Anne Gordon is a widely read travel writer. Her articles and photographs are published in books, newspapers and magazines. For a glimpse into her world, read on ....
Thursday, July 29, 2010
INDIA’S MAGICAL AMBER FORT
Located just 7 miles from the city of Jaipur, the 11th century Amber Fort is one of Rajasthan's most fascinating historic attractions. In my opinion it ranks in beauty and atmosphere with the most impressive sites that Rajasthan has to offer.
Surrounded by the Aravalli hills this massive stone structure served in the 16th century as a pleasure palace for maharajas returning from battle. In its tranquil Persian inspired gardens the battle weary warriors recouped their energies for further campaigns.
Like the maharajas of old, approaching the upper reaches of this fort through seven fortified gates, riding on the back of a painted, caparisoned elephant, is an experience that one is not likely to forget. On the towering walls surrounding the fort, Hanuman monkeys clutching infants to their breasts, perch in casual abandon. On the banks of the lake far below colourfully dressed Indian women gather on the ghat to wash their clothes. In another direction meticulously laid out spice gardens on raised platforms in the lake tempt the viewer to investigate further.
One should not be deceived by the fort's forbidding exterior. Its interior is filled with treasure and beauty. On a visit my husband, James, and I were invited into the maharaja's bedroom where a massive four-poster bed dominated a space that resembled a jewelled cave. Every inch of the walls and ceiling were covered in tiny mirrors.
Our guide, a wizened old Indian man, lit a lantern then the candles on the posts at each corner of the bed.After a story about the maharajah who once claimed this room as his own, the old man grasped the lantern, then swinging it to and fro sang in a tremulous high voice that well-loved nursery rhyme. “Twinkle twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are......”We stood entranced, and I must admit powerfully moved by the song and the beauty as each of thousands of tiny mirrors caught the moving light of candles and lantern, twinkling like stars in that magical room.