Amer Fort

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Amer Palace (authentic name, corrupted version is Amer Fort )
Part of Jaipur
Amer, Rajasthan, India
Front view of Amer Fort from the road
Front view of the Palace with serpentine staircase viewing from the road.
Amer Palace  (authentic name, corrupted version is Amer Fort ) is located in Rajasthan
Amer Palace  (authentic name, corrupted version is Amer Fort )
Amer Palace (authentic name, corrupted version is Amer Fort )
Coordinates 26°59′09″N 75°51′03″E / 26.9859°N 75.8507°E / 26.9859; 75.8507
Type Fort and Palace
Site information
Controlled by Government of Rajasthan
Open to
the public
Yes
Condition Good
Site history
Built 1592[citation needed]
Built by Raja Man Singh
Materials Red sandstone and marble

Amer Palace (Hindi: आमेर क़िला, also spelled and pronounced as Amber) is located in Amer, a town with an area of 4 square kilometres (1.5 sq mi)[1]located 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) from Jaipur, Rajasthan state, India. Located high on a hill, it is the principal tourist attractions in the Jaipur area.[2][3] The town of Amer was originally built by Meenas, and later it was ruled by Raja Man Singh.

Amer Fort is known for its artistic Hindu style elements. With its large ramparts and series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks Maota Lake.[3][4][5][6][7]

The aesthetic ambiance of the palace is seen within its walls. Constructed of red sandstone and marble, the attractive, opulent palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. It consists of the Diwan-e-Aam, or "Hall of Public Audience", the Diwan-e-Khas, or "Hall of Private Audience", the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace. Hence, the Amer Fort is also popularly known as the Amer Palace.[4] The palace was the residence of the Rajput Maharajas and their families. At the entrance to the palace near the fort's Ganesh Gate, there is a temple dedicated to Sila Devi, a goddess of the Chaitanya cult, which was given to Raja Man Singh when he defeated the Raja of Jessore, Bengal in 1604. (Jessore is now in Bangladesh).[3][8][9]

This palace, along with Jaigarh Fort, is located immediately above on the Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles) of the same Aravalli range of hills. The palace and Jaigarh Fort are considered one complex, as the two are connected by a subterranean passage. This passage was meant as an escape route in times of war to enable the royal family members and others in the Amer Fort to shift to the more redoubtable Jaigarh Fort.[4][7][10][11]

Annual tourist visitation to the Amer Palace was reported by the Superintendent of the Department of Archaeology and Museums as 5000 visitors a day, with 1.4 million visitors during 2007.[1]

Etymology[edit]

Amber, or Amer, is derived from Amba, the Mother Goddess who was the protector of the world.

Amer Fort, Jaipur, c. 1858

Geography[edit]

Maota Lake and Garden
Elephant rides are taken through the narrow Sun Gate at Amer Fort Jaipur.

Amer palace is situated on a forested hill promontory that juts into Maota Lake near the town ofo Amer, about 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) from Jaipur city, the capital of Rajasthan. The palace is near National Highway 11C to Delhi.[6] A narrow 4WD road leads up to the entrance gate, known as the Suraj Pol (Sun Gate) of the fort. Elephant rides are taken through the narrow Sun Gate.[4]

History[edit]

A view of the fort at Amber in Rajasthan; a watercolor by William Simpson, c.1860

Earlier to the Kachwahas, Amer was a small place built by Meenas in the town they consecrated to Amba, the Mother Goddess, whom they knew as `Gatta Rani' or `Queen of the Pass'.[6] Amer Fort, as it stands now, was built over the remnants of this earlier structure during the reign of Raja Man Singh, the Kachwaha King of Amber.[6][12] The structure was fully expanded by his descendant, Jai Singh I. Even later, Amer Fort underwent improvements and additions by successive rulers over the next 150 years, until the Kachwahas shifted their capital to Jaipur during the time of Sawai Jai Singh II, in 1727.[1][6][7]

Take over of Amber Fort by Kachwahas According to Todthis region was known as Khogong. The Meena King Raja Ralun Singh also known as Alan Singh Chanda of Khogong kind-heartedly adopted a stranded Rajput mother and her child who sought refuge in his realm. Later, the Meena king sent the child, Dhola Rae, to Delhi to represent the Meena kingdom. The Rajput, in gratitude for these favours, returned with Rajput conspirers and massacred the weaponless Meenas on Diwali while performings rituals i.e. Pitra Trapan, it is customery in the Meenas to be weaponless at the time of PitraTrapan, "filling the reservoirs in which the Meenas bathed with their dead bodies" [Tod.II.281] and thus conquered Khogong.This act of Kachwaha Rajputs was termed as most coward and shameful in history of Rajasthan.

