[My husband and I are what you call a “monumental-ly” crazy couple – rain, hail, sun or very hot sun, not much can deter us from visiting places of historical note when we have the time. Thus, soon as our son learnt to recognize us as his crazy parents, we wanted to introduce him to our shared historical hobby – to be one with history, capture it and immediately plan for the next weekend. “Historia” will be a series of informal articles on various forts, palaces and monuments we have visited over our years together. Our idea is to simply share our experience and knowledge of the place, pin-up some frames and sign-off with a few traveller tips. Bite-sized History, for quick and easy consumption!]
Our first view of Amer was at the end of a long drive from New Delhi to Jaipur – thanks to a more-populated road we mistakenly took to enter the city. So our first glance of this marvellous fort was through windows of a car desperately trying to elbow its way to a hotel no one knew in this part of town. But whatever we saw of it was enough to make us come back to it right after a few hours of dumping our bags, force feeding the baby and putting on enough antiperspirant to last us the rest of the hot day. We barely made it! The ticket counter was clocking the last minute as our car zoomed up the steep hill and into the parking, when a charitable soul (read unauthorized guide) came to our rescue, rushed and bought the tickets, helped us tumble out of the car and into the fort and “guided” us with this-n-that, historically too, that is.
And we caught our breath only to lose it a minute later when we saw this majestic figure lazing around on the hill top. The Sun had just about set and camera ISO gradually increased, as we just stood there, taking in this symbol of Rajputana and Hindu friendship and enmity, and thanking our stars that our son was not old enough yet to ask us – How did they manage to roll those boulders up the hill once upon a time?
Built by Raja Man Singh I, the fort is divided into four main sections each with its own entry gate and courtyard and blends both Hindu and Rajput elements in its architecture. As you enter through the main gate, the first thing you notice is the vastness of the courtyard. The steep climb up to the fort does not prepare you for four full flat-lands (and a Mughal-style garden) for - Diwan-e-Aam or the "Hall of Public Audience", the Diwan-e-Khas or the "Hall of Private Audience", the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace) and the Sukh Niwas. And our charitable-friend-the-guide said with a hint of pink on his cheeks that Sukh is pleasure, qualifying it quickly that it meant a place where when the winds blew over the water cascade it was as cool as pleasure can be made of in 50 degrees of heat. Hence, the Amer Fort is also popularly known as the Amer Palace.
|The Jai Mandir is exquisitely beautified with glass inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings. The mirrors are convex and designed with coloured foil and paint which would glitter bright under candle nights at the time it was in use.
|One of the very ornate gates
While we were busy admiring the aesthetic ambience of what seemed so formidable on the outside, suddenly, somewhere in the middle of all this history, the Present made its presence felt. The moon rose – a faintly silver orb adorning a view we thought could not have been any more breathtaking. But we were wrong, by a huge margin!
|The city below, and the moon beyond
|She walks in beauty
We were back, the next day itself, for the 7:00 pm sound and light show at Amer. Trudging uphill on uneven ground with a 12 kg baby in the arms is a feat only my husband could manage, and that’s what I kept telling him every time he huffed and puffed, just to ensure we reached our seats in time. And we did, and the trek was well worth it. The narrator’s voice (Amitabh Bachchan, I think) and the narration, the moon watching over and Amer shining in all its historical glory transposed us back, and so aesthetically, to where this magnificent palace came from.
|Reflected - in the Maota Lake on the front of the fort
|Amer, in all its glory
Calling it a day was the last thing we wanted to do, especially with our boy who seemed to take the experience in with eyes and ears perpetually hungry for more. But after the famous lassi and onion kachoris of Jaipur entered our stomachs, bed beckoned with all its comforts. And only one thought remained - forget sun and sands and see the desert state by the moonlight. You will see so much more than the day has to show!
Our top tips:
1. The fort and palace complex is well worth the steep climb up hill, but if you have babies to carry and elderly people in your group, take a car ride to the parking next to the fort. Even though a short climb is still involved, it will save you a lot of time, sweat and energy for site-seeing.
2. The place gets very crowded (and hot) as the day progresses. Best time to visit is 7:30 am to 12 noon. Our guide told us about elephant rides that carry tourists up to the fort. But of what we gathered from locals around, one look at the poor creatures and how they are treated will make you change your mind, as will the hefty price they charge.
3. The complex is huge, and has lots of details which you may not want to miss. Hire a guide, or grab one like we did, and chances are he'll double up as your location director and photographer too.
4. The monument seemed well-maintained and clean, despite its large size. However, portions of it seemed neglected. Toilet facilities are missing.
5. The light and sound show is spectacular but if you are not a history buff, avoid. And if you are game for a play of aesthetics and history, do go, but carry a light woollen with you. It gets quite chilly.
6. Harassing hawkers dot the place, and can smell an outsider from miles away. Beware and don't lose your cool. It's not something you want to lose in a hot place!
Happy History Hopping!
(For a closer look, just click on any picture for the whole series to unravel)