It is so enticing to visit a city and bypass all the major landmarks. There are those kinds travelers – the off the trail explorers etc. I used to do that at times. Took me 12 years to see Qutub Minar and countless visits to see the Hawa Mahal. When you have ticked off all the offbeat places, the touristy places may just save the day.
It is better from the front than from inside. It is extremely crowded. The narrow stairs and the eager folks won’t allow you to get to the top or anywhere close. There are queues outside to buy tickets too. May be it is hugely popular, or I landed on a blockbuster weekend. Anyways, as they say everything is worth one try.
I stood in a line for fifteen minutes as rest of my family shopped. All others in the line were youngsters who had come for some entrance examination. The jokes they were cracking followed me as they did too all along the short tour.
I used to think the mahal is all façade. It isn’t. There is a two level deep palace inside. There were people everywhere, like ants on an anthill. Hawa Mahal is pyramidal, with only a one room width at the top. So, as you try to go higher, you have to press harder, wait longer and smell worse. The view from the balcony at top must have been awesome, but I gave it a miss. There is only that much free body massage that I can take.
It was still beautiful. I had never seen Rajputana jharokas with stained glass windows before. The first level has an amazing view of the rear of the façade. And, you see why it is so majestic and beautiful at the same time. The intricate lattice work that you see in the front also adorns the walls in the back. There are galleries and walkways around a central courtyard, you stand at the sandstone structure with its canopies and you realise why it is such a posterboy of Rajputana architecture.
Honestly speaking, I had never loved Hawa Mahal, the way I love Humayun’s Tomb, until I saw it from inside. The front of the mahal, though all cute and beautiful, does not quite inspire strength. It looked like some papier mache thing that a smart kid turned in for a project. I am going to repeat myself here, you have to stand in the queue, take all the trouble and see what lies behind that façade. Until you have done that, you have not seen Hawa Mahal.
And, you get photo opportunity too. Every corner of the palace is a setting for a photo op. Once you get you get used to the crowd around, you notice how excited and happy they all are. Apart from the courtyard, which is huge, the interiors of the mall are pretty dark and closed spaces. There are no stairs but ramps which makes walking easy and the kids uncontrollable. It’s like a wonderland where people forget how old they are and you should too.
When you are on the streets of Jaipur, expect to see anything. We had just come out from Hawa Mahal and having these awesome double fried pakodas from the vendor in the corner when this happened. A horse rider came, on a white horse and was idling by the roadside. Three elephant riders came, on elephants. The animals sensed each others’ presence and immediately got scared. The elephants ran, the horse went out of control and we debated who would win if the animals arm wrestled.