Now I know I’ve dragged this whole Nepal-India blog series out a fair bit but I promise this really is the last instalment!
I’m going to share a few highlights from our final two destinations, two vertices on the ‘Golden Triangle’: Jaipur and Delhi.
Jaipur is famously referred to as the Pink City, so-called for its old town walls, painted to conceal the poor-quality of the materials used in construction. This area was also built according to a grid plan, like Milton Keynes but with free-for-all intersections in place of roundabouts!
I loved the Rajasthani architecture – a beautiful blend of Hindu, Islamic and colonial influences. The mixture of curves, symmetry, geometric shapes and splendidly-painted doorways and walls never fails to impress. I’ve been reading about it to find out some of the terminology for elements you’ll see in the photographs to follow.
Jharokha – a suspended or overhanging balcony, often made of stone, historically often used as a place for women to survey activities below them without being seen
Chhatri – a dome-shaped elevated pavilion or porch. The word means canopy in hindi.
Jaali – a latticed stone or screen created mainly to prevent women practising purdah from being seen in public but also used to filter light and channel cool air into indoor spaces
Chowk – a courtyard inside a mansion or palace
Here, we donned an audio guide to explore the parts of this 1720s palace currently open to the public. Photos weren’t allowed in several areas but we saw lots of armour, textiles and a grand throne room. Various costumed employees wanted tips for posing for photos. We also saw the world’s largest crafted silver items: two 1.5m tall silver urns which each hold 8182 litres. Apparently, when Madho Singh II attended the coronation of Edward VII, he didn’t trust London’s water and so took these urns with him filled with water from the Ganges!
My favourite part of the palace, however, was the Pritam Niwas Chowk (Peacock Courtyard) which featured these four stunning doors representing the seasons.
This place – Palace of Winds – was lovely. It was built in 1799 so that the women of the court could watch processions on the busy streets below whilst remaining hidden, in purdah. It’s five storeys high with lots of ornate balconies and stained glass. What I really liked was all the windows, all shapes and sizes and heights, mainly covered by little painted wooden doors. Inside there are little corridors and ramps in place of stairs due to the heaviness of the women’s clothing and jewellery.
Climbing to the higher storeys awarded us with views over the city.
An 11km bus ride out of the hustle and bustle of the city streets and into a lusher landscape (complete with camels!) brought us to Amber (or Amer). The palace sits high up on a rocky hillside whilst protective walls and ramparts reach into the distance in all directions.
A very steep climb, as the sun began to set, led us to the Sun Gate and into the Jaleb Chowk.
We were stopped a number of times as day-tripping locals just really wanted photographs with a sweaty, red-faced foreigner! Not just one but photo after photo in a variety of arrangements of personnel. Although I’m not used to it (normally Dean is more popular with strangers!), I did oblige.
First we saw the grand Diwan-i-Am – the Hall of Public Audience which would have offered wonderful views over the city when in use.
In the same courtyard was the impressively exquisite Sheesh Mahal where the royals once lived. Intricate mosaics of glass and mirror decorate the walls and ceilings .
This second inner courtyard and pavilion were very beautiful, also covered in mirrors and painted. Reminiscent of an English formal garden with its fountains and trimmed hedges, it must have been a really tranquil sanctuary from the busyness of court life.
We’d left it late to journey here and had been feeling we needed to rush around the palace complex but in reality the closing time meant nothing. In fact, as we were about to leave, a friendly guard decided to conduct us on an informative, secret, after-hours tour around a range of different winding corridors, warrens of little rooms and dramatic viewpoints. We did wonder at times whether it was an elaborate kidnapping but handing over a tip at the end seemed to do the job and we parted ways intact!
As we left, I offered to take this family’s photo, plus a few photo-bombers before we boarded the bus back to our guesthouse!
We decided to take it easy in Delhi after a hectic couple of weeks. Mainly we just wandered the hectic streets. This man was selling freshly-squeezed orange juice:
After the maze of technology alleys and the rows of food vendors and the streets of sari shops, we eventually found the spice market. Every shop displayed heaped bags and bowls of colourful wares: cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, chillies, all varieties of tea, nuts, seeds, grains and pulses.
Heavy-laden wooden carts were towed through the narrow streets. Bearers gathered, talking to their friends until it was time to again heft an impossibly heavy load onto their backs or heads, to transport it to its destination.
The country’s largest mosque was a great place for people watching. Apparently the courtyard can hold 25,000 prostrate worshippers. It was too hot to want to move about much. Too hot to walk around shoe-less. Strips of cloth, providing slight relief for feet, trailed diagonally from each corner to a pool in the centre where people washed their hands and faces before heading inside to pray.
That said, there wasn’t a great amount of devotion evident. There was, however, a huge quantity of selfie-with-foreigner requests. Like thirty! Crazy!
Once again, we arrived close to closing time and regretted having to hurry round; no friendly guard-guide this time. We’d expected a single building but it turned out that this complex was vast and set in lovely, peaceful green surrounds. Humayun’s octagonal tomb was Delhi’s first Mughal mausoleum.
Afterwards, there were several other tombs built for other Mughal’s and also one for Humayun’s barber – the man trusted to use a razor next to the emperor’s neck!
And there it ends. Until next time…