Hawa Mahal and the road to the Amber Palace

Some people have asked if I have moved to India as it is taking me quite a while to work through the 2500 photos I took during our visit and to write a piece for the journal about everything we did. We accomplished a lot and the holiday lives on whilst I write the record of it. After yesterday’s jam packed itinerary, we started the day with an early stop at the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. Built in 1799 for Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh as part of the women’s section of his City Palace, it allowed the ladies of the royal court to watch the drama of the streets unobserved through nearly 1000 screened windows. Only one room wide above the second floor, it has been described by atlasobscura as the world’s most beautiful screened porch! Looking at the other side, from the City Palace which we will visit another day, it has a trompe l’oeil effect of making the place seem even larger than it really is, an imposing backdrop for life at court.

As always the Jaipur streets were full of life and colour. Being a popular destination for visitors, we spied snake charmers on the pavement across the road from the Palace. The snakes were particularly dozy (it was early in the morning) so had to be held up, which ruined the illusion that so many of us have from childhood. Being cold blooded, perhaps it was taking them a while to wake up, or they had been fed too many drugs to keep them placid!

Amer, or Amber, sits at the foot of a rocky valley the leads up to the Amber Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The road from Jaipur passes a lake just before the town across which you can see the Amber Fort and Palace at the top of the hill. We stopped in town to visit Panna Meena Ka Kund, a stepped well about 500 years old; an ingenious design allowing the people to access water whatever the level of the water table.

We also spent some time watching the antics of the Langur monkeys, who were sitting sunning themselves in an old temple. They are a little more relaxed than the thieving Rhesus macaque monkeys documented in the series ‘Planet Earth 2’ by the BBC. We also saw a couple having wedding pictures taken with one of the revamped Austin Ambassadors, made in India after independence. Some of them are now taxis painted pink, since Jaipur as the pink city, and have the seats covered in traditional block printed fabrics – an inspired makeover for these old cars.

Text and images © Jonathan Dredge

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