Rajput palaces, a monkey temple, and the Pink City
Jaipur Travel Blog› entry 13 of 16 › view all entries
Ate breakfast today in the garden of the guesthouse where
Iâ€™m staying (Madhuban, which is really nice).
It was overcast and balmy, with a welcome coolness in the air. A few other guests quietly ate their toast,
eggs, and cereal at wrought iron tables on the grass, and birds screeched and
chirped in the trees. (Note on the
birds: itâ€™s a very curious thing to hear
and see the parakeets and parrots flying wild in
Anand dropped me off at the carpark beneath Amber, and from there I entered the gate, walked along the narrow path through an ornamental garden, and set off up the winding path up, up, up to the fort. It was still overcast, and drizzling lightly, so I pulled my dupatta (a long shawl worn with an Indian suit, the salwar kameez) over my head and wrapped it very loosely around my throat. This not only made me stand out less (I hoped) and feel like Jackie O., but also kept my head and shoulders dry in the softly pattering rain.
Approaching Amber that way, twisting up the sand-colored walled paths, making way for the elephants (elephants!) lumbering past me (carrying other tourists covered in rain mackintoshes who swayed dramatically backwards and forwards with the motions of the elephantsâ€™ wide strides) was like falling through a rabbit hole into some enchanted fairy tale.
Although empty now of any maharaja or maharani, Amber was well preserved and for me conjured up very strong pictures of what life might have been like for its old occupants. What I especially liked about it was that you could wander freely throughout the palace: up and down twisty, shadowy stone stairwells that deposited you into courtyards, hidden from view. Courtyards inside courtyards, echoing narrow hallways, unfamiliar walkways up and down, nooks and crannies, the latticed rooms of the zenana, the sumptuous rooms of the maharaja, the simple rooms of the less important palace occupants, the odd remnant (a wall painting, a door with beautiful inlaid designs) here and there of decorationâ€¦ The closest thing I can approximate it to is like being inside one of those Escher drawings of endless stairs and arches.
By the time I had finished looking at the palace it was coming up to 11:00 am, and instead of walking back down to the car park immediately I decided to wait a few more minutes to have a look at the tiny temple to the goddess Kali, which is located up a small stone path beside the main entrance to the palace. The temple was closed, but would open again on the dot of 11, and there was already a small crowd of worshippers waiting to get in. Many of them had offerings for Kali, including garlands of bright orange marigolds and boxes of sweets. I hung slightly back, feeling rather obviously out of place, then removed my shoes and stepped in after the initial rush of entrants had subsided.
The temple was very small â€“ just one colonnaded central courtyard the size of a large living room, with a small stone Kali idol at the back, protected by a sort of gate that kept worshippers about an armâ€™s length from her.
When I finally left the fort-palace and began walking back down the stone path to the car park my mind was so full of the images and sensations of my visit that, at least at first, I hardly paid any attention to the growing number of touts that swarmed around me, pressing wares to me and shouting prices in English, Hindi, and Spanish.
After Amber Anand and I picked up a couple of travel buddies whom I had met the previous day (2 girls from Singapore who had also traveled from Agra to Jaipur) and together we drove to one of the strangest places I visited on my trip to India â€“ the Temple of the Sun God at Galta. This temple is also known as The Monkey Temple because of the hordes of Macaque monkeys that live there. This temple complex felt nearly deserted of human beings, perhaps because it was early afternoon on a Wednesday, but it was inhabited by what felt like hundreds and hundreds of the Macaques, who lolled in the fields, perched on the gateways, clambered up the faces of the temples, skittered across the paths, and occasionally burst out into argumentative screams with one another, literally dropping out of the trees around us!
Leaving the car park, we walked up the main path through some fields and then pushed through a rickety gate into the temple complex, where a few temple buildings stood on either side, all covered with brightly painted carvings and Macaques.
Above the first dipping pool we could hear the sounds of people plunging into water, splashing and shouting and laughing, and continuing up we found a second pool of water where a crowd of men and boys were bathing. As the three of us approached their heads swiveled around to stare at us in surprise. It felt like one of those classic Western film scenes where the new cowboy in town walks into the saloon and the music stops mid-note and everyone freezes at his unexpected entrance. What with this and even more large alpha male monkeys lumbering purposefully towards us, I canâ€™t say that I felt particularly at ease. It was with some relief that we scuttled back down the gorge, observed lazily by the monkey population, which revealed itself to be larger and larger as more and more of them crept out of the shadows of the buildings and the trees to sun themselves along the paths and fences.
The rest of the day was spent eating and shopping. We had a huge lunch at a restaurant called
LMB (highly recommend it) â€“ a vegetarian thali:
a feast of a dozen different dishes served on a large silver platter,
finished up with kulfi (similar to Italian semifreddo) and spicy Indian
tea. After that I joined my new
companions in the crowded and colorful, swirling bazaars of
Talk about sensory overload.
By the end of the day my mind was overflowing with the myriad colors,
smells, sounds, and pleasant chaos of Jaipur and its attractions â€“ a place I
would highly recommend to any other travelers to