Fort Amber – the jewel of Rajasthan in India
Fort Amber is a famous palace complex consisting of many castles, temples, gardens and pavilions, the construction of which took almost 2 centuries. The appearance of this structure causes very mixed impressions. On the one hand – unassailable fortress walls; on the other – a real Oriental oasis with marvelous arches, ancient mosaics, mirrors, fountains and a tangled labyrinth of passages, hiding a lot of secrets.
Amber (India) is a majestic structure, perched on a rocky cliff 11 km from Jaipur, the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan. Its story began in 1592 with the construction of a simple defensive bastion to protect the Dhundhar principality from enemy attack. The work on this truly ambitious project was initiated by Raja Man Singh I, but he never got to enjoy the results of his work – the famous commander died long before its completion.
Local sandstone was used for the construction of the fort, which remained the administrative center of the area until the founding of Jaipur. The walls, made of this light yellow rock, almost merged with the surrounding panorama. The effect was so strong that it is almost impossible to see the Amber from a distance. Such a decision was not made by chance – during frequent military attacks it played a huge defensive role.
By the way, because of this material, many guides claim that the name of the palace comes from the English word “amber” – “amber”. But, despite the fact that at the hour before sunset the walls of the fortress really take on an orange hue, this is far from it. The fort is actually named after the Indian goddess Amba, also known as Durga.
Curiously enough, fortified settlements on this site existed as early as 1,000 years before the events I describe. When the main road to Delhi was built past them, strengthening the approaches to the residence of the Dhundhars became a strategically important task. Not only that, but the local rajah feared the troops of the Delhi Sultanate so much that another fortress was built next to Amber, connected to it by numerous underground tunnels. Together with Amber, it forms a formidable defensive structure, the walls of which extend along the mountain hills for nearly 20 kilometers. For its impressive size, the locals often refer to it as the ‘Great Wall of India’, alluding to its resemblance to the famous Chinese landmark.
It was Jai Singh I, the successor to the previous Raja, who completed the work on the fort. It was under him that the Amber Fort in Jaipur became a beautiful palace complex with 4 separate courtyards, the man-made Maota Lake, luxurious mosques and gardens. And even though the bastion began to fall into decay after the entire princely court moved to another city, it continued to be the most important fortification of Rajasthan for many years.
Today, the Amber Palace is part of the Golden Triangle of India and is one of the most visited attractions in the country. In 2013, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Structure and architecture of the palace
Despite its centuries-long history, Fort Amber (Jaipur, India) continues to be the most striking demonstration of the beauty and luxury with which the medieval Indian Rajahs surrounded themselves.
Designed in the best traditions of the Rajput architectural style, which was at its peak at that time, it is notable for its austere forms and perfectly proportioned lines. However, behind the simplicity inherent in the outer walls, there is a wealth of interior decoration and various ornaments inaccessible to the common man.
Inside the fortress there are beautiful balconies, miniature pavilions in the corners of the roofs and canopies, arched columns made of white marble, and barred windows that provide fresh air.
Like other structures built during the Rajput period, the Amber has several characteristic features. While the central part of the complex was occupied by the prasada, the main residential building consisting of several tiers, outbuildings and pavilions, the rest of the citadel is divided into three different parts. The first is the zenana, the women’s rooms with open terraces and mini-parks. The second – the courtyards with private royal chambers, the palace forum and the office. And the third – the service courtyard, which housed stables, warehouses and armory chambers.
The path to the fort begins on the banks of the Maota, a small artificial lake with a picturesque Dalarama garden in its center. After a short distance visitors find themselves in front of Jaya Pol, the central entrance gate. There is another path that leads to it. We are talking about a stone staircase with unusually high steps, which in former times were used by Indian riders.
After passing through the large patio that follows the first gate, tourists find themselves in front of the Suraj Pol or Gate of the Sun. This opens into the Jaleb Chowk, the same farmyard with barracks, barns, cowsheds and other outbuildings. Following it are the Gates of the Moon or Chandra Pol, leading to two sanctuaries, Jagat Shiromani and Narasingha.
Next is Singh Pol or Lion Gate, which leads to the Diwan-i-Amu, a pavilion for business meetings and private audiences, whose vaults are supported by four dozen columns. Some are made of marble, others of orange sandstone. Curiously, the upper part of these pilasters has the shape of elephants with raised trunks. They play the role of a support for the ceiling. The Divan-i-Am ends with a small open verandah framed by a beautiful decorative lattice.
