Amer Fort and Jal Mahal
Day 1 was long. But Day 2 was supposed to be longer… We started off by driving from Jaipur to Amer, which is about half an hour’s drive from Jaipur. The city of Amer and the Amer Fort was the seat of the rulers of Jaipur kingdom till the capital was shifted to Jaipur. Earlier, Amer city was only overlooked a smaller fort (where a stronger Jaigarh Fort stands now) till the strong Amer Fort was built by Raja Man Singh (one of the Navaratnas or Nine Gems of Emperor Akbar) in 1592. Presently, Amer Fort is looked over by the Jaigarh Fort. Amer Fort, much like Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur, housed the royal family along with large number of soldiers for protection and defense of Amer. To get to the fort, we drove up the stony path. However, there is the possibility of riding up the steep path on elephant back, in the same royal style as the kings of yesteryear.
Among the number of interesting points within the fort, the first one is the Temple of Sila Devi. Legends say that the black stone that represents the goddess and is worshiped in the temple was brought back by Man Singh when he defeated the King of Jessore in Bengal (now in Bangladesh). Following this, one comes to the courtyard with the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors). The Mahal, in laid with white marble, is intricately decorated by pieces of glass and presents a grand look. From the same courtyard, one can see the Maota Lake and the Amer town in front of the Fort.
Moving on, we came up to a courtyard, passing through a richly decorated and hand-painted Ganesh Pol (or Gate), containing the private living area of the king. The courtyard contained lavish bed rooms and other chambers for the royal couple with a well-maintained garden in the center. The rooms had fascinating facilities – using reflecting mirrors and old air-cooler like concepts, respectively – to warm and cool them during winter and summer months respectively. Also, one can understand the importance of rainfall harvesting given here by the kings from the architecture (given that these are some of the most arid regions of the country). Two further courtyards contained the Zenana Deori (Queen’s provate chambers) and the palace of Man Singh. However, due to ongoing restoration project, we could not enter these parts. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning the amazing view of the surrounding environment that the Fort courtyards provided. One can see the far-stretching defensive walls around the city – that gave the impression of the Great Wall of China.