On a brief trip, I visited the cities of Jaipur and Udaipur, the lands of forts and palaces. Jaipur is the gateway to India’s largest state, Rajasthan located in the north west of the Indian subcontinent and is an overflowing melting pot of a myriad of colours, palaces that can tell tales from yonder by presenting itself in stories of friendship, of betrayal, of love and wealth steeped in rich history. Udaipur is tucked away a further 400 kms inwards tells us of wars, some of which have changed the course of India’s rich history.
If the Hawa mahal (literally translated as wind palace) does not enthral with its lattice architecture from its front, a peek into the entrance from the back gives a chance to wonder at the multi layered architecture. The palace was essentially built at the turn of the 18th century by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in order to facilitate the royal women to stare at the bazaars below, while they themselves would not be seen by the common man! Made of pink sandstone, the structure has a beautiful shade, true to the epithet of the city itself.
Or perhaps the intellectual capabilities of the kings are not better displayed in any other place than in Jantar Mantar built sometime in early 1700’s which houses the largest sandstone sundial in the world.
May be, its worthwhile just to see how exactly the kings built palaces and protected their people from the enemies by building huge forts of unimaginable scale perched atop hills and therefore visit some visibly fantastic looking structures. A trip to the city palace reveals the grandeur of the kings while the staggering Amer fort built on the arid outskirts of the city centre. The latter is especially a marvellous UNESCO World heritage sight, believed to have been originally built in 967 AD trading possessions until the current form was built around the 18th century. Overlooking the crystal Maota lake along with the connected Jaigarh fort so that the king could escape through passageways if the fort were captured, the two forts majestically sit atop the Aravalli Range of hills.
The fort houses four courtyards of which the fourth one houses the exquisitely beautiful Sheesh mahal or the palace of mirrors. The walls and the ceiling are intricately decorated with pieces of mirror that gives the place a wonderful glittery shine.
After visiting the arid hills of this part, there’s nothing better than making a trip inwards into the state making a way into the city of lakes, Udaipur, named after the founder Maharana Udai Singh back in the 1500’s. His son, Maharana Pratap is perhaps one of the most revered kings in Indian history. Sophistical connected lakes form the heart of this wonderful city.
The city palaces tell stories of the legendary wars between the more powerful Muslim rulers (Mughals) and the isolated defiance by the warrior kings of Udaipur. Perhaps the most famous is the battle of Haldighati between Maharana Pratap and Akbar, resulting in the victory of the latter which made him the de-facto emperor of India.
Indeed, the rulers of this part of India always faced the brunt of invading rulers of Middle East, Persia, Afghanistan and the Mongols, as the state is the first entry point of the invaders into India. The fact that the rulers still dedicated time into building such magnificent structures while catering to the needs of the people is a testimony to their courage and dedication to their land.