Upon searching for Jaipur on the net, in more than 90% cases, the bright pink structure that will stare back at you will be Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds. It was built in 1799 under the patronage of Maharaja Pratap Singh at the heart of the Pink City in the corner of a four road junction. Ideally, stand on the opposite footpath and have an eyeful of this elegant five storey structure which is more of a facade with its many latticed windows (953) that allowed the queens and royal ladies to view the processions and street life while remaining in purdah. It was designed like the crown of Krishna (Hindu God) by Ustad Lal Singh, and the windows were devised such that they naturally cooled down the interiors. After a fair bit of admiration from outside and ignoring warnings from several people that there was hardly anything worthwhile inside, I did want to spend the warm summer afternoon in Hawa Mahal to experience the cooling effect.
The entrance is on the side that leads into the inner courtyard with a small tank in the middle. There are buildings on three sides, and the Hawa Mahal is on the Eastern Side. The five storeys in Hawa Mahal including the terraces and various rooms are pretty distinct from this point. It is a mixture of Rajput and Islamic styles where the floral patterns and domed canopies are enhanced by the stone filigree work. I craned my neck to look up at the various windows wondering if an admirer of a royal princess ever got to steal a forbidden glance or vice-versa and pop appeared a lens, trying to capture my emotion. I sauntered across the courtyard and then climbed the narrow stairs exploring each floor
- Ist Storey – Sharad Mandir where autumn was welcomed with celebrations of Gangaur, traditional music, dance and worship
- 2nd Storey – Ratan Mandir named from the dazzling glasswork on its walls. I did pose next to it for memory
- 3rd Storey – Vichitra Mandir where the Maharajah worshiped Lord Krishna
- 4th Storey – Prakash Mandir leading to the large terraces on either side. The various instruments in Jantar Mantar can be seen from here
- 5th Storey – Hawa Mandir – a narrow area like a modern day balcony with windows overlooking the road and on a busy day you might have to just jostle for space
When I reached up there, the palace lived up to its name and I was glad that I visited. The cool breeze on my face and the sunshine on my shoulder made me happy without a reason as I watched the young and not so old making the most of not to be missed romantic photo opportunities with the wind for testimony. The windows freshly painted green had definitely seen better days yet provided a good glimpse of the outer and inner world.
In spite of all the modern day stress, pressure, pollution, depleting greens, etc. I am glad to be a woman in the 21st century, free and independent and not confined within walls with only a window to the world !! I walked down wondering if I had experienced this living before and if it was my soul’s journey to bring me here and fill me with gratitude for this carefree life.
Travel Tip: Must include in the Jaipur Sightseeing itinerary. Located close to City Palace and Jantar Mantar. Opens at 10am and closes by 6pm. Buy a combi ticket for entry or a separate one for Hawa Mahal (Rs 20/-). Visit at sunrise for photography to capture that shimmering sunrise across the building.
This trip was originally published on Life is a Vacation.