Amer Fort (Amber Fort) is located in Amer (a town with an area of 4 square kilometres , 11 kilometres from Jaipur). It is one of the principal tourist attractions in the Jaipur area, located high on a hill. Amer Fort was made by Meenas king Raja Alan Singh Chanda later occupied by Kachhawa rajput . Amer Fort is known for its artistic style, blending both Hindu and Mughal elements. The fort with its large ramparts, series of gates and cobbled paths, overlooks the Maota Lake, at its forefront.
The magnificent Amber Fort was at first only a part of the Jaigarh Fort. Both these fortresses were linked with each other through many fortified covert passages. Meenas (the actual habitants of this area) constructed the original fort of Amber. Today’s Amber Fort was constructed later and construction was commissioned by Rajput King, Raja Man Singh.
The fort complex is built red & white sand stone with combination of white marbles. The exteriors are impressive and attention-grabbing. The interiors of the fort complex are again impressive. The ornate and elegant interiors will not fail to lure you. You will be captivatingly impressed with the decorated walls which are filled with mirror works, art works, carvings, paintings, frescos and murals.
There are many interesting buildings inside the fort complex such as, Diwan-e-Aam (the Hall of Public Audience), Diwan-e-Khas (the Hall of Private Audience), Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace), Jai Mandir, Sukh Niwas, etc. Sukh Niwas is known for artificial cool climate produced by winds that blow over the water cascade within the palace.
The fort complex is divided into four main sections with entry gate and courtyards. Suraj Pol (Sun Gate) is the main entry gate to which leads to Jaleb Chowk, the main courtyard of the Amber Fort. There is a small but terrific temple called the Sila Devi Temple (dedicated to Goddess Sila – an incarnation of Kali or Duga) on the right side of the Jaleb Chowk. A narrow road leads up to the Sun Gate. The best way to reach at Sun Gate is elephant ride.
Today, the Amber Fort in Jaipur has been one of the most sought after attractions of Rajasthan.
Suraj Pole (Sun Gate)
Main entry is through the Suraj Pole (Sun Gate) which leads to Jaleb Chowk, which is the first main courtyard. This was the place where armies would hold victory parades with their war bounty on their return from battles, which were also witnessed by the Royal family women folk through the latticed windows. Royal cavalcades and dignitaries entered the palace through this gate.
Jaleb Chowk is an Arabic usage, which means a place for soldiers to assemble. This is one of the four courtyards of the Amer Palace, which was built during Sawai Jai Singh’s reign (1693–1743 AD). The Maharaja's personal bodyguards held parades here under the command of the army commander or Fauj Bakshi. The Maharaja used to inspect the Guards contingent. At this location, the horse stables were also located where its upper level rooms were occupied by the guards.
An impressive stairway from the Jaleb Chowk leads into the main palace grounds. Here, at the entrance itself to the right of the stairway steps is the Sila Devi temple where the Rajput Maharajas offered worship, starting with Maharaja Mansingh in the 16th century till the 1980s, when the animal sacrifice ritual (sacrifice of a buffalo) practiced by the royalty was stopped .
Ganesh Pol (Ganesh Gate)
Ganesh Pol or the Ganesh Gate, named after the Hindu god Lord Ganesh who removes all obstacles in life, is the entry into the private palaces of the Maharajas. It is a three level structure which has many frescoes and was also built at the orders of the Mirza Raja Jai Singh (1621–1627) and leads to the private quarters of the royal family. Above this gate is the Suhag Mandir where ladies of the royal family used to watch through the latticed windows functions held in the Diwan-i-Am.
Sila Devi temple
On the right side of the Jaleb Chowk there is a small but an elegant temple called the Sila Devi (an incarnation of Kali or Durga) temple. The entrance to the temple is through silver sheet covered double leaf gate with raised relief. The main deity inside the sanctum is flanked by two lions made in silver. The legend attributed to the installation of this deity is that Maharaja Man Singh sought blessings of Kali for victory in the battle against the Raja of Jessore in Bengal.
The second courtyard, up the main stairway of the first level courtyard, houses the Diwan-i-Am or the Public Audience Hall. Built with double row of columns, the Diwan-i-Am is a raised platform with 27 colonnades, each of which is mounted with elephant shaped capital with galleries above it. As the name suggests, the Raja held audience here to hear and receive petitions from the public.
The third courtyard is where the private quarters of the Maharaja, his family and attendants were built. This courtyard is entered through the Ganesh Pol or Ganesh Gate, which is embellished with mosaics and sculptures. The court yard has two buildings, one opposite to the other, separated by a garden laid in the fashion of the Mughal Gardens.
Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace)
The building to the left of the entrance gate is called the Jai Mandir, which is exquisitely beautified with glass inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings. The mirrors are of convex shape and designed with coloured foil and paint which would glitter bright under candle nights at the time it was in use. Also known as Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), the mirror mosaics and coloured glasses were "glittering jewel box in flickering candle light”. However, most of this work was allowed to deteriorate during the period 1970–80 but has since then been subjected to a process of restoration and renovation. Carved marble relief panels are placed on walls around the hall. The other building seen in the court yard is opposite to the Jai Mandir and is known as the Sukh Niwas or Sukh Mahal (Hall of Pleasure). This hall is approached through a sandalwood door with marble inlay work with perforations. A piped water supply flows through an open channel that runs through this edifice keeping the environs cool, as in an air conditioned environment. The water from this channel was led into the garden. The hall provides enchanting vistas of the Maota Lake, which gives a reflected view of the ramparts and terraces of the fort.
A particular attraction here is the “magic flower” fresco carved in marble at the base of one of the pillars around the mirror palace which is identified by two hovering butterflies depiction; the flower has seven unique designs of fish tail, a lotus, a hooded cobra, an elephant trunk, a lion’s tail, a cob of corn and a scorpion, each is viewed by a particular way of partial hiding of the panel with hands.
Palace of Man Singh I
South of this courtyard lies the Palace of Man Singh I, which is the oldest part of the palace fort. The palace took 25 years to build and was completed in 1599 during the reign of Raja Man Singh I (1589–1614).
The garden, located between the Jai Mandir on the east and the Sukh Niwas on the west, both built on high platforms in the third courtyard, was built by Mriza Raja Jai Singh (1623–68). It is patterned on the lines of the Chahar Bagh or Mughal Garden. It is in sunken bed, shaped in a hexagonal design. It is laid out with narrow channels lined with marble around a star shape pool with a fountain at the centre. Water for the garden is led from the Sukh Niwas cascades of water channel and also from the cascade channels called the "chini khana niches" that originate from terrace of the Jai Mandir.
Tripolia gate means three gates. It is an access to the palace from the west. It opens in three directions, one to the Jaleb Chowk, another to the Man Singh Palace and the third one to the Zenana Deorhi on the south.
The Lion gate, the premier gate, was once a guarded gate, leads in to the private quarters in the palace premises and is titled 'Lion Gate' indicative of strength. It was built during the reign of Sawai Jai Singh (1699–1743 AD). It is covered with frescoes and its alignment is zigzag, probably made so from security considerations to attack intruders.
The fourth courtyard is where the Zenana (Royal family women, including concubines or mistresses) lived. This courtyard has many living rooms where the queens resided and who were visited by the king at his choice without being found out as to which queen he was visiting, as all the rooms open into a common corridor.
The queen mothers and the Raja’s consorts lived in this part of the palace in Zanani Deorhi, which also housed their female attendants. The queen mothers took deep interest in building temples in Amer town.
Jas Mandir, a hall of private audience with floral glass inlays and alabaster relief work is also located in this courtyard.
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