The Hindus consider the cows in India as holy and they are allowed to freely roam the cities whatever traffic around. This looks strange to foreigners, but you will get used to it. It is always like that everywhere you go. The hindus believe the cows are wise and show a motherly calm.
26° 55' 33.7900" N 75° 49' 31.6300" E
Fondest memory: Colorful decorated trucks are typical for the Punjabi state of India. This is an art, and the owner of the trucks spend much money on their truck. The pictures was taken in a toll booth between Agra and Jaipur.
Favorite thing: Amber Palace, as does many of the other royal complexes in India, features (a) Diwan-i-Am, which means the Hall of Public Audiences. This was a structure in which the royals, and even the maharajah himself, could "meet" the public. The Diwan-i-Am at Amber Palace features a series of pillars at the top of two flights of stairs. There are many decorative rooms within the palace, most of them small and quite colorfully decorated.
Favorite thing: The thing about the room at Amber Palace is that they're all special, all beautiful in their own way. Even the rooms of "less significance", or the breezeway, hallways and stairs have gorgeous reliefs, frescos precious stone inlay. Some of the items are in excellent condition, others are a bit worn. But, I think you'll find so many things to make you smile. You'll be glad that they've invented digital photography, there are lots of photos to be taken. :)
One of the more impressive structures at the Amber Palace is the Sheesh Mahal, which means "The Mirrored Palace". Apparently, the influence of mirrors in regal surrounding found its way to India from Versailles, and the maharajah chose to create his own mirror-based building. This one is different from Versailles' famous hall in that it's all small mirrors. There are thousands of small mirrors and mirror pieces intricately placed throughout the walls and ceilings of the room, creating both a glow and (I'd call it) a "pop" for visitors.
You should be able to get some very nice photos at Sheesh Mahal, the room remains in excellent condition, and truly reflects (intentional humor) the majesty in which it was intended.
Fondest memory: As you walk through the room, you literally see thousands of your image coming at you from all different angles. Very strange, it's almost like you see yourself in three dimensions, in real time.
Favorite thing: Char Bagh is a small, intimate garden located just outside the Sheesh Mahal and the royal apartments. There is an extensive series of stone "sections", each one with different types of plantings. I suspect that this would have been one of the maharajah's favorite places, on an early evening when he could basically clear everyone else away from the area. As you stand in or near the gardens, there's also a small pool centered in the complex, and you have a great view of the surround mountains and fort. Add some of those pots of water with rose petals and a nice breeze, and you have a magical afternoon at the palace.
One of the most intricate and decorative gates within the confines of the Amber Palace is the Ganesh Pol. Dedicated to the Hindu elephant-god Ganesh, this was the spot in the Palace where - it is said - that the queen would await (actually hidden above behind a lattice-work) the king's return from battle. She would sprinkle the place with scented water, flowers and would also "wear something nice" as we'd say in the west.
The stonework and decorative design of Ganesh Pol is very pleasing and an excellent place for special photographs to share with your friends back home.... you know, the "we went to India" photos. :)
There is a series of fort structures in and around the city of Jaipur, including the gigantic Jaigarh Fort overlooking the Amber Palace. Many of these forts, as well as former military posts in the surrounding countryside, were once joined together by a series of wall fortifications. On first look, these walls actually have a similar "look" to China's Great Wall. The walls in the Jaipur area were most certainly built with the assistance of descendants of those who built the Chinese treasure, but are much more "human" in scale. Whereas the Great Wall of China basically covers a continent, or parts of it, these walls are more of a local military item from the 16th and 17th century.
OK, it's not "the" Great Wall, but they're pretty cool anyway. It goes to show you how seriously the maharajahs and emperors of the past took the threat of outside invasion.
Fondest memory: Seeing our guide (Alok Choudhary) smile when I said that the walls looked "a little bit like the Great Wall of China".
The Amber Palace is overlooked - on a higher ridge - by the Amber Fort, which is sometimes called the Jaigarh Fort. Among the earliest construction on the site, the fort was begun in the late 16th century.
Today, Jaigarh is pretty much in ruins, or so I hear. We did not tour the fort, but it is possible to do so. The entry is 35 Rs, and there are camera and video camera fees, not to mention vehible fees if you choose to drive on up to the fort in a jeep.
