ultramarinus – beyond the sea

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DAY 7 (3/4): MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.30

In 2010, Jaipur’s astronomical experiment ground, Jantar Mantar, with what many referred as the “world’s largest sundial” was inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage.   The world’s largest sundial Vrihat Samrat Yantra was said to provide time with an accuracy of 2 seconds.  Built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1734 as one of the five Jantar Mantars (Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi, Ujjain, Mathura) in India, Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar was used to observe the movement of the sun, moon and planets, and compile astronomical tables.

We are no astronomical experts, but were curious to check out the 18th century observatory.  Even without any astronomical knowledge, the splendid instruments can be appreciated purely for their physical beauty and historic values.  From Amber Fort, it took us a while to bargain with different tuk tuk driver to take us back with the same price that we paid in the morning.  In Jaipur, we get off at the entrance of Jantar Mantar, directly across the street from the City Palace.

IMG_0825The moment we entered the compound, we were immediately overwhelmed by the sight of the huge sundial, Vrihat Samrat Yantra.

DSC_2065Right by the entrance, we started from something much smaller, the Unnatamsa Yantra, an instrument to measure the altitude of celestial bodies.

DSC_2071After several smaller instruments, we arrived at the biggest of them all, the Vrihat Samrat Yantra.

DSC_2083With 27m (88 ft) in height, Vrihat Samrat Yantra literally means the “king of all instruments”.

DSC_2094Its shadow moves visibly 1mm per second.  Its face is angled at 27 degrees, the latitude of Jaipur.

DSC_2099Rashi Valaya Yantra is comprised of twelve gnomon dial to measure ecliptic coordinates of stars and planets.

DSC_2101They were also used to measure the coordinates of the 12 constellations.

IMG_0857A small piece of artwork indicates the corresponding constellation.

DSC_2067All instruments were made of stone and marble, with astronomical scale marked on a marble lining.

DSC_2117It must be delightful to witness the gentle movement of shadows across the astronomical scale.

IMG_0858Planet study was also a popular subject at Jantar Mantar.

IMG_0862The last instrument we encountered was Jai Prakash Yantra.

DSC_2105Jai Prakash Yantra is consisted of two bowl shaped marble slabs with inverted map of the sky.  it allows astronomers to move inside the slab to measure altitudes, azimuths, hour angles of celestial bodies.

IMG_0871The nearby Kapali Yantra is also consited of two sunken bowls with a map of the heaven carved on the bowl.

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DAY 7 (2/4): JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.30

At the exit of Amber Fort, we asked a local visitor for directions to the Jaigarh Fort, the mighty fortress overlooking the Amber Fort atop the Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles) of the Aravalli Range.  Built by Jai Singh II in 1726, the main function of Jaigarh Fort was to protect the Amber Fort.  Many visitors make the effort up to Jaigarh to check out Jaivana, the super large cannon cast in 1720 by Sawai Raja Jai Singh II of Jaipur.  We opted for its supreme views of Amber Fort and Maota Lake.  The local visitor advised us to return into Amber Fort and search for the “Tunnel”, a sub-terrain passage below Amber Fort connecting to the trail of Jaigarh Fort.  We reentered Amber Fort and descended into the “Tunnel”.  The “Tunnel” was dark but full of curious tourists.  There were no signage to confirm the destination but we were told that it would eventually lead us to Jaigarh Fort.  After several minutes in the dark, the “Tunnel” opened to an outdoor archway passage going uphill.

DSC_1985The “Tunnel” exited to an archway passage between Amber and Jaigarh Fort.  The passage was concealed below grade probably for defensive purpose.

DSC_1988The archway passage eventually merged with an uphill path leading to Jaigarh Fort.

DSC_1989Not that many tourists were around on the path.  The path was quite exposed.  We were a little hot despite it was winter.

DSC_1993After ten minutes of ascending, Jaigarh Fort was right ahead of us.

IMG_2924Looking down, we could see the winding path that brought us up to the fort.

DSC_1996After walking through a tunnel, archway passage, and uphill path, we finally reached Jaigarh Fort, the defense citadel for Amber.

IMG_2932Compared with Amber Fort, Jaigarh was relatively bare and empty.

