Amber Fort, Rajasthan – India (14.09.15)
Of the six UNESCO World Heritage Hill Forts of Rajasthan – indeed, of any of the world’s cultural landmarks – Amber Fort is perhaps the closest to my heart. So much so that my wife and I named our daughter after this most regal of ramparted fortresses.
The other five forts of Rajasthan, Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Sawai Madhopur, Jhalawar and Jaisalmer are majestic in their own right, but the impact of the first glimpse of Amber Fort and Palace is unforgettable. The gigantic 400 year old structure takes your breath away, with its enormous flat amber-coloured rampart walls and towered and turreted ramparts as sturdy as the Great Wall of China itself. Looking down from on high you gaze across to Maota Lake below, just as the Rajput Maharajas themselves did.
Located 11kms from the pink city of Jaipur, Amber is rightly one of the region’s most successful historical landmark locations, attracting up to 5,000 visitors a day during peak periods. Although I lived in India during my childhood, I did not visit Amber until the early 1980s, during my Asian back-packing days. This was still a surprising thirty years before UNESCO finally decided to adopt the Hill Forts of Rajasthan as World Heritage sites.
Standing proud and loud against the bright Rajasthani skyline, the Fort and Palace beckon visitors as if to a fairy-tale world.
At Nomadic Thoughts we highly recommend visitors climb up the hill towards the Main Gate atop one of the ornately coloured elephants – the risk of an aching neck from gazing upwards being worth it, we feel. The journey not only offers welcome relief from the desert sun, but also gives you a fun feeling of great dignity, traditionally afforded only to the most important of visitors over the centuries.
On entering the Main Gate, and dismounting your pyschedelic-coloured elephant, you will see the inner palace unfold in all its splendour. Cut from sandstone and marble, the magnificent Palace structures and exquisite regal courtyards, intricate palace rooms and immaculate gardens continue the ‘wow factor’. The sense of history is evident in every nook and cranny.
Monkeys proliferate, bouncing around the ramparts as if to the manner born, and probably have done ever since Raja Man Singh’s presence in 967, when the original fort was built.
Certainly today’s monkeys’ ancestors will have witnessed an army of expert Rajasthani artisans and craftsmen over the centuries. The beauty of their work is evident today in the ornate and splendid structures of Ganesh Pol, Suhag Mandir, Silva Devi temple, public audience halls, Muha Gardens, Sheesh Mahal, Baradhari Pavilion and the exquisite Man Singh I Palace.
I also strongly suggest returning at night to enjoy the impressive sound and light show. If the inner Palace restaurant is available for a dinner reservation you can enjoy the softly-lit courtyards and plush historical Palace ornaments, with views from the ramparts across the glistening town below.
Without doubt I believe that a visit to Amber Fort and Palace will remain a long standing highlight of anyone’s visit not only to this region in India, but to anywhere in Asia.