The first Rajput structure was started by Raja Kakil Dev when Amber became his capital in 1036 on the site of present day Jaigarh Fort of Rajasthan. Much of Amber's current buildings were started or expanded during the reign of Raja Man Singh I in the 1600s. Among the chief building is the Diwan-i-Khas in Amber Palace of Rajasthan and the elaborately paited Ganesh Poll built by the Mirza Raja Jai Singh I.

The current Amer Palace, was created in the late 16th century, as a larger palace to the already existing home of the rulers. The older palace, known as Kadimi Mahal ( persian for ancient) is known to be the oldest surviving palace in India. This ancient palace sits in the valley behind the Amer Palace. Amer was known in the medieval period as Dhundar (meaning attributed to a sacrificial mount in the western frontiers) and ruled by the Kachwahas from the 11th century onwards – between 1037 and 1727 AD, till the capital was moved from Amer to Jaipur.[4] The history of Amer is indelibly linked to these rulers as they founded their empire at Amer.[13]

Earlier to the Kachwahas, Amer was a small place built by [Meenas] in the town they consecrated to Amba, the Mother Goddess, whom they knew as `Gatta Rani' or `Queen of the Pass'.[6] The Amer Fort, as it stands now, was built over the remnants of this earlier structure during the reign of Raja Man Singh, the Kacchwaha King of Amber.[6][12] The structure was fully expanded by his descendant, Jai Singh I. Even later, Amer Fort underwent improvements and additions by successive rulers over the next 150 years, until the Kachwahas shifted their capital to Jaipur during the time of Sawai Jai Singh II, in 1727.[1][6][7]

Many of the ancient structures of the medieval period of the Meenas have been either destroyed or replaced. However, the 16th century impressive edifice of the Amer Fort and the palace complex within it built by the Rajput Maharajas are very well preserved.[6][7]

Layout[edit]

Amber fort in 1900
View of the Amer fort
Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace)

The Palace is divided into four main sections each with its own entry gate and courtyard. Main entry is through the Suraj Pole (Sun Gate) which leads to Jaleb Chowk, the first main courtyard. This was the place where armies would hold victory parades with their war bounty on their return from battles, which were also witnessed by the Royal family's women folk through the latticed windows.[14] This gate was built exclusively[clarification needed] and was provided with guards as it was the main entry into the palace. It faced east towards the rising sun, hence the name "Sun Gate". Royal cavalcades and dignitaries entered the palace through this gate.[15]

Jaleb Chowk is an Arabic phrase meaning a place for soldiers to assemble. This is one of the four courtyards of Amer Palace, which was built during Sawai Jai Singh’s reign (1693–1743 AD). The Maharaja's personal bodyguards held parades here under the command of the army commander or Fauj Bakshi. The Maharaja used to inspect the guards contingent. Adjacent to the courtyard were the horse stables, with the upper level rooms occupied by the guards.[16]

First courtyard[edit]

Left: Latticed screens above Ganesh Pol. Right: View of Ganesh Pol.
Ganesh Pol Entrance

An impressive stairway from Jaleb Chowk leads into the main palace grounds. Here, at the entrance to the right of the stairway steps is the Sila Devi temple where the Rajput Maharajas worshipped, starting with Maharaja Mansingh in the 16th century until the 1980s, when the animal sacrifice ritual (sacrifice of a buffalo) practiced by the royalty was stopped.[14]

