Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Intoxicating India 2013 - Day 5

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Intoxicating India : 9th to 16th February 2013
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DAY 5 : 13TH FEBRUARY 2013


The day before had been quite uneventful, but today is going to be very exciting. Today we will be spending a full day in Jaipur (the Pink City).
Today we are going on an elephant ride up the Amber Fort, see an ancient astronomical observatory, visit a city palace, pass by one of the distinct landmarks of Jaipur, visit a "gothic-style" Hindu Temple and gate-crash a real Indian wedding.

Leaving the hotel, our bus dropped us some distance away from our first destination, the Amber Fort. It was interesting strolling along the busy road viewing some of the shops like this one selling Rajasthani dolls.

And road side stalls selling Indian cakes.


Long queue at Amber Fort Gardens to enter the fort.
The Amber Fort (or by it's local name the Amer Fort) opens from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. When we arrived at the entrance (the Amber Fort Garden), there was already a long, long queue for the elephant ride. Some people arrived as early as 7:30 am to start queuing.

While waiting (up to an hour sometimes), tourists can pass their time to buy colorful parasols or souvenirs from the vendors plying the garden.

Souvenirs include nice colorfully etched brass items such as bowls, animals, etc.

In front, the elephants too were eagerly queuing up to take on their passengers.

Our turn came, up the elephant we climbed in and off we went climbing up the battlements of the fort. These battlements are part of a long protection wall straddling the perimeter hills of Jaipur.

The faces & trunks of the elephants are all colorfully painted, and they have names too!
The one who took us up was called Lucky and his mahout's name was Raj.

Looking down, there is a scenic view of Maotha Lake.

Up ahead, the towering walls of the fort standing proudly against the cloudless, blue, blue sky.
I have been on many other elephant rides, like in Thailand etc.; but this ride is really of a different experience. Amazing!

Up at the top, the elephants let us down at the large main courtyard inside the fort itself.

There are many building within the fort, the main one being the Maharaja's Palace.

The Hall of Public Audience (Diwan-i-Aam).

The Hall of Private Audience (Diwan-i-Khas)

The private chambers of the Maharaja's many wives, called the Zenani Deorhi (Ladies' Apartment).

The exit from the fort is at another side, there jeeps were waiting to take us back down. (... see more on Amber Fort)


Straight after lunch, we were taken to this artsy place called the Antiquariat Shop. It's one of those factory visits included in tour packages.
Factory visits always turn me off, they are like a place with a sort of force selling. But this one was a real pleasant surprise. No pumping sales pitch; just an exhibition of semi-precious stone polishing and we were left on our own to wander around the shop - to buy if we like or if not, just to window-shop.

This place is worthwhile visiting as it has thousands of pieces of artwork on display for sale - like this painting in classical Indian style of a Mughal Garden Court Scene.

Wood carving of a rural Indian farmer.

Marble table tops inlaid with semi-precious stones.

Ornamental classical Indian neck/chest-piece & ear-rings.

An antique wooden chair carved to represent a peacock.
(... see more of Antiquariat Art Shop)


The Jantar Mantar is an observatory consisting of various architectural structures used as astronomical equipment to measure time, seasons,
The giant sundial above, called the Samrat Yantra, can measure the time of the day accurate to two seconds. It is about fifty feet tall.
Astounding isn't it, considering that these structures were built in the early 1700's, four hundred years ago.

The Jaya Prakash Yantra, one of two hemispheres buried into the ground.
They are used to calculate the position of the celestial bodies.
There are two Jantar Mantar in India, the other one is in Delhi. The one here in Jaipur is more well preserved and has been classified a UNESCO Heritage Site.

A constellation calculator, this will show the constellation month of the year. there are twelve of these, this one is for the constellation Libra.

A smaller sundial, but still large when compared to those table sundials. This one tells time accurate to ten seconds.
The location of the  Jantar Mantar observatory was selected because of it's location away from mountains, presenting it with an unobstructed view of the skies.


The City Palace, so named because it is in the heart of Jaipur City, was built in the early 1700's as the residence of the former Maharajas of Jaipur.
Today, part of it is a museum opened to the public but a greater part of it is still the official residence of the present descendants of the Maharajas.

The entrance arch into the palace.

The palace grounds actually holds two palaces, this one above is the Mubarak Mahal (Auspicious Palace).

The Hall of Private Audience (Diwan-I-Khas).

The most outstanding building here is the other palace, the Chandra Mahal - viewed here from the main compound.

Only the ground floor of this 7-storey palace is open to the public. The descendants of the Maharajas still stay here, probably entering by this guarded entrance.

One should not miss going into the inner compound. The entrance is through a small doorway called the Peacock Gate. But you won't see the peacocks from the main compound, this view is from the inside. From the outside, the entrance looks quite nondescript.

It is here, at the inner compound, that the view of the Chandra Mahal  is grander.


The Hawah Mahal (Palace of Winds) is the most recognisable landmark in Jaipur. It's many windowed facade pyramiding up to the crest makes it very distinguishable.
Why so many windows? Well, the building is actually part of the City Palace - the women's quarters. It overlooks the public market place, the windows allowed the women to view the market from the privacy of their rooms without (God forbid!) exposure to the public.

The side walls adjacent to the Hawah Mahal are interesting also. We did not actually stop to visit the Hawah Mahal but just drove by as my fellow tourists were more eager to reach other destinations. So pardon the reflections in the photo. Heh.. heh.

The above is a large-sized replica of the Hawah Mahal (seen at the Antiquariat Shop), impressive but not as beautiful as the original. I put it here so that one can imagine how it will look like if looked at properly.


The Birla Temple, built in 1988, is a relatively new building when compared to the other historical buildings. It stands out because it is built solely of white marble. This is unlike the traditional colorful Indian temples. From afar, one could mistake it for a Gothic structure.

It is called the Birla Temple (in Hindu - Birla Mandir) as it was built by the Birla Group of Industries. Other than this, the Birla Group have built insofar a total of fourteen Birla temples all over India.

Front view of Birla Temple.

The interesting thing is that on the front right side columns are carve statues of personage from other religions, the above is that of Jesus.

The temple sits at the foot of the Moti Dungri hill. Behind it is the impressive Scottish looking Moti Dungri Fort.


Arriving back at the hotel, we were surprised to see a couple of elephants at the gate, waiting to welcome us back. This hotel must be real grand to go to this extent.
Hah! Fat chance! The elephants were not for us. There was a real life Indian wedding going on, the elephants were there to greet the guests.

The wedding was held at the large side lawn of the hotel.
With the permission of the host, we "gate-crashed" the wedding and were allowed to take photos.

The wedding couple.

What was an empty lawn in the morning was now full of tents - tents for the guests and even tents at the perimeter for food. It was real grand!

There was even a large stage put up, where friends of the nuptial couple put on shows to entertain the guests.

This has been an interesting long day. A day of forts, art shops, palaces, observatories, temples and even a wedding!


Related Blogs :

Beautiful art pieces seen while on a surprisingly interesting factory visit.

An eight day trip to India: from Delhi to scenic Kashmir, to the pink city of Jaipur, to the Taj Mahal in Agra and back to Delhi sights.

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