1.. Amber Palace : Itinerary of Maharajas’ Express
Amber (pronounced Amer) is situated about 11 kilometres from Jaipur and was the ancient citadel of the ruling Kachwahas of Amber, before the capital was shifted to the plains, the present day Jaipur.
The Amber Fort set in picturesque and rugged hills is a fascinating blend of Hindu and Mughal architecture. Constructed by Raja Man Singh I in 1592 and completed by Mirja Raja Jai Singh the fort was made in red sand stone and white marble. The rugged forbidding exterior belies an inner paradise with a beautiful fusion of art and architecture. Amber is the classic and romantic fort-palace with a magnificent aura. The interior wall of the palace depicts expressive painting scenes with carvings, precious stones and mirror settings. In the foreground is the Maota Lake providing a breathtaking vista. Built mainly for the warring enemies as a safe place, the heavily structured walls could defend the residents within the ramparts of the fort.
All means of survival and luxuries for the royal families and the people who were concerned with the functioning of this small kingdom of the Kachhawas were well provided. The Rajputs who had apparently won a small structure passed on by Meena tribes, later on renovated it into the grand Amber Fort. Holding a history as old as seven centuries, this place vibrates with its legendary past. Although many of the early structures have been literally ruined but at the same time, those dating from 16th century onwards are remarkably well preserved by sincere efforts.
2.City Palace : Itinerary of Maharajas’ Express
Located in the heart of the walled city, the City Palace Complex gives you an idea about the farsightedness of the founder of Jaipur Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh. He left behind a legacy of some of the most imposing and magnificent architecture in the city. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh built many buildings but some of the structures were also built by later rulers. The palace is a blend of Mughal and Rajput architecture and the ex-royal family still lives in a part of the palace.
On entering the complex and before the proper palace lies the Mubarak Mahal, the palace of welcome or reception. Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh built the palace in the nineteenth century. It was used as a reception centre for the visiting personage. The building now forms the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum and on display here are a wide array of royal costumes, some very exquisite and precious Pashmina (Kashmiri) shawls, Benaras silk saris, Sanganeri prints and folk embroidery. An unusual display is that of voluminous clothes worn by Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I (ruled 1750-68).
The Maharani’s Palace, the palace of the Queen paradoxically puts on a display of the Rajput weaponry. The inestimable collections of weapons date back to even 15th century and are in a remarkable state of preservation. Remarkable amongst them is scissor-action dagger. This deadly weapon were so designed that the handles were released to spread the blades when thrust into bodies. The dagger was then withdrawn fatally tearing limb to limb of the body of the hapless victim. Other exhibits include protective chain armours, pistols, jewelled and ivory handled swords, a belt sword, small and assorted cannons, guns, poison tipped blades and gun powder pouches. The frescoes on the ceiling are amazing and well preserved.
The art gallery is located in the Diwan-I-Aam, which literally means the hall of public audience. The exhibits here include some very precious and ancient handwritten original manuscripts of Hindu scriptures. Particularly intriguing are miniature copies of Bhagwat Gita made in such a manner that it could be protected from Emperor Aurangzeb’s onslaught on Hindu scriptures. Some delicate miniature paintings pertaining to Rajasthani, Mughal and Persian schools on various themes including the Ramayana are engrossing displays. Visitors must take a good look at the preserved painted ceilings. Also on display are elephant saddles called “haudha”.
Between the armoury museum and the art gallery is the Diwan-E-Khas meaning hall of private or selective audience. This is a marble paved pavilion and puts on display the world’s largest sterling silver objects, two gigantic silver vessels. These vessels were made for Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II, who filled these vessels with holy Ganga water and took them along with him during his journey abroad. The idea was to drink exclusively the water from the river Ganga. The Guinness Book of Records declared the silver vessels as the biggest silver objects in the world. The ceiling also has large chandeliers, which are mostly protected by dust covers and opened only for festive occasions.
The Chandra Mahal Palace is still occupied by the ex-royal family but visitors can visit the ground floor where some exhibits are on display. A visit here is worthwhile for the exquisite Peacock gate in the courtyard outside.
The present day royal family that takes charge of the museum has done exceptionally well in preserving and maintaining this legacy for presentation to visitors. A visit to the palace is both interesting and enlightening.