Amer Fort, Jaipur: A Mughal and Hindu style fusion
A four hour drive from Delhi lies the capital of Rajasthan – Jaipur. Popularized as the ‘Pink City’ because of the stone used in the construction of several buildings in the city, Jaipur is the holy grail of travellers visiting Rajasthan. Some of the most famous attractions include the Jantar Mantar, a medieval astronomy site and the Hawa Mahal, a tall five-storeyed structure that was built at the edge of the City Palace so the royal women could observe the passing crowds without being seen themselves. Not to be missed, however, is the Amer Fort. Amer Fort, more correctly termed Amer Palace, is on the to-do lists of all the tourists visiting Jaipur. Situated just a half hour drive outside Jaipur on the Jaipur-New Delhi highway in the town of Amer, Amer Fort is one of the most well preserved constructions from the era. One can experience Indian Vaastu through its aesthetic ambience. A prime example of architectural excellence, Amer Fort boasts of gorgeous stone carvings that were done manually over four centuries ago. As recently as 2013, UNESCO recognized Amer Fort as World Heritage Site adding to the likes of the Taj Mahal, Humayun’s Tomb and Qutub Minar.
Built in 1558, the Fort holds strong to this day. As you approach the fort, you will be greeted by a quintessentially Indian sight of a line of elephants with mahouts transporting tourists up to fort. Another line heads downwards to serve the next round of visitors. It is one of the most exciting aspects of visiting the fort as you get transported back in time to the time of princes. (Alternatively, you can take a jeep up the fort). The Fort itself is perched on a hill and once you get to the top, you are greeted by stunning views of the fort’s perimeter and the surrounding hills.
Source: Aditi Phadke
The fort is mainly made out of red sandstone and is decorated with beautiful carvings and striking marble mosaics. You are greeted with carved patterns of elephant head and vines. You also get a splendid view of the Maavtha Lake. The garden in the middle of the lake is also your first introduction to the marvellous geometric pattern designs of Rajasthani gardens. The lake consists of mainly the rain water that collects in it from surrounding areas and this water sends a cooling breeze across the gardens.
Your jeep drops you off outside the main Sun Gate while the elephants drop you past the Sun Gate into the succeeding wide courtyard. This courtyard is known as Jaleb Chowk, which is Arabic for ‘a place for soldiers to assemble’. In those times, armies would hold their victory celebrations here. Surrounding passageways with lattice windows gave access to the Royal women to watch the celebrations without being seen, a characteristic that is seen in several Rajput constructions.
A stairway from the courtyard leads you to the stunning Ganesh Pol entrance. Decorated with beautiful marble artwork, this gate also doubles as a Bhool-Bhulaiya, or maze and is lined with a multitude of little tunnels that criss-cross across the gate and the exits turn up in places you wouldn’t expect. Amer Fort also has an underlying tunnel that could be used by the Royal Family to escape during sieges.
Source: Firoze Edassery
The Ganesh Pol opens to a lovely garden full of chirping birds. This was the private quarters of the Royal family. You can also see the Sheesh Mahal which was built under the instructions of Mirza Raja Jai Singh. Beautiful mirror glass work characterizes the Mahal and walking through the Mahal can even give you a sense of deja vu and make you feel like you were definitely a Prince or Princess, maybe in another life. Even the Royal chambers as cooled with the wind that passes through the cascading water.
Amer Fort is seamless confluence of Mughal and Rajput architecture. One of the most interesting features of the Amer Fort is despite having Muslim architecture, you can see several elements of Hindu design dotting the palace. As you can see if this photograph, the left side features the six pointed flower while the right side features prominently the six pointed hexagram Najmat Dāwūd, commonly known as the Star of David) or as Khātem Sulaymān, which is Arabic for the Seal of Solomon. In Hinduism, this symbol represent the union of Shakti, the sacred embodiment of femininity and Shiva, representing masculinity. These netted carvings have a very interesting backstory. Prophet Mohammed and his follower Abu Bakr were being chased by enemies on their way from Mecca to Medina. They took refuge in a cave and soon a spider covered the cave’s entrance with a web. The enemies did not think to look inside the cave and Prophet Mohammed made a safe journey. This magic web was symbolized into stone on the orders of Akbar and is seen throughout Mughal architecture. It not only has religious connotations, but also facilitates sunlight and cross-breeze flow.
Source: Aditi Phadke
There are several temples such as the blissful Shila Devi temple or Suhag Mandir which are also fascinating in themselves. As with any historical site, it is advisable to take a guide who can enlighten you about the rich history of the fort and its nuances as you wander through time.