The Amer Fort that stands just on the outskirts of Jaipur City is actually the immediate ancestor of Jaipur City. Till Sawai Jai Singh decided to create a new planned city, it was the major fortified town of the region.
Brief History of the fort
Forts, as you know, are more often than not located on the hilltops. The hill on which Amber or Amer Fort stands is called Cheelon ka Teela – meaning the hillock on which the eagles live. It was first built by the Meenas who are now classified as tribals way back in 10th CE. However, its fortunes changed when Raja Man Singh took it over and built a formidable fort some time in the early 17th CE. The work was taken forward by Raja Jai Singh who would later set up Jaipur City – one of the current day planned cities of India.
Today Amer is a small town surrounding the fort. I am told there are 365 temples in the town. Well, you can see tall spires of many temples when you are at the fort but someone needs to go around the town and explore them further.
The fort has the world’s third longest wall going around it after Kumbhalgarh & Great Wall of China.
Amer gets its name from Ambika Temple or the Shiva Temple called Ambikeshwar.
10 things you should not miss in Amer Fort
Amer being an ancient fort city has a lot to offer to the traveler. Here are a few things you should not miss at the fort:
Once you climb the mighty wall of the Fort, you would enter the fort by a tall door called Suraj Pol or the Sun Gate. You would find yourself standing in an open courtyard surrounded on three sides by yellow structures and one side of a wall overlooking the water tank. There is a Kesar Kyari or a saffron garden in the middle of this tank. This was an attempt to grow Saffron in the dry and hot climate of Rajasthan. Full marks for attempting it.
Sila Devi Temple
Sila Devi temple is dedicated to Kali or Shakti. Legend is that the Shila or the stone idol came from Bengal – where the worship of Kali is done. All the warrior kings worship Shakti before they leave for war. You would always find a Shakti temple in the fort. I found one in the 6th BCE ruins of Kapilavastu too.
You must see the ornate silver doors of Sila Devi temple.
Diwan-e-Aam, Amer Fort
This is the hall of the public audience where the king would listen to public grievances or maybe even make public announcements. I like the way pillars provide character to this open hall. The arches make you feel you are inside a hall while the open courtyard all around makes you feel you are in the open.
The point worth noticing here is the double elephant capitals on top of these pillars.
Ganesh Pol Entrance, Amer Fort
This is the real entrance to the private areas of the fort i.e. the Amer Palaces. The frescos on this entrance are the most famous and most Instagram-friendly part of the fort. There is a Ganesha mural just like you see him at the entrance of temples and forts and palaces. The rest of the walls and ceilings are full of floral motifs or the Phool-Patti design as it is called in Hindi. The frescos here have Indian Influence as Ganesha is there, Mughal Influence with those floral motifs, and English influence in the choice of colors – pastels primarily. It is a good representation of the fusion era that the fort was built.
Do not miss the murals on the ceilings and skirtings when you enter through this gate.
To the left of Ganesh Pol is the Hammam or Turkish baths. I guess it was the latest fad when the fort was built or renovated. The Hamman is not too big but it is interesting to see the mechanism that operates it. The view from the small window is also nice although with current security measures you hardly see anything.
Sheesh Mahal – the Best part of Amer Fort
The Sheesh Mahal is actually the Diwan-e-Khaas or the meeting place of the eminent people. This is where the king would meet his ministers or royal guests. However, it is made up of small mirrors all over the walls that give it the name Sheesh Mahal. It is said that the Sheesh Mahal shown in the Hindi Film Mughal-e-Azam was inspired by this palace. Since the mirrors sit on a pale white wall, it is difficult to visualize how it would look when some lamps are lit at night.
I think besides the brilliant aesthetics, it is an innovative use of glass to amplify the light without using many resources.
The well-laid-out gardens in front of Sheesh Mahal.
Pro Tip – Do not miss the magic flower carves on the base of one of the pillars wherein a single flower you can spot a fish, a cobra, an elephant, a lion, a scorpion, or a corn cob if you place your hands correctly on it. Any guide would help you identify them.
Sukh Mahal means the hall of Happiness or pleasure. Well, this is an air-conditioned area with water channels running across to keep the hall cool. In the desert heat, there can be no bigger Sukh than this. The motifs on the wall with shades of cool blue add to the ambiance of the hall.
Pro Tip – You must see the Sandalwood door with inlay work in ivory. Not much is left but still, in its ruins, it gives you a glimpse of its glorious days.
This is actually a pavilion on top with a semi-dome painted in pale green and red. I am not sure if it is called something else, but there is a marble slab here that calls it Suhaag Mandir. From the name, it seems that it is the place where married women would perform some rituals or celebrate some festivals.
Walk ahead a bit and stand at the pavilion in the corner for some of the best views of the hills around and the lower part of the fort.
Baradari at Man Singh Palace
This is a pavilion that stands in the middle of another courtyard that is surrounded by living quarters. This is the oldest part of the fort and I assume this may have version 1 of Diwan-e-aam or the common meeting place. It could also be the pleasure garden of the king.
It is an open pavilion – that is now surrounded by walls all around that form the living quarters of the palace.
Zenana or Ladies Quarters
Zenana refers to the female quarters of the palace. It had a world of its own and many books have been written about it. The fact that men outside the family had no access and men from the family had limited access to these quarters made them very intriguing to outsiders.
The haphazard construction of the Zenana could be by design to confuse any invaders or it could be by default as the rooms were randomly added as required. Another angle says it was designed in such a way that the king can visit any queen without anyone else finding out. Although I find it hard to believe that the King could visit one Queen without others knowing about it. All I can tell you is that you can potentially get lost here. However, the crowds around would guide you.
Look up in the rooms and in some of them, you would see lovely wall murals. Interestingly a Tulsi plant is still kept in this area as it would have been worshipped during the times queens used to inhabit here.
Light & Sound Show
I would not say this is the best light and sound show you can see in India. The one at Chittorgarh is definitely much better than this one. However, it is the best way to understand the history of Amer in detail with the fort ramparts in front of you and the water in the foreground. The setting is just perfect. Colorful lights and vivid sound take you for a history walk.
What is interesting is regular doses of Rajasthani Music in the storytelling. At places, I felt it got a bit boring, a bit of trimming would have helped. Although, it is not bad to sit back, relax and watch a widescreen opera.
Anokhi Museum is dedicated to Rajasthani and other Indian textiles. Now the museum is definitely worth the visit but the Haveli that houses it too has a lovely restoration story. It is called Chanvar Palkhiwalon ki Haveli. The name tells me that it once belonged to the people who were palanquin bearers and Chauri bearers probably for the royal family. There is no sign of them but the name stays. Haveli takes you back in time and you can easily visualize how it would have been to live here.
The displays at the Anokhi museum take you through the textile diversity of India. The motifs on the fabric will tell you about the social status associated with them. You can see the process of making wooden blocks, and the printing of various colors on the fabric. You can easily spend 1-2 hours at the Anokhi Museum. There is a museum shop but I must say the collection here is very limited. Anokhi’s city outlet is much better for shopping.
Read More – Calico Museum in Ahmedabad
I stayed at Lebua Resort in Jaipur. They have a Lebua Lodge right next to the Fort Wall with luxury tents. I plan to stay there next time in Jaipur to explore some birding as well as the temples that I missed this time.
- You need at least 2-3 hours to see just the fort.
- Anokhi Museum would need another 2 hours at least.
- Here you need to go up and down so wear comfortable shoes.
- Take a guide to hear all the charming stories. There is an audio guide also available at the ticket counter.
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