DSC_2005Most of the interior spaces were off limit for visitors.  We wandered around the courtyards before reaching the back gardens.

DSC_2008Despite all furniture were gone, we could still imagine what the spaces would be like when filled with generals and military personnel.

IMG_0762At various lookouts, we could truly appreciate the defensive structure and ramparts that extended way beyond the fort.

DSC_2017As an defensive complex, the back garden of Jaigarh Fort was surprisingly elegant.

DSC_2029We walked on the rampart walls around the garden to enjoy the surrounding landscape.

IMG_2952From the wall, we could also see the Amber Fort down below.

DSC_2023We could also see a number of temples in the town of Amber down below.

DSC_2025From distance, the protective ramparts surrounding Amber seemed like a small version of China’s Great Wall.

IMG_0786Delicate latticeworks seemed to exist everywhere no matter where visited in Rajasthan.

DSC_2053At the other end of Jaigarh Fort, we finally found Jaivana, the large 18th-century cannon cast by Sawai Raja Jai Singh II of Jaipur.  After a test-fire in 1720, the cannon had never fired twice.

 

DAY 7 (1/4): AMBER FORT, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.30

Getting up early was the key to beat the crowds.  Our goal was to reach Amber Fort (or Amer Fort) before 8:30am.  From our hotel in Jaipur, we had no problem flagging down an auto-rickshaw to cover the 10+ km to the valley of Kalikho Hills.  The trip took roughly half an hour.  At 8:15am, the majestic Amber Fort bathed in the morning glow came in sight while our auto-rickshaw approached Maota Lake.  After getting off, we had the option of walking uphill to the fort or riding one of the 103 elephants to approach the hill fort in the maharaja’s way.  Dozens of Indian elephants carrying foreign tourists on crimson howdahs zigzagged their way up to the arrival courtyard is a common sight at Amber Fort every morning.   Yet, recently complaints filed in court had exposed the ill treatment of the elephants.  We decided not to support the elephant owner.  Walking uphill to the main gate Suraj Pol was a causal 15-minute walk.  At the arrival courtyard Jalebi Chowk, we were soon overwhelmed by the enormous scale and exquisite details of the architecture.  First built in 1592 by Man Singh I on earlier fort structures, the citadel was further expanded by Jai Singh I in the 17th century.  The fort and its palace complex remained as the political centre of the region until 1727, when the capital was moved to Jaipur.

DSC_1810We get off the auto rickshaw right by Maota Lake, the main source of water for the Amber Fort.  The fort and its reflection glowed under the morning sunlight.

DSC_1820We gave up the idea of riding the elephants and walked uphill on the same path as the elephants.

DSC_1827Many tourists preferred to take the exotic elephant ride to reach the fort.

DSC_1865Amber Fort is situated in a valley of Kalikho Hills, 11km northeast of Jaipur.

DSC_1896The progression of elephants making their way up and down the fort has become a common scene at Amber everyday.

DSC_1846We entered through Suraj Pol Gate into Jalebi Chowk, the arrival courtyard of Amber Fort.

IMG_2817We got our admission tickets at Jalebi Chowk and headed up a grand stair to the Singh Pol (Lion Gate).  Through the gate we entered into the first palace courtyard that was dominated by Diwan-i-aam or Hall of Public Audience.

IMG_0671Built in 1639, the elegant Diwan-i-Aam or Hall of Public Audience is an open pavilion that served as an audience hall.

IMG_2845The Diwan-i-Aam or Hall of Public Audience is a beautiful piece of Rajput architecture.

DSC_1872From the courtyard of Diwan-i-Aam, we entered the inner palace through the beautiful Ganesh Pol Gate.

DSC_1903The three storey Ganesh Pol was built in 1640.  It marks the main gateway into the inner palace.

IMG_0692Beyond Ganesh Pol lies the Aram Bagh or Pleasure Garden.  The garden is flanked one end by the  Sukh Niwas or Hall of Pleasure and the other by Sheesh Mahal or the Mirror Hall at lower level and Jas Mandir or Hall of Private Audience at upper.

IMG_2856The Sukh Niwas or Hall of Pleasure marble rooms of Sukh Mahal were cooled by water channeled in the walls and floor.

IMG_2921Across the courtyard from Sukh Niwas stands the Sheesh Mahal or Mirror Hall.

