We headed west into Rajasthan, a state in northwest India. The car ride there was quite the journey, dodging motorbikes, semis passing each other (on a two lane road!), speed bumps, and even cattle.
The trucks are frequently painted with this bird motif:
While not as bad as the coal & petroleum pollution in Delhi (at the Delhi hotel, someone opened the door and we thought for a second there was a fire), we did see burning from ovens making bricks in several places.
We spent one day touring Jaipur, also known as the pink city. Jaipur is the largest city and the capital of Rajastan. It is nicknamed the pink city because all of the buildings within the walls are painted pink. This was ordered the first time by Maharaja Sawaia Rum Singh II to impress Prince Albert of Britain when he toured the city. He choose the color pink because it symbolizes welcoming. The buildings are all still pink now due to a law that requires everyone paint them pink.
Amber Fort is the main tourist attraction in Jaipur. It is a palace and a fort built in 1592 for Maharaja Raja Man Singh and his 12 wives. It is a Hindu style, red sandstone and marble buildings on hills while overlooking Monta Lake. The lake served as the royal families water source but doesn’t hold much water now at the end of dry season. The middle of the grounds contains the palace and higher on the hill was the fort. The royal family lived in the palace with soldiers living in the fort. There was also a large wall over top of the hills surrounding the palace. This wall is 12 km long in total. The fort is still active military property and we were unable to visit it.
We were able to tour the palace that has not been in use since 1949. It was grand on every scale.
There is a tv documentary on Netflix called Monkey Thieves, set in Jaipur!
Jah Mahal in English is the Water Palace. This is the royal family’s summer palace built in the middle of Man Sagar Lake. It was built in the lake and has water in every room to help keep cool during the summer. The palace is actually 5 stories tall but we only saw the top two stories as the other three are underwater. The palace was built to have 3-4 stories underwater depending on the season. This palace was regrettably not open to the public. Megan would have loved to walked those three stories underwater. Can you imagine having more than half your home underwater?
Next stop was Jantar Mantar, a park filled with astronomical instruments. It was completed in 1734 and holds a multitude of instruments made of stone and brass. These instruments are mostly used to help astrologists read the sun and planets. The park is home to the largest sundial in the world which is accurate to 2 seconds.
This is a semi-spherical chart which tracks the position of the sun in the sky (zodiac). The spaces, through which you can see the access stairs, correspond to the paired chart, which has the opposite cut outs; together, the entire sky is covered. There is a small black metal donut in the top middle of the picture, this casts a shadow on the chart. The shadow moves from left to right with the seasons, and from front to back with the hours.
This chart (with its doppleganger), reads the celestial position of the sun.
The queens were not allowed to show their faces, which is why the famous Palace of the Winds was built. It was constructed in 1799 of red and pink sandstone. It is essentially just a facade for the queens to sit behind to observe festivals and markets without being seen. The wall that is exposed to the main street is beautifully decorated with white marble.
Our final stop of the day was the step well. Christopher had been anticipating finally getting to see a step well in India as they are unique to India (and he has read a lot about them). A step well was used as a place to store water, similar to a well, but there are steps to walk down to get to the water. We saw Panna Meena Ka Kund step well. This step well was 8 stories into the ground and was built in the 16th century. The series of symmetrical stairs leading to the water was mesmerizing.
The Hindu temples in the north have all used variation on this fractalized elliptical cuboid shape. This was the same shape, except more vertical, that was used in Angkor Wat.