Sunday, March 24, 2013

Land of Kings 2

Last month saw another excursion to Rajasthan, this time to Jaipur. Jaipur, of course, is a big city, the capital of Rajasthan, but it still manages to retain some of the appeal that small towns have, especially in the outskirts. The skyline is lowlying, the roads are wide, and there is a sense of space on the edge of the desert.

This was a work visit, to the LNMIIT (now headed by an old colleague from IIT Madras), which is blessed with a very well developed campus, and impressive architecture, especially that of the main building, which is inspired by the Jantar Mantar, and picks up the local flavour in the local sandstone. However, we managed to squeeze in a visit to the old fort at Amer, as well as to see the Sisodia Rani Bagh, missed on earlier visits.

Amer fort was earlier a small settlement of the tribe of Meenas, dedicated to the goddess Amba. This was taken over by the Raja Man Singh, who camped there one night, and on being told (if the sound and light show is to be believed) that the place belonged to the Meena tribe, laughed and said, `it used to belong to them', and promptly took it over. A prominent feature of the fort is the temple of Sila Devi, who it is said, appeared to Raja Man Singh in a dream, and agreed to take up residence at his fort. The Devi instructed the king to lead the way to the place where he wanted to install her, and that she would follow, but he should not look behind. The king did lead the way, but at some point turned round to look at the goddess, who froze on the spot. Thus, the temple to the Devi got constructed at the entrance of the fort, and the image of the Devi (Mahishasur Mardini) turns around.(Less fanciful versions of the story can be found in Wikipaedia).

The fort boasts of the most beautiful marble inlays and jaalis, as does the temple, second to none in India, including the Taj Mahal. The fort overlooks the Maota lake, and a beautiful garden, with beds of
crocuses whose stamens yield the precious saffron. 

The structure follows the traditional pattern, being built around courtyards, with halls of audience, halls of recreation, pleasure garden, the zenana, and a sheesh mahal.

 The sound and light in the evening, lights up the huge fort in a very impressive fashion. The stories that it tells, however, are not as impressive. The Kachhvahas of Amer, Raja Man Singh and his descendants, were always courtiers of the Mughals, and the stories of those who fought with the Mughals, like Rana Pratap, and Shivaji are more interesting! Still, the spectacle is not one to be missed.

A  highlight of the visit  was a quick, unexpected  glimpse of the one of the current owners of Amer, Princess Diya, the step-granddaughter of Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur,  a chip of the old block, chiffon, dark glasses and all. Here's  hoping for another visit, maybe to another place in Rajasthan, so that there can be a Land of Kings 3 post.

This blog post by Neelima Gupte and Sumathi Rao.

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