IMG_0709The Sheesh Mahal or Mirror Hall was the private chambers of the maharaja and his queen.  Small pieces of mirrors and glasses filled the ceiling and walls.  The space was particularly atmospheric at night under candle light.

DSC_1922The last courtyard we came to was Man Singh I Palace Square, where the Zenana once lived.  This is the oldest part of the palace.  The Baradari pavilion in the middle was the meeting place of the royal ladies.

IMG_2900From the Suhag Mandir at the upper level of Ganesh Pol, royal ladies could look out into the Diwan-i-Aam or Hall of Public Audience.

IMG_0706A cleaning staff at Man Singh I Palace Square.

DSC_1935The Baradari pavilion at the centre of Man Singh I Palace Square.

IMG_0640From Amber Fort, we entered a tunnel and path that was supposed leading to the ramparts of Jaigarh Fort further uphill.

 

DAY 6 (3/3): IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.29

Near the iconic Hawa Mahal and City Palace, the brothers Tikam Chand and Surendar have been using their antique box camera to take instant photographs for anyone who is willing to wait several minutes and pay a price for an one-of-a-kind vintage experience.  Known as Pahari Master, the grandfather of the brothers was the former maharaja’s photographer.  Given as a gift from the maharaja, the 1860 German made Carl Zeiss Jena camera was Pahari Master’s apparatus to make a living.  Gone were the days when Jaipur was ruled under the maharaja.  The 1860 Carl Zeiss camera had since then become a family heirloom from Pahari Master to his son, and then to the brothers Tikam Chand and Surendar.  In the last three decades, the brothers had been taking instant photographs for people in the historical heart of Jaipur.  Bloggers and media outlets such as CNN and LA Times have written about the brothers and their grandfather’s antique camera.  In recent years, their photo stall has become a small tourist attraction in its own right.  For us, checking out the 150-year camera and having a photo of ourselves taken by the vintage machine was a top priority in Jaipur.  Fortunately we made it just on time to be Tikam Chand’s last customer of the day, before it get too dim for photography.

IMG_0494At 5pm, we left the City Palace and began our quest of the 1860 vintage Carl Zeiss camera.  We found our way through the Jaleb Chowk Square and Naqqar Khana ka Darwaza (Drum Gate).  In the old days, court musicians would station at the upper level of the gate to announce the arrival and departure of the maharaja.

IMG_0495Then through Naqqar Darwaza Gate we finally stepped out of the former royal compound and arrived at the market streets of old Jaipur.

DSC_2125Known as the pink city, many buildings in old Jaipur have been painted in the iconic pink colour.

DSC_2126The market streets of old Jaipur are full of merchandises of all sorts.  As the capital of Rajasthan, many people in the desert state come to Jaipur for shopping.

DSC_1779Before sunset, we finally found Tikam Chand and his 150-year Carl Zeiss camera.

IMG_0525While chatting with Tikam Chand, we sat down on a bench and get ourselves ready for the one-of-a-kind vintage photo shoot.

IMG_0520Many think a vintage 1860 Carl Zeiss Jena would be locked up in a glass display box in a museum.  It was hard to believe that this valuable artefact could actually work properly after 150 years.

IMG_0529Looking into the back viewfinder we could see an upside down image.

DSC_1773Tikam Chand first took a negative portrait of us, and developed the photo in a small box at the back of the camera.  Then he took another shot of the negative to get a positive image as the final product.

IMG_0538Newspaper cutouts and vintage photographs served as the best advertisement for the brothers.

DSC_1794By the time we bid farewell with Tikam Chand and the 1860 Carl Zeiss camera, darkness had already fallen upon.  Just a stone throw away, we stumbled upon the magnificent Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Wind.

DSC_1787The picture perfect Hawa Mahal is perhaps the most published image of Jaipur.

IMG_0563At Hawa Mahal, we flagged down an auto-rickshaw for Peacock rooftop restaurant, a popular dining venue that we discovered from online research.

IMG_0572The Peacock rooftop restaurant was neatly decorated based on the peacock theme.

IMG_1053The food was decent and the cozy atmosphere was enhanced by the lovely live music.

