The regal past of India can be found in temples and palaces throughout the region, and while the Taj Mahal in Agra is most often cited as the spot to go, there are other, equally worthwhile sites of cultural importance. One area which beautifully captures the exotic beauty and historical past incredibly well is the city of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. It is here that the land of maharajas existed, and the well-preserved palaces of the royal family are well worth a visit.
Jaipur is known as one of the Golden Triangle spots for visitors, with Agra and Delhi being the other two points of interest. For some of the most opulent buildings to see and palaces to visit in the desert, then read on to discover what in Jaipur should be on your itinerary.
The architectural complex of Jantar Mantar is one of the best examples of an astronomical observatory and is on the UNESCO Heritage Site List for its historical importance. It was founded in the 17th century by Maharaja Jai Sing II and was completed in 1734.
This is the largest of five astronomical observatories which the Maharaja commissioned, and being a large stone sundial, the instruments allow us to view astronomical positions with the naked eye. It also helps to calculate local time, along with the placement of celestial bodies.
Also known as the Palace of the Winds, the beehive-like shape of Hawa Mahal was designed by Lal Chand Ustad and commissioned by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh. It was created as a palace for the women of the royal family as a way to allow them to observe the goings on of life in the streets outside its walls in a discreet way – as no one below could look up and see within its windows.
The red sandstone exterior and five-story façade has over 953 small portholes within the walls, through which the royal women could see life going on for others outside. The name, Palace of the Winds is attributed to the way the windows structures optimised the flow of fresh air to alleviate the oppressive heat of summer for the royal females within.
The Amer Fort
Set only 11km away from Jaipur in the town of Amer, this UNESCO Heritage site is nestled on the Cheel Ka hill overlooking Lake Maota. This was the Rajput family’s palace within Rajasthan and it’s four floors each boasts a lush garden that is surrounded by decorative Hindu elements. The underground tunnel that connects the palace to the nearby fort of Jaigarh was created to get the royal Rajput family out to a safe nearby location in the event of an enemy attack.
The incredible palace floating within the middle lake of Man Sagar Lake is Jal Mahal, one of the most dramatic showcases of Rajput architecture. It is five stories high, though has four floors below the lake waters during times that the lake is full, with only a single story remaining exposed.
During the 18th century it was renovated and enlarged by the Maharaja Jai Sing II, and while the original garden has been lost to time, restorations are once again underway to restore it to its former glory. It is a stunning place to photograph during the daytime, due to its amber coloured exterior, though at night – when it is fully lit up – it also glows with an ethereal beauty that, though difficult to capture, is well worth attempting.