Monday, October 26, 2009

Forts on rugged hills

On the rugged hills that surround Jaipur stand wondrous forts: Amber, Jaigarh, Nahargarh, each one imposing in its own right. Amber was once the capital of the Mina tribes believed to be the original inhabitants of this area. Now, painted elephants take visitors up the hill to admire the massive gateways, courts, stairways and pillared pavilions and palaces, that recall the glory and wealth of Amber's association with the Mughals. Raja Man Singh was the Commander-in-Chief of Akbar's army and Mirza Raja Jai Singh was a powerful ally of Jehangir. Of special interest is the Sheesh Mahal, the palace of mirrors, where the walls are inlaid with exquisite mirrored motifs that dance to the flame of even a single candle.

Jaigarh Fort was opened to the public after being sealed for seven years, following a rumor that an enormous treasure in gold was buried in vaults under deep reservoirs. The vast purity of its austere spaces is admirable. The highlight of the fort is the Jaya Vana - the largest antique cannon in India.

Nahargarh Fort provides a marvelous view of Jaipur city and, en route, of the Jal Mahal, the lake palace of Jaipur. The cenotaphs of the Jaipur maharajas at Amber and Gaitor as well as teh chhatris (memorials) of the maharanis are well-worth a visit.

Five miles (eight kms) down the Jaipur-Agra road is the charming garden of the Sisodia queen, and a mile (two kms) further are the holy springs of Galta, with temples that have a large daily attendance. The Hanuman Temple, in particular, is worth a visit on Tuesdays.

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