IMG_1060Established in a former mansion, Arya Niwas was the mid range hotel where we stayed for the night.

IMG_0588The old wing of Arya Niwas had its old school charm.

 

DAY 6 (2/3): GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.29

Leaving peaceful Pushkar behind, we took an express train to the capital city of Rajasthan, Jaipur, where we would stay for two nights before moving on to Agra.  Known as the Pink City due to its historical pink buildings, Jaipur is included in the travel itinerary of most foreign visitors as part of the Golden Triangle (the other two cities being Agra and Delhi).  After checking in at our hotel, the first place we visited in the bustling city was the City Palace, the royal residence of the maharaja.  The palace was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1727 as he moved his capital to Jaipur from Amber.  The complex contains beautiful buildings, courtyards, and museums.  We spent half the afternoon in the complex until the palace closed for the day.

DSC_1712The Mubarak Mahal courtyard and the Mubarak Mahal were some of the first highlights of our tour.  Completed in 1900, the Mubarak Mahal was built to receive foreign guests.  It is now converted into a museum.

IMG_0433In complement with Mubarak Mahal, the Rajendra Pol Gate connected the Mubarak Mahal Courtyard with the Sarvato Bhadra Courtyard.

DSC_1720Getting closer to Rajendra Pol Gate, we were amazed by the fine details.

IMG_0442The Sarvato Bhadra Courtyard is dominated by the Sarvato Bhadra Pavilion in the middle, and the Clock Tower at the south side.  The clock was a manifestation of European influence in the court during the Victorian era.  It was made by Black and Murray & Co. of Calcutta.

IMG_2616The Sarvato Bhadra is open at four sides.  It was used It was used as a reception hall for private guests and coronation rituals

IMG_0454 With 1.6m tin height and a capacity of 4000 litres and weight of 340kg, the two sterling silver vessels, Gangajali (Ganges-water urns), were the world largest.  They were made to take the water of Ganges for an England trip of Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II.

DSC_1724From Sarvato Bhadra Courtyard, we could enter Pritam Niwas Chowk, the final courtyard where visitors were granted access.  The yellow Chandra Mahal, the residence of the maharaja, is the centre piece of Pritam Niwas Chowk.

DSC_1741The 7 floors of Chandra Mahal is off limit for visitors.  In Pritam Niwas Chowk, we could only admire the exterior facade of the palace, as well as the beautiful four small gates (known as Ridhi Sidhi Pol).

DSC_1733One of the gates we liked was the Peacock Gate at the northeast.  It represents the season of autumn and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

DSC_1755Motifs of peacock can be find even on the upper floor and roof structure.

DSC_1735Though the most magnificent features of the gate are the five peacocks at the lower level.

DSC_1748The vivid colours and three dimensional gestures of the peacocks were truly amazing.

DSC_1744Another gate we liked was the Rose Gate in the southwest.  It represents the winter season and is dedicated to Goddess Devi.

DSC_1747The Rose Gate is heavily decorated with motifs of rose flower.

DSC_1753The Green Gate at northwest represents the spring season and is dedicated to Lord Ganesha.   The Lotus Gate at southeast, on the other hand, represents the summer season and is dedicated to Lord Shiva-Parvati.

DSC_1764After checking out the four Ridhi Sidhi Pol, we returned to the beautiful Rajendra Pol Gate and Mubarak Mahal courtyard  to visit the museum.

IMG_0480Looking beyond Rajendra Pol, the beautiful Mubarak Mahal stood silently as if bidding us farewell.

IMG_2627Although not completely open to the public, the City Palace offered us a glimpse of the former grandeur of the royal family of Rajasthan.

 

 

DAY 6 (1/3): SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.29

At 6:30 in the morning, we returned to the ghats of Pushkar Lake.  The eastern horizon was about to turn yellow.  We came to have a final stroll along the sacred water.  We regret that we couldn’t spend more time in Pushkar, a place that is meant for slow indulgence for its spiritual qualities.  We, however, were making a brief loop of Rajasthan in a rather limited time.  Situated between Jaisalmer and Jaipur, Pushkar was a convenient stop in our itinerary.  We didn’t come in time to attend the famous camel fair, nor did we hike up the nearby hills or visit the Brahma Temple (no cameras, shoes, leather).  Just spending several hours strolling on the ghats turned out to be more than worthwhile for us.  Among cities and sites that we visited in Rajasthan, Pushkar stood out as a charming and peaceful destination that truly touched our hearts.