Ganesh Pol, or the Ganesh Gate, named after the Hindu god Lord Ganesh, who removes all obstacles in life, is the entry into the private palaces of the Maharajas. It is a three-level structure with many frescoes that was also built at the orders of the Mirza Raja Jai Singh (1621–1627). Above this gate is the Suhag Mandir where ladies of the royal family used to watch functions held in the Diwan-i-Am through latticed windows.[16]

Sila Devi temple
Embossed double leaf silver door entry in to the Sila Devi temple

On the right side of the Jaleb Chowk there is a small but an elegant temple called the Sila Devi temple (Sila Devi was an incarnation of Kali or Durga). The entrance to the temple is through a double door covered in silver with a raised relief. The main deity inside the sanctum is flanked by two lions made of silver. The legend attributed to the installation of this deity is that Maharaja Man Singh sought blessings from Kali for victory in the battle against the Raja of Jessore in Bengal. The goddess instructed the Raja, in a dream, to retrieve her image from the sea bed and install and worship it. The Raja, after he won the battle of Bengal in 1604, retrieved the idol from the sea and installed it in the temple and called it Sila Devi as it was carved out of one single stone slab. At the entrance to the temple, there is also a carving of Lord Ganesha, which is made out of a single piece of coral.[14]

Another version of the Sila Devi installation is that Raja Man Singh, after defeating the Raja of Jessore, received a gift of a black stone slab which was said to have a link to the Mahabharata epic story in which Kansa had killed older siblings of Lord Krishna on this stone. In exchange for this gift, Man Singh returned the kingdom he had won to the Raja of Bengal. This stone was then used to carve the image of Durga Mahishasuramardini, who had slain the demon king Mahishasura, and installed it in the fort's temple as Sila Devi. The Sila Devi was worshiped from then onwards as the lineage deity of the Rajput family of Jaipur. However, their family deity continued to be Jamva Mata of Ramgarh.[9]

Another practice that is associated with this temple is the religious rites of animal sacrifice during the festival days of Navrathri (a nine-day festival celebrated twice a year). The practice was to sacrifice a buffalo and also goats on the eighth day of the festival in front of the temple, which would be done in the presence of the royal family, watched by a large gathering of devotees. This practice was banned under law from 1975, after which the sacrifice was held within the palace grounds in Jaipur, strictly as a private event with only the close kin of the royal family watching the event. However, now the practice of animal sacrifice has been totally stopped at the temple premises and offerings made to the goddess are only of the vegetarian type.[9]

Second courtyard[edit]

The second courtyard, up the main stairway of the first level courtyard, houses the Diwan-i-Am or the Public Audience Hall. Built with a double row of columns, the Diwan-i-Am is a raised platform with 27 colonnades, each of which is mounted with an elephant-shaped capital, with galleries above it. As the name suggests, the Raja held audience here to hear and receive petitions from the public.[4][14]

Third courtyard[edit]

Left: Mirrored ceiling in the Mirror Palace. Right: Sheesh Mahal Interior.

The third courtyard is where the private quarters of the Maharaja, his family and attendants were located. This courtyard is entered through the Ganesh Pol or Ganesh Gate, which is embellished with mosaics and sculptures. The courtyard has two buildings, one opposite to the other, separated by a garden laid in the fashion of the Mughal Gardens. The building to the left of the entrance gate is called the Jai Mandir, which is exquisitely embellished with glass inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings. The mirrors are of convex shape and designed with coloured foil and paint which would glitter bright under candlelight at the time it was in use. Also known as Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), the mirror mosaics and coloured glasses were a "glittering jewel box in flickering candle light".[4] However, most of this work was allowed to deteriorate during the period 1970–80 but has since then been in the process of restoration and renovation. The walls around the hall hold carved marble relief panels. The hall provides enchanting vistas of the Maota Lake.[14]

The other building seen in the courtyard is opposite to the Jai Mandir and is known as the Sukh Niwas or Sukh Mahal (Hall of Pleasure). This hall is approached through a sandalwood door with marble inlay work with perforations. A piped water supply flows through an open channel that runs through this edifice keeping the environs cool, as in an air-conditioned environment. The water from this channel flows into the garden.

