Laxmi Narayan Temple
The Laxmi Narayan is located in the South of Jaipur, and was built by the Birla family, which is a major industrialist family of India. This is why, the temple is also called the 'Birla Mandir'. It is situated quite close to the Moti Doongri fort, which was converted to a small palace by Ram Singh II and Gayatri Devi.
Keeping in mind the secular nature of the country, the temple has three domes, which represent different approaches to religion. It is a beautiful white marble temple, which seems to glow at night.
The Birla Mandir in Jaipur attracts many tourists and devotees every year. The temple is very crowded during the festivals as Hindus come from all over the state and country to pay their respect to the Lord. Next time you have a holiday, come to Jaipur and visit the Birla Mandir, dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi (Goddess of Wealth).
The Rambagh Palace was built in 1835 by the Queen of Jaipur but was later converted into a hunting lodge and a guesthouse. After a bit of modifications, the palace was made fit to be the residence for the Maharaja of Jaipur. Finally it was turned into a heritage hotel in 1972 and is now run by the Taj Group of Hotels, a leading name in the Hotel Industry. The Rambagh palace Heritage hotel has seen many illustrious guests, for instance, Lord Mountbatten, Prince Charles and Omar Sharif.
The palace, which is now a fine heritage hotel, has all the modern comforts and luxuries to serve the guests yet it still has the splendor and elegance of an old palace. Now Rambagh is a heritage hotel, all the rooms have modern luxuries. There are the Presidential suites, the Maharaja suite, the Maharani suite and the princess suite.
The Rambagh Palace is truly a sight to behold, with its spacious rooms, halls and beautiful corridors. The palace is itself surrounded by lush greenery and vast lawns.
The rooms of the palace are very imperial in their look and still look fit to accommodate the royalty. The Chinese room in particular is worth a closer look. It has been decorated with red and gold tapestry and lots of antiques and fittings have been used to make the room more captivating.