Located a little on the outskirts of Jaipur, Amer (or Amber) fort is situated on the Delhi-Agra road. It is advisable to keep the whole morning dedicated to visiting only this as the fort is huge and takes the maximum amount of time to look around. Built by Man Singh I, the Amer fort was the residence of the Rajput family headed by the ruler Man Singh, the King of the time. It took a time of 132 years to be built completely and was the place of rule of the Kings until 1754 when the royal family shifted to City Palace in the heart of the Pink city.
The fort is atop a hill for which the entry is not feasible on foot. They charge Rs 110 for each person for a round trip on the jeep, while the one way elephant ride (coming back being on foot) is charged Rs 550 per person with one elephant holding upto two people. However, even though this is slower, it is more of an adventure to be enjoyed as a new experience.
On entering the fort, you come across a courtyard known as the Jaleb Chowk. The main entry is the ones which were used by the kings, which now the elephants use to enter from into the fort. The common entrance was for all the other people, which is now open for public use. In this courtyard human sacrifices used to take place, which was stopped immediately by the King after the public protested. Animal sacrifices held had then become a private event until an Act by the Government prohibited that.
When Maharaja Man Singh lost the battle against the ruler of Kedar, he made a prayer to Goddess Kali for success. In return for his victory in the upcoming battles, the Goddess who appeared in his dream vision, asked for her image on a stone (shila) to be retrieved from under the sea to be a form to which he would pray. After his success in the battle against the King of Jessore, he kept his word and the idol was brought and worshipped popularly as Shila Devi in Amer.
Photography inside the temple is strictly prohibited, so is the entry with items such as belts, shoes and so on. These can be left outside. Do not think of it as a hassle to keep away your belongings or else you’ll be missing out a beautiful temple. It has its pillars made of marble and contains cravings all around it. The brass doors, too, are magnificent.
After this you’ll next come across the Diwan-i-aam where the Maharajas listened to all the problems of the people. It was built after the King’s aunt Jodha Bai got married to the Mughal Emperor Akbar. It led to the formation of alliances and a marriage of cultures and architecture as can be seen on the walls and pillars of the Diwan-i-aam and other parts of the fort. The carvings are mostly based on Hindu ideologies while the flower patterns were popular with the Muslims. The advent of the British led to the doors inside being built in an European style.
The area around features the hills which have extensive boundaries that were built for defense purposes. The main defense system was in Jaigarh fort. A secret passage connects the two forts which allowed the passage of the royal family into safety when under attack. While the Amer Fort is regulated by the Government, the Jaigarh fort and the City Palace is still the property of the royal family.
Inspired after a visit from Kashmir, the Maharaja wanted to try out saffron plantation in his own backyard in his palace. He realized it was not possible because of the huge difference in temperature. Therefore, he tried to grow it over water hoping the cooler environment would facilitate the cultivation, though it still failed. The design of the plantation was that of a shape which was also engraved in carpets and doors in the fort.
We next come across a beautiful gateway which once again has the floral patterns akin to Muslim architecture while it has the head of Lord Ganesha on it as well. There are three windows on the top of the gateway. Since ‘purdah’ system prevailed at the time the Queens were not allowed to show their faces, however they would watch the festivities from the windows and the netted framework around and shower flowers on the king from above as a gesture of welcome. This place is known as the ‘Suhag Mandir’. When you visit this place and try to see below from there, you will instantly notice how the three windows are built at a low height and so you cannot see a thing without being seated. The netted works with give you a view of below but of course, who ever likes obstructions in sight?
The palace also has kitchens, bathrooms and changing rooms – essential as it was the home of the royal family. They had geysers and tanks for both hot and cold water. Very private baths were arranged for the royal ladies where they would be massaged before their bath and the sunlight which came in from the window would serve for them as a sauna bath. The concept of the attached bathroom was prevalent at that time as well.
Since the royal ladies would be decked up in heavy costumes and a lot of jewels it would not be possible for them to go from place to place in the palace on foot. To serve this purpose ramps were built all around the palace to carry them in hand-pulled rickshaws from place to place.
The last attraction of the Amber fort is the Sheesh Mahal (which after I read Sonar Kella/ The Golden Fortress by Satyajit Ray, I realized that even the Bikaner fort has a Sheesh Mahal and coming to the conclusion that all forts built by the Rajputs have sheesh mahals). It is made of glass imported from Belgium, gold and silver. It was used to entertain the ladies of the court. It has two bedrooms around it which is currently inadmissible. A fun activity which can be done here is to switch on the torch from your phone camera and direct it towards the ceiling and move it around. If you observe the ceiling properly you’ll see it’ll seem as if stars are twinkling. This trick was used to impress the ladies.
From the tower of the fort you will be able to see the original residence of the royal family, before the Amer fort was built.
A lot of gifting items like Rajasthani handiwork umbrellas, hats and small artifacts are available around the fort. The main shopping area is around Hawa Mahal where there are famous bazaars such as the Johari Bazaar and Bapu Bazaar. Your guide may take you to a shopping hub after visiting the Amer Fort but it is advisable that if you are looking for things at a much cheaper rate then to not get tempted by this place.
You will find the Jal Mahal on route to or from Amer Fort, depending on the path you take. It is located on the Man Sagar lake and is partially submerged. There is no way to visit inside the Mahal. A view at night is a marvellous sight when the place is lit up.