Magic flower

A particular attraction here is the "magic flower" fresco carved in marble at the base of one of the pillars around the mirror palace depicting two hovering butterflies; the flower has seven unique designs including a fish tail, lotus, hooded cobra, elephant trunk, lion’s tail, cob of corn, and scorpion, each one of which is visible by a special way of partially hiding the panel with the hands.[4]

Palace of Man Singh I
Left: The magic flower fresco. Right: Baradhari pavilion at Man Singh I Palace Square.

South of this courtyard lies the Palace of Man Singh I, which is the oldest part of the palace fort.[4] The palace took 25 years to build and was completed in 1599 during the reign of Raja Man Singh I (1589–1614). It is the main palace. In the central courtyard of the palace is the pillared baradari or pavilion; frescoes and coloured tiles decorate the rooms on the ground and upper floors. This pavilion (which used to be curtained for privacy) was used as the meeting venue by the maharanis (queens of the royal family). All sides of this pavilion are connected to several small rooms with open balconies. The exit from this palace leads to the town of Amer, a heritage town with many temples, palatial houses and mosques.[3][17]

Garden

The garden, located between the Jai Mandir on the east and the Sukh Niwas on the west, both built on high platforms in the third courtyard, was built by Mirza Raja Jai Singh (1623–68). It is patterned on the lines of the Chahar Bagh or Mughal Garden. It is in sunken bed, shaped in a hexagonal design. It is laid out with narrow channels lined with marble around a star-shaped pool with a fountain at the centre. Water for the garden flows in cascades through channels from the Sukh Niwas and also from the cascade channels called the "chini khana niches" that originate on the terrace of the Jai Mandir.[11]

Tripolia gate

Tripolia gate means three gates. It is an access to the palace from the west. It opens in three directions, one to the Jaleb Chowk, another to the Man Singh Palace and the third one to the Zenana Deorhi on the south.[18]

Lion gate

The Lion gate, the premier gate, was once a guarded gate; it leads to the private quarters in the palace premises and is titled 'Lion Gate' to suggest strength. Built during the reign of Sawai Jai Singh (1699–1743 AD), it is covered with frescoes; its alignment is zigzag, probably made so from security considerations to attack intruders.[19]

Fourth courtyard[edit]

The fourth courtyard is where the Zenana (Royal family women, including concubines or mistresses) lived. This courtyard has many living rooms where the queens resided and who were visited by the king at his choice without being found out as to which queen he was visiting, as all the rooms open into a common corridor.[14]

The queen mothers and the Raja's consorts lived in this part of the palace in Zanani Deorhi, which also housed their female attendants. The queen mothers took a deep interest in building temples in Amer town.[20]

Jas Mandir, a hall of private audience with floral glass inlays and alabaster relief work, is also located in this courtyard.[4]

Conservation[edit]

The town of Amer, which is an integral and inevitable entry point to Amer Palace, is now a heritage town with its economy dependent on the large influx of tourists (4,000 to 5,000 a day during peak tourist season). This town is spread over an area of 4 square kilometres (1.5 sq mi) and has eighteen temples, three Jain mandirs, and three mosques. It has been listed by the World Monument Fund (WMF) as one of the 100 endangered sites in the world; funds for conservation are provided by the Roberts Willson Challenge Grant.[1] As of 2005, some 87 elephants lived within the fort grounds, but several were said to be suffering from malnutrition.[21]

Conservation works have been undertaken at the Amer Palace grounds at a cost of Rs 40 crores (US$8.88 million) by the Amer Development and Management Authority (ADMA). However, these renovation works have been a subject of intense debate and criticism with respect to their suitability to maintain and retain the historicity and architectural features of the ancient structures. Another issue which has been raised is the commercialization of the place.[22]

A film unit shooting a film at the Amer Fort damaged a 500-year-old canopy, demolished the old limestone roof of Chand Mahal, drilled holes to fix sets and spread large quantities of sand in Jaleb Chowk in utter disregard and violation of the Rajasthan Monuments, Archaeological Sites and Antique Act (1961).[23]

The Jaipur Bench of the Rajasthan High Court intervened and stopped the film shooting with the observation that "unfortunately, not only the public but especially the concerned (sic) authorities have become blind, deaf and dumb by the glitter of money. Such historical protected monuments have become a source of income."[23]