The next gate of the Amber Fort (Rajasthan, India) is the Ganesh Pol, guarding the entrance to a cozy courtyard with the personal apartments of the rajas. In earlier times, only members of the royal family and their servants had access to this part of the palace.
Looking to the right, the marble Sukh Niwas Palace has carved sandalwood and ivory doors. The building of this castle is cooled by water that flows through a channel laid directly in the floor and drains into the char bagah, a small Islamic garden. In close proximity to this site is Jai Niwas, another castle with many amazing objects within its walls.
Among them Yash Mandir (Hall of Fame), Shish Mahal (Mirror Room) and Diwan-i-Khas deserve the most attention. The walls and semi-circular ceilings of the first two are decorated with a huge number of broken mirrors, gilded tiles and pieces of glass. All these elements are arranged in a unique pattern that creates a starry sky effect even with a single lit candle. The second room is decorated with floral ornaments in relief, a border made of semi-precious stones, all kinds of drawings and inlays made of ancient colored mosaic.
The Mirror Room
Practically under the very roof of Jaya Niwas, a special platform was equipped on which court meetings were held when the cold weather came. The last element of Fort Amber is the zenana, an elaborate labyrinth whose rooms were occupied exclusively by women. Staying in this part of the complex, one could not help but feel the presence of the maharani (queens) and kumari (princesses), who led such a quiet and secluded life that they could be discovered only by the silent ringing of their anklets.
The palace’s many galleries and flat roofs, which are also used for promenades, offer beautiful views of ancient citadels, impregnable mountain peaks, defensive towers and the calm waters of Lake Maota stretching somewhere far below.
- Amber Castle, located at Devisinghpura, Amer, Jaipur 302001, India.
- It is open daily from 08:00 to 17:30.
- The cost to visit is about $7, but if you come here in the evening, you will pay only $1.5 for admission.
It should also be noted that as the sun goes down, sound and light shows are organized on the grounds of Amber, during which visitors are introduced to the history of the fort and notable events of Rajasthan. A ticket for an English-language show costs up to $3, while a ticket for a Hindi show is half the price. The event lasts about an hour.
A side note! Those who are going to spend at least a week in Jaipur, we advise you to buy a comprehensive ticket that allows you to visit not only this fortress, but also three other palace complexes, an ancient observatory Jantar Mantar and the cultural-historical museum Albert Hall.
When visiting Fort Amber take note of a few important tips:
- If you’re going up to the complex on an elephant, we recommend arriving right before it opens. Lines for elephants can be extremely long, and with only a limited number of elephants available, there isn’t enough room for everyone. Each animal is only allowed to make 4 trips, and then they are sent to rest until the next day.
- You can also get to the fort by car, but because of the one-way traffic there is a high probability not to miss a cow on the way. Of course you can still get to the main attraction of Rajasthan, but it may take a little longer than you thought.
- It is customary to tip everyone in India, from waiters to doormen to maids. Fort workers – snake charmers, photographers, chasers, etc. – will also expect a small gratuity. The latter receive 100 rupees per animal.
- At the entrance to the fort you will probably be offered to buy some souvenir (usually one or more elephants). Don’t be too quick to accept – the same item will cost much less on the way out.
- In general, you should be careful with street vendors in Amber. If you don’t plan to buy anything, make yourself as detached as possible and try not to even look at them. Once you start a conversation with one of them, others will join him. This company will accompany you to the landing on the elephant, and if you do agree to buy something, even get under his feet.
- Don’t forget to take a light snack and water with you. It will take you at least 4 hours to explore the entire area, and the temperature in India rarely drops below +30°C.
- Another feature of the fort are the local photographers. They click tourists throughout the climb, and then offer to buy these pictures for $8-9 (there are 15 pieces in the album, but it’s better to count them). But don’t grab the first offer you see. First, look for photos taken from the highest points (they have very nice views), and then a good bargain.
- Other tourists will be a free alternative to local photographers. Negotiate with those riding ahead of and behind you, and then exchange photos via email.
- Walking around Fort Amber in India is better with a professional guide. There are so many loopholes, rooms, and corridors, you’re sure to miss something without one.
- When you come to Jaipur in December and January, be prepared for a gray haze in all of your morning photos. This is nothing but fog mixed with smog. They are caused by severe differences in daytime and nighttime temperatures.
