"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The India Journals, Ch. 30, Turbans and Elephants and Amber Fort

Ch. 30, Amber Fort

Go! Go to Naples! Eat more pizza! Go to India, ride an elephant! Do it! Swim in the Indian Ocean. Read those books. Learn a language.—Elizabeth Gilbert

Today is the day we wear the turbans given to us by our guide Dinesh.   We are off to the Amber Fort, pronounced AM-ER, with the B silent.   On the other hand, Amber with the B is acceptable also.  

 We drive through the streets of Jaipur, watching as men and women prepare for the day.

We first see the fort from across Maoto Lake.   The coach drops us off and we join a long line of people waiting their turn to climb aboard an elephant for a ride to the palace gate.  I say “palace” because this is exactly what Amber Fort is—a fortified palace.

The elephants wait their turn for their passengers.   Animal rights activists successfully reduced the number of passengers to two instead of four, and the elephants are allowed to make only five trips a day.   Most have finished their allotted trips by 11 A.M., so they do not work in the heat of the day.   And, the elephants are allowed to walk at their own pace.

By the time the elephants have headed for home, the path up to the palace is well-littered with dung.

My Rajasthan turban makes me look like a washerwoman.  

This is the most uncomfortable ride ever and the reason is the way we're sitting.   As the elephant moves, we are thrown forward and back and it is natural for the body to fight this.   We sat on “chairs” astride elephants in Africa, so our movement was side to side, a more natural way to move.

I think about this for a while, remembering pictures of Indian maharajas sitting cross-legged on platforms on the elephants and wonder why we could not do that here.   Then I realize that many Indians, men and women both wear skirt-like garments which would make that impossible.

So, we lurch forward and backward up the long switchbacks to the palace, those movements making photos-in-focus almost impossible.   Even trying to go-with-the-flow doesn’t help much.  It’s a kick, nonetheless.

And look at that fort up on the mountain top!   There is an underground tunnel leading up there, an escape route for the royal family.

Jaipur, the largest city in the state of Rajasthan, is known as the pink city because in 1875 the Maharaja painted the entire city that color, a color traditionally associated with hospitalily, prior to a visit by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.   Even today the old city is pink—the residents compelled by law to maintain their buildings with pink paint.

Amber Fort takes its name not from its color, but from the town of Amer.  The fort is built of yellow and pink sandstone, and white marble.   It is a combination of Hindi and Muslim architecture and was built in 1592.

Once inside the Suraj Pol (Sun Gate), we are in the Jaleb Chowk (Main Courtyard).   This is where returning armies showed off their war booty, while the women of the palace watched through veiled windows, keeping their faces hidden as was the custom.

And then Dinesh turns us loose to explore.   


I wander into an open-air columned room and start to take a photo of the rows of columns.   Just as I push the shutter, a woman intentionally steps into the photo.  Oh, well, I think, and walk to the edge of the room and photograph the scene below me.

The woman sidles over.   She looks around, obviously making sure no one is watching, and indicates she will pose for photos for money.    She seems to be an employee as she has a broom in her hand.   I agree, not because I want a photo of her, but because she is being sneaky and raising money, probably illegally or against her employment terms.

The photo bomber.

And then I explored some more:

I love this photo!

Fires were built under this to heat water.


  1. Especially loved the picture of Princess Jeanne waving from the castle (fort) balcony!! Nice to tap into your post from Hong Kong!! Love and hugs. Patti and Cap, both in HK.

  2. Fascinating. It still amazes me that people could design and build structures like this over 400 years ago.

  3. Absolutely beautiful....and way more walking than my feet would take.

  4. Back in Chapter 27 in my comment(s) I mentioned my surprise that you did not know of India's many MANY forts. So this visit to another fort pleased me on your behalf. Have you ridden camels? They are a trip let me tell you .. when they kneel down especially. Happy with your elephant ride. I remain very impressed with your tour and the management team that put it together. You have really seen some of India down and dirty and elegant and magnificent. Jaipur and Jodhpur .. forts in each .. I have been to both and hardly snapped one single photo. Don't know why. I see this post and think of the labor .. human labor .. that was required to built this and the other edifices in India. What a trip .. Smiles .. Cap and Patti .. together here in Hong Kong ..

  5. I'm overwhelmed just looking at your photos. Being there would be an overload experience for sure.

    You have some priceless photos of your time in India. What fun you will have looking back on them in years to come.