Thursday, November 23, 2017

Hawa Mahal.


Original Post Date: June 17, 2017.

Today we finally made it to Hawa Mahal! I have seen so many images of this incredible structure that I am still pinching myself recalling the fact that I actually made it here.

Our day began with breakfast at 9a at the home of the Patels.  Poor Chantale, I don't think she slept a wink last night - she was pretty much up all night dealing with the issues with her Dad and daughter.  Surprisingly, I slept right through it all.  I think I was exhausted from trudging around yesterday in the extreme summer heat of Jaipur.  It's not joke.  It's brutally, uncomfortably hot here.  Next summer time trip to India will have to be some place cooler....which I think is pretty much any other part of the country other than here.

I decided to record our morning *trek* to the Patels, using it as an excuse to also share a bit of what our Airbnb apartment is like.  With the exception of there not being any airconditioning in the front room, I am loving this place.  I am going to mention that in my feedback in case anyone else is interested in staying here in the summer.


Breakfast was a simple affair of scrambled eggs served with chutney and toast with jam and butter.  There was also a large bowl of cut up mango pieces. We had tea to wash our meal down.  Chantale has already fallen in love with the mangoes here and I think she left her heart somewhere in her cup of masala chai.  I'm not much of a fan of mangoes but I have to admit, the ones here are delicious - very fragrant and not at all fibrous.  I don't masala chai.  I like my tea black with a hint of sugar.



The meal was simple but filled the belly.  The best part of breakfast though was our conversation with the lovely Manisha Patel.  Through her words, we got to know her and her family a bit better.  She is making our stay here all that much more enjoyable and I am already looking forward to breakfast tomorrow morning.

After breakfast, we headed back to the apartment where we quickly got ready for the rest of our day.  I suspect it will be another short day as jet lag and heat exhaustion will send us home early.

Back on the main road, we flagged down and made our way to Hawa Mahal.  We're getting good at this tuk-tuk thing.

The driver dropped us off right in front of the palace but it was not obvious to us where the entrance was.  Might as well take a few photos while we have the chance.  The architectural details on the facade are incredible!  I was dying to see what was on the other side as I knew what I was looking at was effectively just a *screen* of sorts.



I also took note of the places across the street.  Those were the cafes offering the more *eye level* view of the palace.  Perhaps, if there are no pesky vendors around today, we'll sneak our way up to one of them.


We eventually found a sign that seemed to point us to a very odd looking entrance, that led to a courtyard.   From there, the signs to an entrance disappeared so I instinctively walked towards what I thought would be the center of the palace.  Usually, the gate is in the center.  Then I saw the entrance sign.

The ticket window was closed.  Standing nearby was a young Indian woman dressed in a bright orange kurta.  She too was waiting to buy a ticket.  As Chantale walked off to take photos, the young woman and I got to talking.  Her English was not all that great so I'm certain some words got lost in translation but I was able to make out a bit of what she was saying.  To start, her name is Simpy.  I had to ask her twice to make sure I got her name correct.  I couldn't quite get what she does for a living or was she going to school and working part time?  In any case, I did understand it was her day off and she took the train to Jaipur to spend the day here.  She was traveling by herself so I asked if she wanted to walk around with Chantale and I.  She softly replied that she would.


Once the ticket office opened, Chantale got our tickets.  I've assigned her the role of banker on this part of our trip.  Simpy got hers and we all walked off together.  We started on the ground floor and made our way up.  Here are the photos I took.







At one point, I saw this incredible view of the street below, the one that we had arrived at.  I could see to the cafes across the street and most amazingly, just how thin the front facade is.   Even though the palace is not very tall,  I think people who are afraid of heights would get heart palpitations.  There's not much protecting you from falling over.




I have to admit, Indian palace courtyards are not as I imagined them to be.  I imagined lush courtyards filled with trees, flowers and fountains.  They are exactly the opposite at least in Jaipur.  Okay, there is a fountain here but nothing else.  Maybe the hot weather is a factor.  I don't know.




There were these little nook areas where there were windows.   I imagined this is where the women would sit to peer down to the street below.  Not a bad view but most certainly not as nice as if you were just looking over one of the ledges.  In a way, it's sad that women had to be shielded away from the public like this.




As we made our way around the floors in Hawa Mahal, Simpy began to relax around us.  Soon, the smiles appeared on her face.


She really is a very sweet, young woman.  I'm glad we happened upon her.



Viewing nooks were connecting by VERY narrow passageways.   When I first encountered one, I had a few second debate on whether or not I could pass through.  Yes, I have put on some weight over the years but I'm really not THAT big.


A woman approached towards me and we shared a good chuckle as she debated whether or not she could pass through.  She kindly paused part way for me to take a photo.  You can see just how narrow the passageway really is!


