Standing at the edge of the City Palace of Jaipur, the Hawa Mahal was part of the women’s chambers of the former royal palace. Built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, the sandstone facade with a honeycomb of latticed bay windows is the most recognizable building in Jaipur. The splendid facade is actually the back side of the palace building, where royal ladies were able to watch the activities and occasional festival events on the street through one of the 953 small windows. Today, the five-storey palace building is open to visitors. With narrow stairways and passageways and shallow rooms, the top three floors can get a little crowded during the tourist high season.
All tourists in Jaipur would take pictures of the famous facade from the main street, while not every one would actually visit the building interior. We were curious to experience how it might feel to peek back at the main street through one the small windows, and thus decided to pay a brief visit of the palace. Finding the entrance of Hawa Mahal required a bit of research. Entered through a retail side street, we arrived at a back lane where the real entrance and ticket office of Hawa Mahal were located.
The splendid facade of Hawa Mahal is the most recognizable building in Jaipur.
To enter the building, visitors must find their way into the back alleyway where the main entrance is located.
Through a series of doors and gateways, we arrived at the primary courtyard of Hawa Mahal.
A feature water fountain dominated the primary courtyard of Hawa Mahal.
We had little interest on the water feature. Instead, our primary aim was to check out the small windows and the views from the top two levels of the palace.
We walked up a level at a time. Colourful stained glass windows were everywhere, providing a pleasant visual effects for the interiors.
While many small windows were locked up, some were opened for visitors to check out the street views.
It wasn’t difficult for visitors to imagine the elusive lives of the royal ladies behind the small windows.
The ramp tower led us to the top floor. From the top floor, we could enjoy the view back into the royal palace.
The pink facade of Hawa Mahal matches perfectly with shops across the street.
There was another courtyard complex connected to the Hawa Mahal on the ground level.
Looking straight down the iconic facade was a little frightening.
Across the street, restaurant patios lined up on the roof and top terraces for anyone who might have the time and mood to sit down with a drink, and take in views of the romantic sunset and iconic facade.
Stairs and hallways on the top floors were really narrow.
By the time we reached the top level it was almost sunset time.
Before leaving Hawa Mahal, we found our way to check out a corner pavilion at the terrace level.
We stopped by a rooftop cafe across the street to enjoy the sunset scenery of the iconic Hawa Mahal.
Before the sun disappeared below the horizon, flood lights at the base of Hawa Mahal were turned on for the night view. We bid farewell to Hawa Mahal and returned to the Peacock Restaurant for our final dinner in Jaipur.
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.
At 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.
Then through Naqqar Darwaza Gate we finally stepped out of the former royal compound and arrived at the market streets of old Jaipur.
Known as the pink city, many buildings in old Jaipur have been painted in the iconic pink colour.
The 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.
Before sunset, we finally found Tikam Chand and his 150-year Carl Zeiss camera.
While chatting with Tikam Chand, we sat down on a bench and get ourselves ready for the one-of-a-kind vintage photo shoot.
Many 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.
Looking into the back viewfinder we could see an upside down image.
Tikam 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.
Newspaper cutouts and vintage photographs served as the best advertisement for the brothers.
By 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.
The picture perfect Hawa Mahal is perhaps the most published image of Jaipur.
At Hawa Mahal, we flagged down an auto-rickshaw for Peacock rooftop restaurant, a popular dining venue that we discovered from online research.
The Peacock rooftop restaurant was neatly decorated based on the peacock theme.
The food was decent and the cozy atmosphere was enhanced by the lovely live music.
Established in a former mansion, Arya Niwas was the mid range hotel where we stayed for the night.
The old wing of Arya Niwas had its old school charm.