IMG_0282At 6:30, some locals were already lingering at the ghats.

DSC_1653It was interesting to see how a local interacted with a cow.

IMG_0309The forever presence of pigeons at Pushkar Lake.

IMG_0333The sun rose beyond the hills while a dog rested on a ghat with marked 2018.

DSC_1667The adjacent temples had yet come to life.  Scattered temple staff and pilgrims arrived at the ghats.

DSC_1675Once again the ghats were covered with a coat of orange glow.

DSC_1688The setting looked magnificent with the morning reflections.

DSC_1696Following the sunlight, we walked over to the west side of the lake.

IMG_0360Every moment could be captured as a peaceful painting of the old India.

DSC_1709Some worshipers were listening to the priest’s teaching at one of the ghats.

IMG_0372At the northwest corner of Pushkar Lake we bid farewell to the sacred water.

IMG_0382We stopped by a tiny cafe called Honey Dew for morning coffee.

IMG_0385Brahma Temple in Pushkar is one of the very few Hindu temple in the world dedicated to Brahma, the creator god in Hinduism.

IMG_2588Robin Jewels is a nice jewellery shop we found online.  Before leaving Pushkar, we dropped by the shop and picked up a few pieces.  Robin is specialized in silver, brass, gold and gemstones, with their own manufacturing workshop in town.

IMG_0388We took us a while to narrow down to a few pieces to bring home.

IMG_0396After Robin, we followed the main market street along the north side of Pushkar Lake back to Inn Seventh Heaven.

IMG_0402For a little less than 24 hours, we had a taste of the spiritual side of India in the sacred town of Pushkar.

IMG_2591We checked out the lovely Inn Seventh Heaven and get on a hired car to Ajmer Junction Railway Station.

IMG_0423In an hour or so we would arrived at the bustling city of Jaipur, the capital and largest city of Rajasthan.

 

 

DAY 5 (3/3): SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.28

We returned to Pushkar Lake just before sunset, hoping to witness any form of religious ceremonies that might be performed.  If we arrived two weeks earlier during the Pushkar Camel Fair, we would probably see large scale aarti and deepdan ceremonies by the ghats.  At the ghats, the air was peaceful and a little cooler than earlier.  We sat down on the steps to enjoy the sunset over the sacred lake.

DSC_1596Sunset was a great time to absorb the peaceful atmosphere of the ghats in Pushkar.

DSC_1597Maybe the presence of fish signify the improvement of water quality?

DSC_1599Deity worshiping might happen anywhere around the lake shore.

IMG_0156Buildings were covered in an orange glow as the sun set.

IMG_2426Nag Pahar (Snake Mountain) and Ratnagiri Hill were highly visible from Pushkar Lake.

IMG_2429Watching the sunset over Pushkar Lake was one of the loveliest moment in our journey.

DSC_1610Given the beauty of the sunset, the number of tourists lingering at the ghats were surprisingly few.

DSC_1615In just a blink of eye the sun sank beyond the buildings on the horizon.

IMG_0194Even the cow enjoyed the beauty of the sunset.

IMG_0214_01A small group of pilgrims and temple staff performed evening prayers at Varaha Ghat.

IMG_0222Candles were lit and flower petals were scattered into the water during the ceremony.

IMG_0220Although short, the prayer ceremony generated a spiritual ambience no words could fully describe.

IMG_0235The last pilgrim prayed to the twilight as all other worshipers returned into the temple.

DSC_1628Pilgrims and temple priests finishing their last bit of prayers at the ghat.

DSC_1629As light faded, we decided to call it a day.

DSC_1639We left Pushkar Lake from the entrance of mVaraha Ghat.

IMG_0245The market streets behind the ghats were much more lively than the waterfront.

IMG_0248On our way back to Inn Seventh Heaven, we passed by the old Rangji Temple.

DSC_1640At the hotel, we once again headed up to Sixth Sense, the hotel’s rooftop restaurant for a vegetarian meal.

IMG_0264To finish the night, we ordered a Rajasthan vegetarian thali.