Perhaps not well-known to those who haven't been to India, Jaipur is the third city in the popular Golden Triangle tourist circuit, which includes New Delhi and Agra, the location of the Taj Mahal.
While technically outside of Jaipur, Amber Fort is its most popular sight. The Fort is impressively perched on a mountainside, making it striking to view from the outside while also offering beautiful views of the surrounding countryside - a boon for tourists, but obviously a strategic decision by the maharajas who started construction in the 16th century.
|Amber Fort rising behind us|
Inside, the Fort has multiple courtyards and halls, some plain and timeworn, others with well-preserved carvings and decorations. Our tour guide especially delighted in showing us the women's courtyard, which was designed with secluded walkways and entrances to each bed chamber so the king could visit different wives on different nights without the others knowing!
The Ganesha Gate leads to the king's apartments
Back in Jaipur, I was fascinated by Jantar Mantar, an observatory built in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II, the founder and namesake of Jaipur. The site is a collection of massive, stone sundials, calendars, and other instruments for reading the sun and stars. One of the sundials measures time to an accuracy of mere seconds. Impressive!!
|Jantar Mantar's "small" sundial. Yes, there's a bigger one!|
A final highlight of Jaipur was the Hawa Mahal. The structure dates to the time in India when women could not be seen uncovered by strangers. It is a wall with many small windows, built adjacent to the City Palace along the main street of Jaipur, through which the women of the royal household could view the activities and important events of the city. While the purpose of the Hawa Mahal is unappealing to the modern, Western woman, there's no denying its visual beauty!
|Stunning pink facade of the Hawa Mahal|