Monday 25 February 2019

Hawa Mahal, The Palace of the Winds

Just when you thought Indian architecture couldn't get any more beautiful, feast your eyes on this!

Rising 50 feet above the streets of Jaipur, you'll find the city's most distinctive landmark, the spectacular pink-painted honeycombed hive that is the Hawa Mahal, the Palace of the Winds. Built in 1799 by Maharajah Sawai Pratap Singh, the Mahal was an extension of the City Palace, enabling the women of the royal household to watch city life through the 953 (yes, really!) windows without being seen by the public, thus remaining in purdah.

Maharajah Sawai Pratap Singh

More incredible doorways!

The pink and red Hawa Mahal is the tallest building in the world not to have foundations, managing to stay upright because of both its curved shape and the 87° angle at which it is built. Mughal architecture is not only beautiful, it's mind-bendingly clever, too.

There's a small museum inside the Hawa Mahal with miniature paintings and ceremonial armour on display.  

The top three floors (known as Vichitra Mandir, Prakash Mandir and Hawa Mandirare just a single room wide.  The narrow corridors can get extremely crowded, claustrophobics beware! 

Despite the Hawa Mahal being five storeys tall there are no steps to the upper floors, instead you'll find ramps which allowed for the royal ladies to be transported by palanquins (similar to a sedan chair).

Ratan Mandir, on the second floor, has the most beautifully coloured glass windows, they've got an 1960s vibe to them despite them being installed in 1799. 

Each of the casement windows have miniature windows and carved sandstone grills, finials and domes, giving the appearance of a mass of semi-octagonal bays, giving the Mahal its unique façade and offering a tantalising glimpse of life outside the palace to both the royal ladies of the Eighteenth century, and us commoners.

The nine-hundred and fifty-three windows allow for a cool breeze to blow through the Mahal (which explains why it's called the Palace of the Winds), keeping it cool and airy and perfect for Jaipur's sizzling Summer temperature.

After a gap of fifty years, renovation work on Hawa Mahal took place in 2006, at an estimated cost of Rs 4568 million (£49 million) which was shared between the Indian government and corporate business.

The palace's architectural heritage is a fusion of Hindu Rajput and Islamic Mughal; the Rajput style is seen in the form of domed canopies, fluted pillars, lotus and floral patterns, and the Islamic style as evident in its stone inlay filigree work and arches (similar to those seen at Fatehpur Sikri).

Maharajah Pratap Singh used to worship Lord Krishna on this storey, known as Vichitra Mandir, and wrote poems in devotion. The shape of Hawa Mahal is built to resemble Krishna's crown.

The perfect spot for a selfie.

Look at this regal beauty! Her family requested that we pose for pictures so we asked for a photo of their little princess in return.

Another fabulous doorway.

Hawa Mahal is a hugely popular tourist attraction so get there early.

Open daily from 9am - 5.30 pm
Indian/Foreigner admission price:  50 rupees/200 rupees 

Sunday 24 February 2019

A Trip to The Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, Jaipur

On the outskirts of Jaipur, in the shadow of the magnificent Amber Fort, you'll find a beautifully restored haveli which is home to the Anokhi Museum, the only museum in the world dedicated to the art of block printing. 

I'm sure you already know about my love for block printing - so keen was I to visit the Anokhi Museum that within minutes of checking into Hotel Sweet Dreams, we'd dumped our bags, flagged down a passing tuk tuk and headed to textile heaven.

If the haveli wasn't beautiful enough, just look at the exhibits! Most of these clothes are contemporary Anokhi pieces but the blouses and skirts in the centre of the collage below are tribal pieces dating back to the 19th Century.

Click on the collages to enlarge the photos.

These are details from the current exhibition of jajams, large patterned floor spreads coloured in traditional shades of red and black, once commonly found in Rajasthan.

Mujeeb Khan, who has carved the wooden printing block by hand for over forty years demonstrates just how intricate his work is. His tools belonged to his father, carving is a family tradition.

Although I'm aware of the intricacies of block printing I'd never given much though to how the blocks are made, what an eye opener! I was thrilled when Mujeeb presented me with one of his flower posies.

The only other visitors to the museum that afternoon were a French couple, we took it in turns to have a bash at block printing and, when I say bash I mean it, those printing blocks are heavy on the hands.

That's my excited face! I even happier when I was given the handkerchief to take home!

Elsewhere Salim was busy printing some curtains for Anokhi's homeware department and let us have a go. 

Back in the days of the Overland Trail, the hippies were buying block printed bedspreads in Indian bazaars and getting the local tailors to sew them into western-style dresses. Anokhi tapped into this trend and manufactured their own range of hippie clothes, examples of which are on display.

Never in my life have I coveted dresses more. These beauties are on loan from the original owner, a British lady, who bought them in the early 1970s.

I was tempted to break the glass and do a runner with the exhibits!