Simpy and I had been walking around together.  I lost track of Chantale pretty much when we were on the ground floor.  I would occasionally catch sight of her and at least know I had not completely lost her.  At one point, I found her posing for yet another selfie.


As she poses for selfies with strangers, so they must pose for a photo taken by her.  I'm learning quickly that she loves to take people photos so a selfie is a small price to pay.  Here, she has a family portrait.




Then, I happened upon this couple.  They were just sitting and chatting with each other.  With hand gestures, the man indicated he wanted me to take a photo with him and the woman whom I presumed was his wife.  Taking photos of people is not my strong suit but I have to admit, I did a pretty good job here considering I only took one shot!  Before walking on, I showed him the one and only photo I took of them.  He smiled, nodded and gave me a thumbs up.  I left with a smile on my face, happy that he was happy!


Simpy and I continued our walkthrough.  Every now and again, I would catch sight of a small statured Chinese woman, in a white shirt, with a blue scarf wrapped around her neck, positioned to take a photo or two or three or a dozen.

When look up at the facade of Hawa Mahal at street level, I had seen several windows with stain glass panels. I was surprise to see the panels.  I wonder if they are original to the building.





Once we finished our time on the 4th floor, Simpy and I back tracked down the ramps to the ground level.


There, we had another view of the magnificent facade.  I had thought the entire structure was of red sandstone but its only the center portion.


The path down led us straight to an inner courtyard that was surrounded by wings of the building.  Chantale caught up with us.


I decided to give the HP Sprocket another try to take a photo of Simpy with the palace in the background.  Unfortunately, the sun was so bright that I had real difficulty seeing the screen on my Samsung Galaxy smartphone to use the app to take a photo.  Add to that the fact that my water bottle had leaked into my back destroying the photo sheets so all in all, this was another epic fail. I told Simpy I would email her the photos that I had taken of her.

Here's the photo I took of Simpy using the Sprocket.  It turned out okay considering I was using my Samsung to take it.  Too bad I didn't have any photo sheet to print it on.


After the photo fiasco, the three of us made our way around the ground level.

In one of the covered corridors, a puppet show was taken place.  Pretty much the same thing as what we had seen at Amber Fort yesterday.





By now, we felt like we were done.  With no map to guide us around, we really had no clue what there was to see inside Hawa Mahal.  When we spotted the exit sign, we followed it.  That took us to yet another courtyard, this one much smaller.


All around the courtyard are the exhibit rooms for the palace.  I particularly liked the small stone sculptures.


Each was properly described so you at least had an idea of what you are looking at, albeit perhaps a description that you really don't fully understand.  The one below is described as "Kartikeya with consort, sitting on a peacock in Sukhasana posture, holding lotus flower in right hand.  There is depiction of attendants wearing garlands in the upper part and a Tanpoora player with matted hair crown on the left side.  (18th century AD Amber)"


The piece below was labeled "Music and Dance Panel" and is described as follows:
"Depiction of musicians and dancers in eight niche of panel, with foliage, as follow:  1.  Pakhawaj player, Dancner, Mridangum player.  2.  Dhol player, Dancer, Flute player.  3.  Singer, Dancer, Harp player.  4.  Tambourine player, Dance, Mridangum player.  5.  Mridangum player, Dancer, Jhanjh vadini.  6. Tambourine player, Dancer, Mridangum player.  7.  A shaivoit conversing with another saint holding book.  8  A shaovoit eating something with a lady serving him with fan.  (10th Century AD Harshnath, Sikar).  
 I may not understand the description but I can fully appreciate the fact that this piece of artwork is more than 1000 years old and its intricate carving is incredibly beautiful!


My last view of Hawa Mahal, before exiting back out to the exterior courtyard was this stunning door.  They sure know how to do beautiful doors in Jaipur!


Having seen two palaces, Chantale was ready to hit the streets.  Manisha had drawn out a rough street map of several places near Hawa Mahal that she thought would be worth our visiting.  Chantale had mentioned she was interested in picking up some jewelry as a gift for the woman that we will be staying with in Kathmandu.  The woman is a close friend of Chantale's so she wanted to get a nice gift.  Manisha was suggesting we go to Johri Bazaar as that's the place you go if you want jewelry.  She also put down a restaurant in case we needed to a place to go for lunch.

With the potential of taking a lot of interesting street photos in addition to picking up jewelry, we decided to head to Johri Bazaar.  Simpy continued with us as well.  Even though it's a bit of a challenging communicating with each other, she seems to be enjoying her time with us and most certainly, we're enjoying our time with her.

Checking the map.  I think we want to go here.
On to Johri Bazaar!