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.
The moment we entered the compound, we were immediately overwhelmed by the sight of the huge sundial, Vrihat Samrat Yantra.
Right by the entrance, we started from something much smaller, the Unnatamsa Yantra, an instrument to measure the altitude of celestial bodies.
After several smaller instruments, we arrived at the biggest of them all, the Vrihat Samrat Yantra.
With 27m (88 ft) in height, Vrihat Samrat Yantra literally means the “king of all instruments”.
Its shadow moves visibly 1mm per second. Its face is angled at 27 degrees, the latitude of Jaipur.
Rashi Valaya Yantra is comprised of twelve gnomon dial to measure ecliptic coordinates of stars and planets.
They were also used to measure the coordinates of the 12 constellations.
A small piece of artwork indicates the corresponding constellation.
All instruments were made of stone and marble, with astronomical scale marked on a marble lining.
It must be delightful to witness the gentle movement of shadows across the astronomical scale.
Planet study was also a popular subject at Jantar Mantar.
The last instrument we encountered was Jai Prakash Yantra.
Jai 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.
The nearby Kapali Yantra is also consited of two sunken bowls with a map of the heaven carved on the bowl.
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.
The “Tunnel” exited to an archway passage between Amber and Jaigarh Fort. The passage was concealed below grade probably for defensive purpose.
The archway passage eventually merged with an uphill path leading to Jaigarh Fort.
Not that many tourists were around on the path. The path was quite exposed. We were a little hot despite it was winter.
After ten minutes of ascending, Jaigarh Fort was right ahead of us.
Looking down, we could see the winding path that brought us up to the fort.
After walking through a tunnel, archway passage, and uphill path, we finally reached Jaigarh Fort, the defense citadel for Amber.
Compared with Amber Fort, Jaigarh was relatively bare and empty.
Most of the interior spaces were off limit for visitors. We wandered around the courtyards before reaching the back gardens.
Despite all furniture were gone, we could still imagine what the spaces would be like when filled with generals and military personnel.
At various lookouts, we could truly appreciate the defensive structure and ramparts that extended way beyond the fort.
As an defensive complex, the back garden of Jaigarh Fort was surprisingly elegant.
We walked on the rampart walls around the garden to enjoy the surrounding landscape.
From the wall, we could also see the Amber Fort down below.
We could also see a number of temples in the town of Amber down below.
From distance, the protective ramparts surrounding Amber seemed like a small version of China’s Great Wall.
Delicate latticeworks seemed to exist everywhere no matter where visited in Rajasthan.
At 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.
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.
The 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.
In complement with Mubarak Mahal, the Rajendra Pol Gate connected the Mubarak Mahal Courtyard with the Sarvato Bhadra Courtyard.
Getting closer to Rajendra Pol Gate, we were amazed by the fine details.
The 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.
The Sarvato Bhadra is open at four sides. It was used It was used as a reception hall for private guests and coronation rituals
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.
From 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.
The 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).
One of the gates we liked was the Peacock Gate at the northeast. It represents the season of autumn and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Motifs of peacock can be find even on the upper floor and roof structure.
Though the most magnificent features of the gate are the five peacocks at the lower level.
The vivid colours and three dimensional gestures of the peacocks were truly amazing.
Another gate we liked was the Rose Gate in the southwest. It represents the winter season and is dedicated to Goddess Devi.
The Rose Gate is heavily decorated with motifs of rose flower.
The 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.
After checking out the four Ridhi Sidhi Pol, we returned to the beautiful Rajendra Pol Gate and Mubarak Mahal courtyard to visit the museum.
Looking beyond Rajendra Pol, the beautiful Mubarak Mahal stood silently as if bidding us farewell.
Although not completely open to the public, the City Palace offered us a glimpse of the former grandeur of the royal family of Rajasthan.
Before returning to 1st Gate Home Fusion Hotel, we dropped by Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli, another famous haveli in Jaisalmer. The haveli was built for Diwan Mohata Nathmal, the chief minister of Jaisalmer who served between 1885 – 1891. The haveli was supposedly built by two architects, Hathi and Lulu, who happened to be brothers. Each brother started building the mansion’s from a different facade, and thus the two sides are said to carry subtle differences if looked closely. Unlike Patwon Ki Haveli, Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli is not a museum, nor is it open to the public. Visitors like us can only reach as far as the entrance courtyard that was flanked by a few souvenir shops selling miniature paintings. After a brief stay, we took a leisure stroll back to the hotel. Wandering in the busy market streets of old Jaisalmer and seeing all the vibrant interactions of the locals was a delight. Such delight would left us pleasant memories of the Golden City before we moved on to our next destination by night train.
Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli is considered to be one of the grandest haveli in Jaisalmer.
The two yellow sandstone elephants of Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli are iconic representations of Jaisalmer’s splendid architectural carvings.
Visitors can only go as far as the entrance courtyard of Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli.
After stopping by at Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli, we wandered a bit in old Jaisalmer to find our way back to 1st Gate Home Fusion Hotel.
In the maze like network of small streets, we passed by two stone workers who were preparing stone blocks from a pile of local yellow sandstone.
At a street intersection, a group of men gathered for some sort of discussion at a beautiful veranda.
Shops lined on both sides of small market streets. Cows were free to roam around on the streets (and shops).
It was strange to see cows roaming freely on the streets while some ended up becoming leather goods in shops.
Despite the remote desert location, fresh vegetables were sold in abundance.
It was late in the afternoon and there were only two vendors left at this market square.
Most shops were completely open to the streets, including these tailor shops.
Just like other places in Rajasthan, garments of vivid colours were always the most popular among locals.
For snacks, sweet pastries seemed to be the way to go.
Cakes with sharp colours and sweet flavour: Indian style.
We passed by the popular Bhatia Sweets near the first gate of the fort. Both locals and foreign visitors gathered here for their regional sweets ghotua laddu, kalakand, etc.
We returned to 1st Gate Home Fusion Hotel near the fort, where we had dinner at the rooftop restaurant again. Despite we had already check out of our room, the manager let us stay at the massage room until it was time for us to leave for our midnight train.
DAY 4 (3/5): ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.27
Over to the left below the archway, we paid the admission and stepped into the other haveli that was open to public. Known as Kothari’s Patwa Haveli, this beautiful mansion was restored and converted into a museum by the government. Despite all five havelis look similar, distinctive arches, gateways, mirror works, wall paintings, and architectural carvings differentiate each haveli from one another. To our surprise and slight disappointment, the restored interiors of Kothari’s Patwa Haveli actually looked quite new and polished. Much of the haveli had became a museum with artefact and antique furniture displays.
Kothari’s Patwa Haveli is located at the beginning of the lane where the building bridges across to form an archway.
Admission tickets were sold by a staff sitting across the lane from the entrance of Kothari’s Patwa Haveli.
After a flight of stair, we reached the level right above the lane archway. From there, we came close to see the ornate carvings of the balcony.
From the window above the archway, we gained a unique view of all five mansions of the Patwon Ki Haveli.
No matter how many times we had seen the splendid craftsmanship of sandstone carvings in Rajasthan, we were still overwhelmed by the sandstone carvings of Kothari’s Patwa Haveli.
The multi-level Kothari’s Patwa Haveli centers around a internal courtyard.
Today, the internal courtyard is occupied by a textile and embroidery shop.
The staff carefully laid out the blankets and textiles for their customers.
The museum displays occupy the upper levels of the haveli. We basically circled around the internal courtyard through a series of interconnected rooms.
One of the first room that we encountered was set up as a dining room.
The living room was one of the best restored spaces at Kothari’s Patwa Haveli, with colourful murals and fine pieces of furniture.
Antique furniture, music instruments, and clocks were on displayed in the living room.
Each important room in the haveli has a unique ceiling design.
The colourful and gold murals of Jivan Vilas was one of the highlights of the haveli. Again the restorations looked fresh and vivid that the sense of history was completely gone.
An antique Chaupar/ Chopat game was on display on a vintage rug. This game had been played in India since the 4th century.
From the roof terrace, we had some good views of the surrounding neighborhood.
As well as the lane that lined in front of the mansions of Patwon Ki Haveli.
After touring Patwon Ki Haveli, we exited the lane through the archway and found our way to the Saffron Restaurant for lunch.
DAY 4 (2/5): ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.27
Below the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer, the town flourished in the Medieval times as merchants and desert caravans brought considerable amount of activities and wealth into this remote city at the heart of the Thar Desert. Nowhere else is more convincing than Patwon Ki Haveli to see the legacy of these wealthy merchants. Built in the first half of the 19th century, Patwon Ki Haveli was the oldest and largest haveli (grand mansion) in Jaisalmer. Guman Chand Patwa, a renowned trader of his time, commissioned the construction of five multi-storey townhouses for his five sons. Splendid wall paintings, mirror mosaic, and most ostentatious of all, the amazing sandstone carving on the building facade, have made the haveli an icon for the city comparable to the Golden Fort. One operated by the government and the other privately owned, two out of five havelis are open for the public today. The first haveli we visited was the privately owned mansion located at the right side of the row.
