The most excited I have ever been before visiting a tourist attraction in India was the night before my foray to the Amber Fort in the pink city of Jaipur.
I was lucky enough to stay in a nice hotel in Jaipur (well, nice according to what a backpacker usually stays in!) called the Ibis Hotel Jaipur. I was enjoying some relative luxury and was making use of some free wifi the night before I went to Amber Fort. The previous day I had seen Hawa Mahal and really enjoyed that experience, but that was just the calm before the storm, as a visit to the city’s most popular attraction, Amber Fort, was now on the horizon for me! Tuktuk rides are prevalent all over Jaipur and are a great way to get to each attraction. My driver waited for me and returned me back to the hotel some hours later when I had finished exploring the Amber Fort complex (including a smaller fort which I forget the name of).
Amber Fort is situated on a forested hill near Amer village, about 11km from Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. A narrow 4WD road leads up to the entrance gate, known as the Sun Gate. Elephant rides are taken through the narrow Sun Gate, and this is very popular with tourists.
Arguably the main attraction in Jaipur, the Amber Fort is famously located high on a hill. It was built by Raja Man Singh I, and is known for its artistic style of Hindu elements. With its large ramparts, series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks the Maota Lake, at its forefront, which gives it a very scenic atmosphere. Walking up the steps to the façade of the fort was a great experience in itself! The slope upwards seems to go on forever, and although I was gazing in amazement at the fort ahead of me, I couldn’t help but turn round every now and then and look back down on the Pink City from high up. There was an amazing panorama wherever I turned!
At the entrance, near Ganesh Gate, there is a temple dedicated to Sila Devi, a goddess of the so-called “Chaitanya Cult” which was given to Raja Man Singh when he had defeated the Raja of Jessore, Bengal in 1604. This fort along with Jaigarh Fort, located immediately above on the Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles) of the same Aravalli range of hills, is considered as one complex, as the two are well connected by a subterranean passage (good for sheltering from the rain!). This passage was meant as an escape route in times of war for the royal family members and others who were living in the Amber Fort to shift to Jaigarh Fort instead, which I imagine must have been more sturdy, somehow.
Annual tourist visitation to the Amber Fort is reported to be as high as 5,000 visitors a day, and I saw plenty of western tourists making use of elephants to carry them from A to B, and although I never got an elephant ride myself, it still seemed a very cool – and very Indian – way of transportation around this incredible desert fort. Before I came home from Amber Fort, it actually began to rain quite heavily, but luckily I was sheltered from the worst of it (as we all were). However, I noticed the elephants still taking tourists around the area even in the torrential downpour, and while the tourists were sheltered with umbrellas, it wouldn’t have been very nice for the elephants!
As expected, I was very impressed with the aesthetic ambiance of the fort. Nowhere more was I impressed than within its walls than the opulent central palace complex built that is built with red sandstone and marble. This palace complex within the Amber Fort consists of the Diwan-e-Aam or the “Hall of Public Audience”, the Diwan-e-Khas or the “Hall of Private Audience”, the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace) or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over the water cascade within the fort walls. There is also a beautiful garden built on the Mughal garden pattern and is liked very much by almost everyone.
Unfortunately, due to the monsoons, I didn’t stay for as long as I had hoped, but it was a great experience to be in such a grand fort/palace as here at Amber Fort! Definitely one of India’s top attractions!