The massive ruins perched over the stunning Amber Palace offers a great opportunity for excellent photographs and scenics, and gives you a true feeling of the massive scale built on this site.
In addition to the fort, there are several walls snaking from the edge of the fort and out over the area lands. Their purpose was, without question, to protect the lands of the Jaipur royals from outside invaders. Although it's nowhere near matching the scale or impact, these walls do, at least a bit, resemble the Great Wall of China in the way that they meander up and down the mountains and valleys.
One of the more popular tourist items on visits to the Amber Palace/Fort site in Jaipur would be the royal Raj elephants. The path from the parking area up to the palace entrance is a sloping pathway some 500 meters in length. It's a zig-zag back and forth design that allows you to climb to the Singh Pole Gate and the Jaleb Chowk, the opening "courtyard".
You can walk, it's a nice brisk affair that adds a bit up sloping cardio to get your heart pumping. You could take a jeep for the short ride, I understand the cost is 150 Rs for up to six people.
OR.... you can be a tourist and ride up to the Palace in "maharajah style", on the back of a decorated elephant. Riding the elephants was our choice, and we enjoyed the experience. I will tell you that I did learn that I didn't want to ride an elephant on a LONG trip.... kind of bumpy, folks. I also learned a new term, "elephant shower". That's when the elephant blows its nose/trunk as you're walking along. The funny, or perhaps less than funny, part is that YOU and the mahout get the shower. Sigh. Just cover your camera lens.
I guess you could consider riding an elephant to be MASS transit in the literal sense. I'm not sure what shade of "green" taking an elephant up the hill would be, ecologically speaking. I'll bet they can crank out greenhouse gases with the best of them. Then again, last time I checked, there have been some record cold temperatures over the last few weeks all over the world, so perhaps we need to turn up the gas. Maybe I should check with Al Gore. Yeah, right. :^/
The cost to ride to the Singh Pole Gate via Raj elephant is 400 Rs per elephant. Supposedly, each elephant can carry four people, but we chose to ride two elephants - Bonnie & Sara on one, with me on another. This enabled photography a bit more. :)
Fondest memory: I got over it later, but at first, the "elephant showers" kind of freaked me out. I had both a video and still camera, and I wasn't keen on getting too much pachyderm mucosa onto my camera lenses, not to mention, on ME. As I got off the elephant on the top, I asked my wife if they got a shower or two. They didn't know what I was talking about. I guess I just had an elephant that wanted to clear its trunk a couple of times. sigh. :)
One quick note... many guidebooks make reference to the elephants being not treated well, they reference mahout cruelty and abuse. I was on the lookout for any such issue when we arrived at the Palace, and had our elephants appeared remotely to be in any distress, neglect or agony, we would have refused to frequent the business. I make no claim to being an animal expert, but... from where I sat and from the time I rode up at the Palace, I saw no mistreated animals, no signs of illness, abuse or neglect. Perhaps a previously bad situation is improving, due to the vocal concern of the traveling public.
The Amber Fort and Palace (sometimes denoted as the AMER Fort and Palace) dominate a large crest overlooking Maota Lake, at the edge of Jaipur. The fort was first begun in the late 16th century by Raja Man Singh. Over the next 100 or so years, the fortifications and palace were completed. For a period of time, the fort was considered the capital of the Kachhawah Rajputs region. Eventually, the capital was moved to the city of Jaipur itself and the fort was abandoned.
Today, the fort, which dominates the highest part of the crests, is basically ruined. However, the palace and its grounds are an incredible look into the Rajasthan of some 300 years ago. The design and architecture of the palace are a combination of Rajput and Moghul style and influence - basically the product of a century-long building process.
I will have several following tips to discuss various areas and aspects of the Amber Palace. I will close this tip with the basic visit(ing) information for the Palace:
Location: Delhi Road, north of Jaipur
Admission is 50 Rs. Still camera charge is 75 Rs and a video camera charge is 150 Rs.
The Amber Palace is open daily from 9:00 until 16:30.
If you've read any of my other Indian city pages, then you know that I'm a huge believer in hiring a top-notch local guide. That way, you can get the informational cornucopia that only a local expert can supply - and yet you can get it on your timetable and at your direction. When we put together our itinerary, I had my main contact in India, Mr. Navin Pandey of Gatik Eventures, suggest local guides. His choice for Jaipur was Mr. Alok Choudhary.