Concerns of elephant abuse[edit]

Several groups have raised concerns regarding the abuse of elephants and their trafficking and have highlighted what some consider the inhumane practice of riding elephants up to the Amber palace complex.[24] The organization PETA as well as the central zoo authority have taken up this serious issue. The Haathi gaon (elephant village) is said to be in violation of captive animal controls, and a PETA team found elephants chained with painful spikes, blind, sick and injured elephants forced to work, and elephants with mutilated tusks and ears.[25]


A Panoramic view of Amer Fort
Bright morning vista of Amer Fort from across the road
Panorama of Amer Fort at dusk

Gallery[edit]

Amer Fort

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Outlook Publishing (1 December 2008). Outlook. Outlook Publishing. pp. 39–. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  2. ^ Mancini, Marc (1 February 2009). Selling Destinations: Geography for the Travel Professional. Cengage Learning. p. 539. ISBN 978-1-4283-2142-7. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Abram, David (15 December 2003). Rough guide to India. Rough Guides. p. 161. ISBN 978-1-84353-089-3. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Pippa de Bruyn; Shonar Joshi; David Allardice (1 March 2010). Frommer's India. Frommer's. pp. 521–522. ISBN 978-0-470-55610-8. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "Amer Fort". Government of India. Retrieved 31 December 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Amer Palace". Rajasthan Tourism: Government of India. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Amer Fort". iloveindia.com. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  8. ^ Rajiva Nain Prasad (1966). Raja Mān Singh of Amer. World Press. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c Lawrence A. Babb (1 July 2004). Alchemies of violence: myths of identity and the life of trade in western India. SAGE. pp. 230–231. ISBN 978-0-7619-3223-9. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  10. ^ "Jaipur". Jaipur.org.uk. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  11. ^ a b D. Fairchild Ruggles (2008). Islamic gardens and landscapes. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 205–206. ISBN 978-0-8122-4025-2. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  12. ^ a b Rani, Kayita (November 2007). Royal Rajasthan. New Holland Publishers. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-84773-091-6. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  13. ^ R. S. Khangarot; P. S. Nathawat (1 January 1990). Jaigarh, the invincible fort of Amer. RBSA Publishers. pp. 8–9, 17. ISBN 978-81-85176-48-2. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f Lindsay Brown; Amelia Thomas (1 October 2008). Rajasthan, Delhi & Agra. Lonely Planet. pp. 178–. ISBN 978-1-74104-690-8. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  15. ^ "Information plaque on Suraj Pol". Archaeology Department of Rajsathan. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "Information plaque at Jaleb Chowk". Archaeology Department of Rajsathan. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  17. ^ "Information plaque on _Man_Singh_Palace". Archaeology Department of Rajasathan. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  18. ^ "Information plaque on Tripoli Gate". Archaeology Department of Rajsathan. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  19. ^ "Information plaque on Singh Pol or Lion Gate". Archaeology Department of Rajsathan. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  20. ^ "Information plaque on Zenani Deorhi". Archaeology Department of Rajsathan. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  21. ^ Ghosh, Rhea (2005). Gods in chains. Foundation Books. p. 24. ISBN 978-81-7596-285-9. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  22. ^ "Amer Palace renovation: Tampering with history?". Times of India. 3 June 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  23. ^ a b "Film crew drilled holes in Amer". Times of India. 16 February 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  24. ^ Amber Fort centre for elephant trafficking: Welfare board The Times of India, Dec 18, 2014
  25. ^ PETA takes up jumbo cause, seeks end to elephant ride at Amber, The Times of India, Dec 11, 2014

Further reading[edit]

  • Crump, Vivien; Toh, Irene (1996). Rajasthan (hardback). New York: Everyman Guides. p. 400. ISBN 1-85715-887-3. 
  • Michell, George, Martinelli, Antonio (2005). The Palaces of Rajasthan. London: Frances Lincoln. p. 271 pages. ISBN 978-0-7112-2505-3. 
  • Tillotson, G.H.R (1987). The Rajput Palaces – The Development of an Architectural Style (Hardback) (First ed.). New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 224 pages. ISBN 0-300-03738-4. 

External links[edit]