Although those dresses couldn't be mine (sob!)  I was determined to treat myself to something from Anokhi while we were in Jaipur. We've visited their shops elsewhere in India but the Jaipur branch is the brand headquarters and we'd been told that their cafe was well worth a visit, so a couple of days later off we went. I can vouch for the cafe, their organic feta tapenade salads were incredible (for full menu see HERE).


Anokhi, like Cottage Cottage and FabIndia, sell clothes which are ethically sourced, fairly traded and beautifully made. No trend-led pieces here, just clothes you'll want to wear forever.

I didn't leave empty-handed, it would be virtually impossible not to. I bought a maxi dress (which you'll see in another post) and this block printed, quilted riding coat which I loved at first sight but it wasn't a holiday romance, I've worn it almost constantly since I got home, it goes with everything I own! 

For all our photos of the Anokhi Museum click HERE

Linking to Patti & the Gang for Visible Monday.

Thursday 21 February 2019

The Doors Of Perception

I'm a big fan of the grand entrance and so when we visited Jaipur's City Palace, I was almost lost for words. Could the architectural delights of the Golden Triangle get any better?

The Golden Triangle

We'd arrived in Rajasthan's famed Pink City of Jaipur, so named after Maharajah Ram Singh II  instructed that all the buildings were painted pink to impress Prince Albert during his 1876 tour of India. This colour is so significant to the heritage of the city that it is still enforced under local law.

Maharajah Jaipur Ram Singh II, 1877

Built between 1729 and 1732 by Maharajah Jai Singh II, the City Palace complex also includes the Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal palaces and was the seat of the Maharajah of Jaipur. The Chandra Mahal now houses an museum but the rest is still a royal residence.

While the Triploia Gate is reserved for use by the Royal Family, Rajendra Pol is one of the entry gates to the City Palace that commoners can use (that'll be us, then!)

Rajendra Pol - the commoners gate.
Maharajah Sawai Madho Singh I (1688 – 1743)

Of the various exhibits on display within the museum our favourites were Maharajah Sawai Madho Singh I's clothing. The Maharajah stood at over 7 feet tall, weighed 39 stone and his body measured 3.9ft
across. His wardrobe was both beautiful and extremely opulent, sadly photography wasn't allowed so I'll leave you to imagine the size of his trousers. It didn't seem to put of the ladies, though, he had 108 wives!

Within the inner courtyard, which provides access to the Chandra Mahal, you'll find four small gates (known as the Ridhi Sidhi Pol) adorned with themes representing the four seasons and Hindu gods. The gate Jon's posing by is the Northeast Peacock Gate representing autumn and dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The gate I'm sitting inside (in the top photo) is the Southwest Rose Gate, with its repeated flower pattern representing the winter season, dedicated to Goddess Devi.

What a mirror!

We pose for so many photos for Indians we thought we'd ask some holidaymakers to pose for us. This couple (how beautiful is her dress?) are sitting within the Southeast Lotus Gate with a continual flower and petal pattern representing the summer season and dedicated to Lord Shiva-Parvati.

The Diwan-I-Khas (the Hall of Private Audience) is a marble floored chamber with crystal chandeliers suspended from the ornate rose-coloured ceiling. This is where the Maharajah would receive petitioners.

Like many places of historical interest in India, there's a two-tier admission system in place, implemented by the government to encourage Indians to see more of their country therefore domestic tourists pay significantly less than foreigners. We were more than happy to pay 500 rupees (around £5) although a couple of Americans weren't quite so pleased, yelling I'm not paying 7 bucks just to see a pretty house, before walking off in a huff. Their loss.

Those gateways were priceless.

In India everything stops for chai

At first glance you'd be forgiven for thinking that our next port of call was a mid-century construction but no, it's Jantar Mantar, a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments built by Sawai Madho Singh I and completed in 1734. It features the world's largest stone sundial, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. At one time, twenty-three astronomers were employed here.

Hard to believe its almost three hundred years old, isn't it?

The sundial is accurate to .244 seconds!

After marveling at the other-worldly architecture of Jantar Mantar, we ascended the steps to reach the top of the Isarlat minaret, which was built in 1749 and originally used as a watchtower over the City Palace. Known locally as Swagasuli (literally translated as passage to heaven), it's 140 feet high and was once the tallest building in Jaipur. It was well worth the climb, the views over the pink city were spectacular.

The previous day we'd checked into Hotel Sweet Dreams, situated within the old city walls overlooking the bazaar, where on check-in we were greeted with marigold garlands, tilak and red roses and after posing for an obligatory selfie with most of the lovely hotel staff, we treated ourselves to lunch.

Sweet Dreams is one of the highest rated hotels in Jaipur and we loved the rooftop restaurant so much that we ate there every night (and had a cheeky beer every afternoon when we got back from our adventures). The weather, although a pleasant 70 degrees in the middle of the day, plummeted to around zero at night but the staff lit braziers, offered us blankets and provided traditional headgear to stave off the chill. 

Jon will kill me when he sees this!

See you soon.