photo essay: amer, the unesco-listed fort and beyond

“This heaven like place was completed in the Hijri year 1008 [1599 AD], being built in a period of 25 years, having been most meticulously designed and expertly decorated. Just as the heavens should always be laden with rain, so also this stately building, the foundation of the Maharaj’s longevity and wealth, be preserved from any kind of damage.”
~ Excerpt from the English translation of a Persian plaque inside the Zenana, Amer Fort.

Part of the six ‘Hill Forts of Rajasthan’ UNESCO World Heritage Site, Amer Fort rises high above the placid waters of Maota Lake. Its magnificent Rajput-Mughal edifices reminiscent of the power of the Kachhwaha Rajputs and their strategic ties with the Mughal empire. For 128 years, Mirza Raja Man Singh I’s labour of love served as the administrative base and royal residence of the Amber kingdom. That is, until 1727 when Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II decided to move the capital to Jaipur some 15 kilometres away.

Most travellers simply visit the fort, gush in wonder, and leave. But there is more to Amer than just this glorious marvel. Much more, beyond the fort. Continue reading

royal splendour in jaipur’s city palace

“When you have good luck [pointing towards the elephant in a painting], you find love. When you get love, you feel powerful. When powerful, you are happy. When happy, you are brave. And when brave, you are kind.”

With a broad smile and tiny squirrel hair brush held gently in his fingers he pointed towards one of his favourite works even as, with a mere few strokes, he put together a miniature styled portrait for me, replete with a nose ring and odhni.

Hemant is one of the four award-winning Ramdev brothers patronised by Jaipur’s royal family, their studio perched on the fourth floor of Chandra Mahal which houses the royal residential apartments. His ancestors, Jaipur City Palace’s court painters, had spent their lives decorating the walls and ceilings of this royal abode and crafting flawless miniature landscapes and portraits since the city’s inception in 1727.

If you’ve been to Jaipur, the City Palace would, without a doubt, have been on your to-do, not-to-miss list. Did you notice the cream coloured, 7-storeyed building topped with a one-and-a-quarter flag which seemed to always loom in the background? Not many take the trouble of exploring this edifice. Yet it contains the palace’s most exquisite, most resplendent rooms. Continue reading