The bus from Jaipur brings me further north through a valley, and I see several forts on top of the surrounding hills. When I get off, I see an especially big fort high above on a ridge, reflected in the quiet waters of Maota Lake. This is Amber Fort. There has been a citadel since the 11th century; the present structure was started in the late 16th century and further expanded in the 17th. I walk up the wide steps (unlike the information I had read before, not one elephant for taking people up), which offers me views from different angles of the impressive fort. Instead of going straight in, I decide to walk to the south side, up the hill, to get views of Amber fort while it is still basking in the sunlight. But there is not too much time to waste: I realize I will need time to do this massive building justice, and when I walk through Suraj Pol, or the Sun Gate, I still have a couple of hours left.
Vast Jaleb Chowk is the main courtyard of the fort, and from here, I walk up the wide stairs, through the first gate, to arrive at the second courtyard. It is here that I realize that more than a fort, Amber is much more of a palace. I marvel at the beauty of Diwan-i-Am, the Hall of Public Audience, with its double columns, the outer ones having carved elephant heads as a capital. The adjacent hall has rows of finely carved arches, typical of Hindi architecture. To continue exploring Amber Palace, I need to go through Ganesh Pol: the most delicate gate of the entire structure, with frescoes depicting flowers, fine latticed windows on top through which the princesses could observe those below without being seen, and of course, a Ganesh (elephant-headed Hindu deity) right over the entrance.
The third courtyard has a garden in the middle, Sukh Niwas with its smart water channel system providing cool air, and the dazzling Sheesh Mahal, or Mirror Palace, on the other side. From here, there are several ways to continue my exploration through Amber Palace. There are small staircases, corridors, pavilions with views of the surrounding mountain ridges topped by walls and fortresses, until I come to the fourth courtyard, where I find the zenana, or secluded ladies quarters, built in such a way that the maharajah could move between the quarters of his wives and concubines without them knowing it. Oh, to be able to see how people lived here several centuries ago, undoubtedly in brightly coloured dresses... In the middle, a rectangular baradari, or pavilion: elegant, but nothing compared to the much more delicately carved Diwan-i-Am. The sun is going down when I walk down the stairs, back to the first courtyard, where baboons are gathering near Suraj Pol. Further down to the other side of Maota Lake, where I see that the sun has already disappeared behind Amber Fort.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Amber Fort (India). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Amber Fort. Read more about this site.