What a terrific choice. Alok is prompt, organized, knowledgeable, and a consumate professional. On top of that, he has a wonderful sense of humor and fun, and is one of those guides who very quickly learns what you truly enjoy best. He then tailors your experience to your tastes.
Another major plus with Alok is that he's an excellent photographer. He had so many insightful photo and framing suggestions, it's obvious that he and the camera are good friends. And, he's quite useful in his willingness and competence in taking photos of his clients. So many of our best "family shots" from our trip are courtesy of Alok's assistance. He's clearly used many many different types of cameras and he knows what makes a good shot.
One other thing... in addition to speaking English, Alok's business card indicates that he also speaks German and Spanish.
To contact Alok, here is the information:
Tour Escort/Government of India
4/138, Malviya Nagar
Jaipur 302 017, Rajasthan, India
Mobile Phone : +91 98290 15567
Fondest memory: I remember Alok being almost as glad to see our driver (Hawa) as we were, as we emerged from the sea of people exiting the Amber Fort. Even tour guides get their fill of touts and snake charmers.
India is a well-known source for the precious stone industry. Rubies, sapphires, emeralds and such, they're all available, terrific quality and a fair price, in India.
Throughout much of the so-called golden triangle area, there are numerous stone cutting and polishing operations, some are connected to retail outlets. As you'd guess, there are reputable outfits and scurrilous ones. You need to do research before you select someone in whom you'd place trust for something as high-brown as precious and semi-precious stone commerce.
Fondest memory: We had a chance to watch some of the stone cutters and polishers at work on our visit to the Antiquariat shop in Jaipur. It was truly amazing to see how ordinary a ruby looks before the cutters and polishers work their magic. Please scroll through all of my photos below. The main display photo shows a tiny and perfect ruby, a finished product. One of the other photos shows a raw ruby, just as it comes from the countryside.
"Hey baby, what's your sign?" Does that translate well? In English and in American dating culture, that's a sleazy pick-up line used by men looking to "date" ladies that they're meeting at a bar or a party. It refers to the notion that sharing your astrological sign with another person ("I'm a Capricorn...") is a good way to start a random conversation.
I'm not sure how important one's astrological sign is for starting a relationship, but astrologers have long felt that the constellations present in the heavens at certain times of the year, or at the time of one's birth, heavily affect and influence events in time. Jai Singh II and his fellow learned men of the 18th century certainly felt this way. And along with all of the truly scientific wonders he created at Jantar Mantar, he also built a goodly number of astrological temples and what-nots in his effort to control and understand all things celestial. He was not alone in his regard for astrology and its importance. Over at Fatehpur Sikri, none other than Akbar the Great built a special "astrologer's chair" so that his personal astrologer would have a place to make his pronouncements and predictions.
Sure, we scientists (I am, by trade, a Clinical Chemist) generally disdain astrology as a bunch of nonsense... entertaining nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless. But to Jai Singh II, it was as cutting edge for knowledge as were the telescope and his sundials. It all related to the heavens, a place that was - at that time - still unreachable for even mighty maharajahs.
As for the science versus superstition thing, I WILL admit to one thing. I am sometimes jealous that some celebrity astrologers have found a way to make millions of dollars with their zodiac-based predictions. Maybe I should have paid a little more attention to astrology in my college days. :)
Fondest memory: ....the look on my wife's face when I uttered the predictable and cheesy "hey baby, what's your sign?" line when we were exploring Jantar Mantar's astrological section.
Jai Singh II spared no expense in building Jantar Mantar. He literally spent astronomical sums of money on his astronomical devices, in an effort to further grasp and understand the heavens.
The contraption pictured below obviously has a name.... but I can't remember what it was. Its purpose was to, via some sort of shadow point plotting design, measure the earth's position in the heavens via the daily rise of the sun on the horizon and throughout the day. While the people of Singh's time certainly understood the seasons in a basic "summer = hot, winter = cooler, spring = plant birth, fall = slowing down" kind of way, they were just beginning to realize the reasons for the seasons, so to speak. (The Earth's tilt and position with respect to the sun)