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.
We 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.
We gave up the idea of riding the elephants and walked uphill on the same path as the elephants.
Many tourists preferred to take the exotic elephant ride to reach the fort.
Amber Fort is situated in a valley of Kalikho Hills, 11km northeast of Jaipur.
The progression of elephants making their way up and down the fort has become a common scene at Amber everyday.
We entered through Suraj Pol Gate into Jalebi Chowk, the arrival courtyard of Amber Fort.
We 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.
Built in 1639, the elegant Diwan-i-Aam or Hall of Public Audience is an open pavilion that served as an audience hall.
The Diwan-i-Aam or Hall of Public Audience is a beautiful piece of Rajput architecture.
From the courtyard of Diwan-i-Aam, we entered the inner palace through the beautiful Ganesh Pol Gate.
The three storey Ganesh Pol was built in 1640. It marks the main gateway into the inner palace.
Beyond 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.
The Sukh Niwas or Hall of Pleasure marble rooms of Sukh Mahal were cooled by water channeled in the walls and floor.
Across the courtyard from Sukh Niwas stands the Sheesh Mahal or Mirror Hall.
The 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.
The 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.
From 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.
A cleaning staff at Man Singh I Palace Square.
The Baradari pavilion at the centre of Man Singh I Palace Square.
From Amber Fort, we entered a tunnel and path that was supposed leading to the ramparts of Jaigarh Fort further uphill.
After touring the museum and palaces of Mehrangarh, we followed the local visitors and walked over to the outer fortress. Time was perfect to view the sunset over the blue city of Jodhpur. Over at the far side of the fort we headed towards the 15th century Chamunda Mataji Temple, a small white structure frequented by locals. The fortress rampart led us toward the temple. From the wall, the views down to the famous blue city were breathtaking. Some said the blue paint on the walls was meant to keep the house interior cool and mosquito free. Through an arrowslit, we watched the sun descending slowly over the Thar Desert beyond Jodhpur.
Groups after groups of local visitors headed for the Chamunda Mataji Temple at the southern tip of the fort. The white temple stood peacefully under the sun’s orange glow. With such a beautiful scene, it was hard to imagine that a horrific stampede had happened right at this location back in 2008, with over 200 killed and hundreds injured. We didn’t find out about this tragic incident until we returned home. At that moment on the rampart of Mehrangarh Fort, we were totally absorbed in the splendid beauty of the blue city and the sinking sun.
On our way to the fort rampart, a beautiful tree welcomed all visitors outside of the palace courtyard.
A row of antique iron cannons stood silently on the fort rampart.
At the middle of the south rampart, abandoned houses and the top of the naturally hilltop.
The winding rampart led us all the way to Chamunda Mataji Temple.
Looking down to the city, many areas in Old Jodhpur were dominated by blue houses.
The blue colour of the houses expressed a sense of relaxation and calmness.
Soon we discovered the beautiful clock tower Ghanta Ghar at the market.
Beyond the blue city, the grand Umaid Bhawan Palace stood against the horizon. Today, the building houses the residence of the Maharaja’s family, a museum and a world famous five-star hotel.
Occasional Hindu temples stood out from the sea of blue houses.
The sun slowly descended toward the horizon.
The sunset at Mehrangarh was one of the most beautiful sunset we had witnessed.
The orange lights of the palace raised the beauty of Mehrangarh up to another level.
After sunset, we strolled around the complex a little more, and found our way to the main entrance of the fort.
We didn’t participate in the night tour, but stayed long enough to admire the palaces before darkness fell upon.
We slowly found ourselves out of the fort.
It took us quite a while to return to the main gate of the fort.
Such a romantic scene of Mehrangarh that comes straight out from the tales of the One Thousand and One Nights.