You have not seen Jaipur properly if you have not visited the Amer Fort. One of the key things to do in Jaipur is a visit to this UNESCO heritage fort. Just outside the city. Amer Fort or Amber fort used to the powerhouse of the rulers before Jaipur became the capital. I was raring to go see it and would have done so possibly on the first day in Jaipur itself. However, having just reached Jaipur, we were not ready to start early. Amer Fort is quite well documented and me having devoured it all, was ready to see all that I had imagined.
Bright and early, we were off to spend a day seeing all the forts that Jaipur had to offer. Along our 12 kms drive, we came across some beautiful sights – like the Jal Mahal, but we did not stop anywhere. The idea was to spend as much time as possible seeing the forts and then, on the way back, stop at the other attractions. Just as our car crossed the hillocks of Aravalli, we got the first glimpse of Amer Fort. And that is where we met our guide.
The guide introduced himself with his creds and asked us to follow his bike to the gates of Amer Fort. Since the roads were clogged with tourist vehicles, he took us through a slightly different route. We entered the fort through a different entrance that led straight to the area with a huge vessel. This was not a part of the original Amer fort but was made for the Blockbuster film – Jodha Akbar. This huge vessel that was used by Aishwarya Rai in the film to cook for Hrithik Roshan :D.
While we perched on the steps to have a quick Rajasthani breakfast (Kachori and Samosas), the guide took us through the history of this fort.
History of Amer Fort:
I guess, most of you may have heard of the Navratanas (9 gems) of Emperor Akbar – Birbal being one of the key ones? Well, belonging to the same Navratanas was Raja Man Singh I – the ruler of Amer. It is him who is credited for having built the current structure. However, the first palace is an ancient one that can still be seen behind the main Amer Fort. This is called the Kadimi Mahal and it was built by the Meenas – the dynasty that ruled before Man Singh‘s dynasty.
The guide also, introduced us to the basic structure of this fort – different gates and 4 different courtyards. From here, we began our lovely yet incomplete tour of Amer fort. Note, I say incomplete. And you will know soon enough why. Let’s start with why I said Lovely in the first place. Here are my 5 highlights or things to see in Amer fort.
1) Ganesh Pol
The first place that that guide got us to was right in front of this majestic looking gate. Ganesh Pol was the main gate of the Palace, though it is not the first gate. Lord Ganesh is known to remove obstacles and is a symbol of new beginnings. I suppose, you can now work out why this gate was so named. They say that the royalty were welcomed here with a full fan-fare, especially as they returned victorious from a battle. I had myself imagining a scene from Jodha Akbar wherein Akbar was greeted with Tilak by the royal Queen when he first visited Jodhabai. Of course, that did not really happen here. 🙂 But you get the picture.
If you notice, there are small windows with a passage right above the gate. That is called Suhag Mandir. This was where the Royal ladies could witness the happenings below as they were not allowed to appear in public.
The gate was painted using vegetable dyes and they say that the same is still retained. We were told that during rains this place looks even more stunning. Rains or not, the gate made a stunning backdrop for some photo memories as you can see. 🙂
Right opposite the gate were two interesting places – first being Diwan-e-Aam. This was the Hall of public audience. The same as you can see was being renovated.
The second interesting place was the public courtyard or the Jaleb Chowk. This was a level below and you could see the main entrance called the Suraj Pol here. The entrance was to the east and hence, the name – Sun Gate :D. The army parades took place in this courtyard. Here you can also, find the temple of Sila Devi. It is said that the temple Idol was found by Raja Man Singh, following his dream and hence, is special. The temple is also, attached to the practice of animal sacrifice during the nine days of Navaratri festival. The same was done in presence of the whole town, till it became a private tradition of the royal family and later was stopped altogether.
2) Jai Mandir
Though it was not the first place that we were taken to after we entered through the Ganesh pol, Jai Mandir was the first we spotted and were completely intrigued by it. The beautiful majestic building with glass and mirror work has three parts to it. The first part that you can immediately see is the Hall of Private Audience – Diwan-e-Khaas. This is where highly secretive meetings with important people took place.
Note those flower motifs – they are called Magic Flowers. The flower is carved such that you can spot 7 different pictures by covering various parts of the flower – from a scorpion to a lotus to a snake.
The interiors of Diwan-e-Khaas are full of mirror and glass work . This section is seamlessly attached to its other two parts are called Sheesh Mahal and Jas Mandir. I shall talk of these in my next section. The gardens that you see, in front of the Diwan-e-Khaas were laid out in Mughal style and are called the Aram Bagh or Chahar Bagh. The interesting feature of this garden is that that water that went into the garden was also, used to cool the surroundings. It used to pass through small pipes in Sukh Niwas and Jai Mandir. Small parts of it can still be seen in the Sukh Niwas. Interesting, huh?
3) Sheesh Mahal (Glass Palace)
One candle that was lit in the night, reflected throughout the palace – making the ceiling look like the night sky filled with twinkling stars. And that was not all that fascinated me. The glass work is in no random pattern but is worked into beautiful floral designs.
There is this one place that our guide insisted that he take our picture.He pointed the camera at one mirror while we posed at another. Here is the lovely framed picture that we got.
