Pink City, Palaces, and Peacocks (days 16 to 19)

28th August to  31st August, 2016.

We started rather early (by our standards) from Udaipur with the hope of reaching Jaipur by late noon. As fate would have it, it took us two hours to get out of Udaipur. With no hope of reaching Jaipur with any time to spare, we headed to Jaipur. The drive was almost entirely through the NH 58 which is in decent condition at the moment.

The very flat, very green NH 58

After some distance we encountered a beautiful river. As there was no point in hurrying, we stopped and spent a few minutes looking around. The river had swelled in the recent rains, and many trees were now right in the path of the water flow. Water Lilies grew in a nearby pond. Someone passing by told us it is the Gomti River.

Trees in the Gomti river
A small water Lilly pond next to the river

We dragged ourselves away and continued our drive. At some point, rain caught up with us. For once, it was ahead of us, and we were driving into the rain.

Into the rain
Rain lookout point: Those girls were literally watching the approaching rain

After passing the rain, we stopped at a roadside dhaba for tea and happen upon an old well. It was no longer in use and multiple pigeons now call it their home. However, the well had beautiful stone masonry work and a really interesting overhang. We had seen multiple such structures on the way, but could not figure out what they were. After all this exploring we covered 400 km and reached Jaipur by dusk.

Amazing stone masonry: Well overhang
The very old stone well
A temple on the way

Our stay in Jaipur was arranged by a friend Mahak Arora and his parents were eagerly waiting our arrival. Looking at the spread for tea on the first day we realised that there was no way we could exit Jaipur without gaining a couple of pounds. That was, however, a sacrifice we were ready to make.

With our hosts Aruna and Rajendra Arora

The next day was spent exploring the many historic places in and around Jaipur. Jaipur has a good number of worthy sites. The Amer fort is grand and the mirror palace inside it is something no visitor will forget. The walls of the fort are spread over neighboring hills, and remind us of the Great Wall of China.

The very impressive Amer fort
Palace entrance inside the fort
A garden next to Sheesh Mahal or mirror palace
From Sheesh Mahal or mirror palace
Hundreds of mirrors
Murals still shines after all these years
A small garden attached to the fort
Fort walls
A view from the top
Our very own great wall

Similarly, the Jal mahal (which was restored in 2011) looks serene and mystic. It is very much worth a visit even though we are not allowed to enter the palace itself.

The serene Jal Mahal
In the middle of Man Sagar Lake
Four of the five floors are below water at the moment

The Pink City area was a little disappointing as it is now a very crowded market. Hawa Mahal is worth exploring, and interesting artefacts can be found in shops around the Mahal.

Hawa Mahal
The Pink city from Nahargarh fort
View from Hawa Mahal
A pink street
A crowded market inside the Pink city
You don’t see this every day

Apart from these we strongly recommend the following places. If you drive down Amer road after Amer fort towards Hawa Mahal, it will take you to two more forts. Of these two (Nahargarh and Jaigarh) Nahargarh is clearly the prettier one. It contains a palace built as an emergency hideout and summer palace for the 9 Queens of Maharaja Madho Singh of Jaipur.

Nahargarh Palace
View from the top
Simple, yet elegant murals can be found throughout the palace

This is a relatively simple structure and lacks the opulence of Amer fort. Perhaps that is what makes the place special. It is certainly grand enough to be a royal residence, and yet ordinary enough to trick us into imagining what it would be like to live there.The palace had a secret corridor connecting the entrances of all the Queens. The King could discretely walk into any one without the other Queens finding out. Way ahead of its time, the place has a well-planned water harvesting system. A step well in the premises functions as a water storage tank. It is said that the fort is still rather self-sufficient when it comes to water.

From one end to the other
The King’s passage. It discretely connects the rooms of all 9 Queens
A total of 9 chambers, all connected to each other. There doors can be closed to maintain privacy
An almara in one of the chambers
The best view of the city
A drain hole for rain water harvesting
A step well for storing rain water

It should be noted that the last entry is at 5.00 pm, so it is advisable to reach this place by at least 4 pm. However, the fort now contains a couple of restaurants that operate well into the dark. The view from this place alone makes the drive worthwhile.

From the lookout point
Let us call it a sand dune
All about color

The second suggestion may not be for everyone. A little after Nahargarh fort is the entrance to Jaigarh fort. This entire stretch is inhabited by families of peacocks and they are not really bothered by humans. There is something amazing about being that close to a peacock. Here are a few pictures to prove it. A nature enthusiast can spend a couple of hours admiring these birds.

Flaunting his feathers
Flaunting his feathers to someone else
Color cascade
Look who is watching
At his lookout point
This was barely 15 feet away

The next day was spent exploring the beautiful blue pottery which is endemic to this city. A detailed article on the same is coming soon. If you happen to be in Jaipur, do pick out a couple of items. Also, while you are at it, try a typical Rajasthani thali as well.

Food !!!
Remains of blue pottery turn into lamp shades and candle holders
A beautiful but dying art
An intricately carved marble egg
A Kamasutra pose inside the egg. The method is similar to building ships inside bottles: First the outer shell, then the interior

After a lot of sightseeing and eating, we started from Jaipur to Chandigarh (with a packed lunch, of course). Our initial plan was to stop at Kurukshetra. However, many advised us to travel to Chandigarh. This is an occasion where we are in debt to Google Maps. Had it not been for the app, we would have been stuck in Delhi traffic for at least 2 hours. The entire NCR region was blocked due to flooding. However, it is possible to drive via cantonment and reach Sonipath, bypassing Delhi altogether. The drive to Chandigarh was very scenic thanks to a beautiful sky. By dusk we reached a place with wild grass and far away trees. The place was aglow thanks to the rays of the setting sun.

A rice field in Hariyana
A beautiful sunset
Our ride
The grass is certainly fluffier on this side

We reached Chandigarh by night and halted there for the night in before moving on again to Himachal Pradesh.

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