The Patwon Ki Haveli occupies a narrow lane which can be entered at either end. We entered the lane through a beautiful archway.
Upon entering the archway, we were in awe of the intriguing stone carving on the haveli facade over our heads.
Above the archway, the Patwon Ki Haveli extends over to the opposite side of the pedestrian lane.
Along the lane, there were two open spaces across from the Patwon Ki Haveli for us to stand back and admire the beautiful sandstone facade.
Moving closer to the haveli, the balconies and facade details looked stunning.
If we looked closer, we could see the slight differences between each house.
We walked by a house with its doors opened for visitors. It turned out that this was the privately owned haveli opened to the public.
Once stepped into the entrance vestibule, we were immediately overwhelmed by the richly decorated interiors.
At the core, we could look up the lightwell to appreciate the height of the building.
Walking up the haveli, one of the first rooms we encountered was the fascinating private Hindu temple. Though small, the intriguing details of the temple interiors revealed the beautiful craftsmanship of the old Rajasthan.
Across from the small temple facing the street, another small chamber was ornately decorated with paintings and carvings.
Singing from a child musician mingled with laughter from tourists could be heard through the balcony windows.
Another level up were a series of vacant rooms. Small windows for communication and tiny wall niches for candles allowed us to imagine what the space would be like a century ago. Despite there were no furniture and paint restoration, we highly appreciated the vintage and authentic feel of the interiors.
Occasional wall paintings gave a touch of vivid colours to the generally yellowish sandstone building.
At the top level we reached what looked like to be the master bedroom with large windows facing the Jaisalmer Fort on one side.
And balconies looking down to the lightwell on the other side.
A door from the master bedroom led us to a small chamber with an attic and another small room.
We reached the roof terrace near the end of the visit. The view of Jaisalmer Fort was quite amazing.
After a fruitful tour of the old mansion, we walked downstairs and returned to the entrance vestibule, where a beautiful peacock feature guarded the house for decades, welcoming and bidding farewell to visitors.
While surveying the area near Trikuta Hill, outcast prince of the Bhati kingdom Rawal Jaisal met a sage named Eesul, who mentioned a prophesy of Jaisal’s Yaduvanshi clan would one day establish a kingdom here. Inspired by the encounter, Rawal Jaisal established his kingdom and capital city at the Trikuta Hill and called it Jaisalmer based on his own name. Built by Rawal Jaisal in 1156, the 7-storey Fort Palace was the former royal residence of the rulers. We got an official audio guide for our visit. Though there were a number of rooms under renovations when we were there. Perhaps the time was a little late, not too many tourists were around in the palace. Not as monumental as its counterpart in Jodhpur, the Palace was nonetheless a unique element of Jaisalmer Fort that no tourist coming this far into the Thar Desert should miss.
The sati handprints mark the entrance of Jaisalmer Fort Palace. Sati handprints were made by widows of the king who committed self-immolation when their husband passed away in ancient times.
The ornate balcony was the focus of the first courtyard we entered in the palace complex.
From a window on the upper level, we could have a close look at the exquisite detail of the balcony and palace facade.
The Rajasthani heritage of elaborated carvings can be seen all over the palace.
Some of these amazing stone carvings were gifts to the maharaja. This one is placed in the king’s bedroom as an interior decoration.
Stained glass is commonly used in Rajasthani palaces.
From a roof terrace, we enjoyed a “maharaja”‘s view of the fort’s bastions and the yellow sandstone city of Jaisalmer below Trikuta Hill.
The yellow tone of the city presents the perfect scenery of what a picturesque desert oasis.
Not all rooms were completely restored, but even without the original furniture, the wall tiles and wooden carvings were delights for the eye.
Some original furniture were on display behind protective glass.
The king’s bedroom opens to a beautiful courtyard where musicians and dancers would provide pleasant entertainment.
The king’s entertainment courtyard was intimate in scale and finished in beautiful floor and wall tiles.
Some palace balconies offer magnificent views of the city below.
Towards the end of our tour, we passed by a physical model of Jaisalmer Fort, offering us a good opportunity to have a better understanding of the fort layout and places that we had visited throughout the day.
It was late in the afternoon and there were hardly any tourists left in the fort.
Without audio guide and map handout, touring the Jaisalmer Fort Palace would be like walking in a maze.
Near the end of the walk, we passed by quite a few empty chambers.
The detailed ornaments of the palace offered us a glimpse of the beautiful sandstone carving of Jaisalmer. In the following day, we would continue to explore the ancient city for other amazing works of local stone craftsmen.