The Jas Mandir that I had mentioned earlier, is on the top floor of Sheesh Mahal and was used for relaxing. The section also, had bathing chambers which had curtains of Khus. These were sprayed for natural cool air. Unfortunately, this is out of bounds 🙁
4) Sukh Niwas
This was the resting quarters of the King. Right opposite his office 🙂 Personally, I would not have liked it that way, but then to each their own. Besides the ornate carvings that you see in this section, the main feature were the small channels of water that came from the Chahar Bagh. The Queens apparently used these as a place to cool of their feet and maybe, do a pedicure 😉
The section also, has rooms for the main Queen or the Patrani and the second one in line. The size of the rooms and their decor distinguished them and also, implied their importance.
5) Zenana Mahal
While I loved the Sheesh Mahal for its sheer beauty, I loved the Zenana Mahal for its unique layout. However, before we head there, I have to share this picture of a unique Saffron Garden called Kesar Kyari. This is on the same Maota lake around which the town of Amer was built. They used to grow saffron here. The Jas Mandir and the royal washrooms faced this section and that amuses me. 🙂
Anyway, moving on, we came to the ladies section – the Zenana Mahal. The central pavilion or the Bardari Mandir was used by the Royal ladies and the King to just sit around.
Around this pavilion, you will see some rooms – the biggest belonging to the Raja and the smaller ones to the various Queens. Each room had its own sit-out and kitchen areas. It was like the concept of Royal row houses. 🙂 The guide told us that there were 12 such rooms around the Bardari – one for each Queen. Now here comes the interesting part –
- The Raja was so superstitious that he is said to have one Queen from each Zodiac sign. Fact or not, don’t know. But an interesting story nonetheless. 😀
- Each room was connected through a passage with the King’s room. The passage was a private passage that only the King would use. It was done so that when the Raja visited one Queen, the others would not know who he was visiting. Privacy and Jealousy avoided :D.
The last one is a fact as I ventured up one of the Queen’s apartments to see what was in it. Owing to a lot of damage, venturing here is not encouraged but it is not prohibited either. The curious me could not resist and went treasure hunting to follow one particular passage that ended up at the King’s chamber. 😀
So far so good, and one would think that this was a lovely trail alright. However, remember I said it was incomplete. Here is what made it so for me –
- I would have loved to explore the Jaleb Chowk – with the Sila temple and fun stalls.
- I had requested the guide to take us to the Suhag Mandir (above Ganesh Pol) but he said, there isn’t much and at the end of the trail, we could do it, we chose to believe him. We missed it 🙁
- I wonder what I could see from up there :(. A watch tower that I missed. I know you can climb up there as I saw lots of people there.
- The remains of the old fort of Amer – the Kadami Mahal is something that I wanted to see.
- A closer look and a walk through the Kesar Kyari would have been nice. I believe you can do so with a light and sound show in the evening.
- Some more time at the Zenana Mahal 🙁
- In one of the earlier pictures, you might have seen a hanging bridge. I wanted to see and walk on it 😀
- The most important – a walk through the secret tunnel connecting Amer fort to Jaigarh Fort. I only spotted the entrance to the same. I know it is allowed only to some point but well, something at least. The tunnel was used by Royalty to escape in case the fort was under attack. The same tunnel had openings in the Zenana Mahal and Sukh Niwas for easy evacuation.
I think a day might not have been enough for me to explore this palace. The guide had already spend 2+ hours here and obviously for the price we hired him, that is all he could cover. I call it more of a palace, than a fort as I did not really find anything strategic about the place. I have no regrets about what I discovered, it’s just me being greedy about wanting to know more. Wouldn’t you have been as greedy, given the wealth of history and heritage this place offers? Go on, you know what to do – just comment in.
- Getting to Jaipur is easy as I mentioned in my earlier posts.
- Amer Fort is around 12 kms from the city center. There are several tourist buses, Government buses and private taxis that take you here.
- Here is a website dedicated to Amer Fort. This gives you all the details on the opening and closing times as well as entrance tickets. It is also, a fairly good read of what to see here.
- Remember the composite tickets that I mentioned earlier in this post. The same includes Amer fort too.
- Flat shoes and comfortable clothing are advised as there is lots to walk.
- Being a key tourist attraction, there is a lot of crowd here. There is no avoiding it, except that on week days, it might be a little lesser.
- Audio tours are available here. There are plenty of guides too and it is advisable to take either one of these options as there is just too much to see and while you may have done your home-work, spotting these places will not be easy.
- Try to ensure that the guide takes you to all the key points. Else you will be left with that incomplete feeling. 🙂
- If you fancy entering the gates like a Royalty, there is an elephant ride that is available at the main gate. You can get one that takes you up the Amer hill through the Suraj Pol.
- There are a lot of small stalls and musicians within the Fort, especially near the gates. Remember to bargain well with the stalls and check your belongings before leaving the stall. With the musicians, you can choose to tip them as you feel.
- Some of the guides will insist on taking you to certain shops within Amer town. You can well refuse to go, if you are not interested. There is no compulsion.
- Keep aside at least 3 hours to see the fort. Though personally, I found that too, a little less.
- Rest rooms are available within the fort.
- There are a few cafes and restaurants within the fort as well as in Amer Town.