Trip to Fort Amber by car:
Author: Olga Sheiko
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The Amber Fort and other forts of Jaipur
We decided to take the whole day to see the forts around Jaipur. We visited the famous Amber Fort, followed a secret corridor to Jaigarh Fort and then crossed the hill to Nahargarh Fort. From there we went straight down to Jaipur.
It’s very easy to get from Jaipur to Amber Fort. You could, of course, take a cab or rickshaw, but you could also take a shuttle bus.
The bus to Amber Fort leaves from the Wind Palace Plaza in Jaipur. It’s route 29. The buses run quite frequently and cost 10 rupees. The journey from Jaipur takes about
20 minutes. The bus passes on the road at the foot of the hill on which the Fort Amber. And you still have to go up to it.
Amber Fortress, or Amber Fort, was built in the 16th century for Raja Man Singh I. The fort is situated on a hilltop about 11 km from Jaipur. It is surrounded on almost all sides by a strong wall, which extends for many kilometers. The terrain around is hilly and covered with quite dense vegetation, which was an added plus in the defense.
There are three ways to get to Fort Amber: on foot, by jeep, and by elephant. The last two are quite costly.
It takes 10-15 minutes to walk from the road to the fort gate. You can enter the courtyard without a ticket, but to wander around the entire fort requires a ticket, for foreigners costs 200 rupees or you can enter on the composit ticket.
Fort Amber is divided into four main parts, each with its own entrance and courtyard. The main entrance is in the eastern part of the fortress, for which it was called the “Gate of the Sun. It was intended for the ruler and the nobility. The entrance led to the courtyard where the rajah held a review of his personal guards. There was also a place for the horses and the rooms of the bodyguards were on the floor above. From this courtyard one can get to the Sila Devi temple which was used to offer sacrifices to the goddess Kali until 1980. You can enter the temple, but you have to leave ALL your belongings and even take off your shoes. There is a specially trained person near the entrance who will hold your camera, not for free of course. The temple is nothing sensible of itself, we went one by one, as we did not want to leave things to some Hindu without identification, without a receipt, etc.. Better to admire the view of the surroundings from the walls of the fort.
There are many interior rooms in the fort and it would take at least 1-2 hours to visit them all. They are all connected by intricate corridors, staircases and passages. The second courtyard is a large hall with a double row of columns. It was intended for assemblies in which people could make requests or petitions to the raja.
There were many balconies overlooking the surrounding hills with the fort walls, the pond in front of Amber Fort, Jaigarh Fort and the line of elephants with tourists going to the fort.
A third part of the fort has been set aside for the king’s chambers, which can be accessed through the “Ganesha Gate”. This place is the most replete with all sorts of curiosities that attract tourists. There is the Hall of a Thousand Mirrors, the “magic flower” and many other sights. According to legend the Hall of a Thousand Mirrors can be lit with just one candle because its walls are covered with small mirrors.
Fort Amber has a tunnel that can be used to leave the fort in case of a siege. The underground passages are said to lead all the way to Jaipur, but they are closed and only one passage to Jaigarh Fort is open. It was by this passage that we left Amber Fort and proceeded towards Jaigarh Fort.
Jaigarh Fort is much smaller and more modest than Amber Fort and you need a separate ticket to visit it, the cost is 85 rupees and 50 rupees for a camera (but no one controls it).
The fort is also home to the world’s largest cannon on wheels, at least that’s what the sign next to it says.
Nature lovers will enjoy the fort as it has lots of wild monkeys, chipmunks, and parrots.
After Jaigarh Fort you can go down and leave for Jaipur, but that was not our case. We walked to Nahargarh Fort. It’s only 5km away, the road goes along the ridge with beautiful views of the surroundings. On the way we tried to pick up tuk-tuks, but not very much. But we have seen more than once wild peacocks, and once flashed an animal the size of a small fox, but gray with a dark tail.
And here we are at Nahargar Fort. The fort almost overhangs Jaipur, so there is a great view of the city from its fort walls, and at one point there is even a large sand dune. There are also macaws, and other forts had langurs. You can read more about Nahargar Fort here.
From the fort the road goes down in a serpentine direction to the town. It’s not so easy to walk down the road, but it’s not so easy to climb up.
If you are going to visit the forts in the morning don’t forget to take a windbreaker, it is not Mumbai.