It is the landmark of Ajmer and one of the holiest of Muslim shrines in the country. It has a secular appeal and revered by people of all sect. Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisti, a Sufi saint from Persia made this place his abode from 1192 till he died in 1236 AD.
Mughal King Humayun completed the construction of the shrine. The Dargah is approached through a massive gate with silver doors built in several stages. Emperor Akbar made an annual pilgrimage to Ajmer.
Mughal Emperors Akbar and Shah Zahan have built mosques in the complex. The saint’s tomb is in the centre of the second courtyard and the actual tomb inside is surrounded by a silver railing and partly by a marble screen.
The tomb is of marble and dome is gold plated. The atmosphere inside the shrine is charged and supernatural with burning of incense and offerings of flowers mainly rose and sweets.
As you enter the Dargah courtyard, you see two massive ‘degs’ meaning cauldrons. Mughal Emperors Akbar and Jahangir donated these cauldrons originally but they have been replaced in the nineteenth century. The larger cauldron can contain as much as 4480 kgs of rice while the smaller one contains 2240 kgs of rice.
The shrine comes alive with activity when millions of devotees throng the shrine during Urs fair. Urs is held on the seventh lunar month according to Islamic calendar and is variable according to the solar calendar. Sufis and believer converge from all over India and abroad, as it is believed that those visiting during Urs receives special blessings of the saint.
It is compulsory that you cover your head while inside the complex so remember to carry a skullcap or a scarf. The skull-cap is on sale in the colourful market just outside the Dargah. It is also customary to make floral offerings mainly of roses, incense sticks and sweets that are locally available.
Amber Fort – Jaipur
Amber is also known as Amer is situated about 11 kilometres from Jaipur and was the ancient citadel of the ruling Kachhawa clan of Amber, before the capital was shifted in the plains to present day Jaipur. The Amber Fort set in picturesque and rugged hills is a fascinating blend of Hindu and Mughal architecture. Constructed by Raja Man Singh I in 1952 and completed by Sawai Jai Singh I the fort is made in red sand stone and white marble.
The rugged forbidding exterior belies an inner paradise with a beautiful fusion of art and architecture. Amber is the classic and romantic fort- palace with a magnificent aura. The interior wall of the palace depicts expressive painting scenes with carvings, precious stones and mirror settings. In the foreground is the Maota Lake providing a breathtaking look. Built mainly for the warring enemies as a safe place, the heavily structured walls could defend the residents within the ramparts of the fort.
All the means of survival & luxuries for the royal families and the people who were concerned with the functioning of this small kingdom of the Kachhawas were well provided. The Rajputs who had apparently won a small structure passed on by Meena tribes, later on renovated it into the grand Amber Fort. Holding a history so old as 7 centuries, this place vibrates with its legendry past, in the archaeological history. Although many of the early structures have been literally ruined but at the same time, those dating from the 16th century on are remarkably preserved by sincere efforts.
The fort has 4 sections; each with the premises and one has to climb up through the imposing stairway or else the broad aisle, where one can ride on the elephant back for royal feel. The main gate Surajpol that leads to the Jaleb chowk, which is the main courtyard from where one can walk up the stairway, that leads to the palace. Jaleb Chowk was also the area where returning armies were welcome and they would display their war earnings to the population at large.
Before you enter the palace just towards the right is a sleep aisle and a narrow staircase reaching up to Kali Temple also called Shila Devi Temple famous for its mysterious history and the huge silver lions. It is a gorgeous temple featuring silver doors with raised relief. According to a legend, Maharaja Man Singh I had worshiped the Goddess for a victory over the rulers of Bengal.
The Goddess appeared in the Maharaja’s dream and ordered him to recover her statue lying under sea near Jessore (now in Bangladesh) and install it in a befitting Temple. True enough, after subjugating the enemies the Maharaja recovered the statute from the bed of the sea. The temple is called after Shila Devi, “shila” meaning stone slab. Like all temples this too has an image of Ganesha on the doorway, but carved from a single piece of coral.
Getting back from the temple the main stairways lead to the second courtyard of the fort. Here situated is the imposing Diwan-I-Aam, the hall of public audiences where the Maharaja received the populace and their petitions. This is a pavilion of double row of columns each capped by an elephant shape. There is a lattice gallery also.
Behind the exquisite and fabulous Ganesh Pol, “pol” meaning gate are located in the residential apartments of the Maharaja. The Jai Mandir, the Hall of Victory is famous for its inlaid panel and dazzling mirror ceiling. Much of it had deteriorated with neglect and is under restoration.
On the other side is Sukh Niwas, the residence of pleasure or pleasurable residence. The palace has an ivory inlaid sandalwood door. A channeled laid for flow of water is an inventive system of cooling. The water flowing from the channel wasn’t wasted as it was allowed to flow in the garden. From there you can also take pleasure in viewing of the fort rampart and its reflection in the Moata Lake.
The Zenana or the palace of the women are in the forth courtyard. The rooms are though connected through a common corridor are cleverly designed to give each room privacy so that the Maharaja can have nocturnal visits to his various Maharanis without notice of the other.
City Palace – Udaipur
City Palace towers over the Pichola Lake. Maharana Uday Singh initiated in the construction of the palace but succeeding Maharanas added several palaces and structures to the complex retained a surprising uniformity to the design. The entry to the Palace is from the Hati Pol, the Elephant gate.
The Bari Pol or the Big gate brings you to the Tripolia, the Triple gate. It was once a custom that the Maharana would weigh under this gate in gold and silver, which was distributed to the populace. It is also now the main ticket office. Balconies, cupolas and towers surmount the palace to give a wonderful view of the lake.
Suraj Gokhada or the balcony of the sun is where the Maharana would grant public audiences mainly to boost the morale of the people in difficult times. The Mor Chawk is the peacock square and gains its name from the vivid blue mosaic in glass of a peacock that decorates its walls.
The main part of the palace is now preserved as a museum displaying a large and diverse array of artefacts. Down steps from the entrance is the armoury museum exhibiting a huge collection of protective gear, weapons including the lethal two-pronged sword. The City Palace museum is then entered through the Ganesh Deori meaning the door of Lord Ganesh.
This leads to the Rajya Angan, the royal courtyard that is the very spot where Maharana Udai Singh met the sage who told him to find a city here. The rooms of the palace are superbly decorated with mirror tiles and paintings. Manak Mahal or the Ruby Palace has a lovely collection of glass and mirror work while Krishna Vilas display a rich collection of miniature paintings.
Moti Mahal or the pearl palace has beautiful mirror work and the Chini Mahal has ornamental tiles all over. The Surya Chopar or the sun square depicts a huge ornamental sun symbolising the sun dynasty to which the Mewar dynasty belongs. The Bari Mahal is a central garden with view of the city. Some more beautiful paintings can be seen in the Zenana Mahal or the ladies chamber, which leads to Lakshmi Chowk a beautiful white pavilion.
24 kms north of Udaipur is the temple of Eklingji, the tutelary deity of the rulers of Mewar. It is a complex of 108 temples enclosed by high walls with bathing terraces leading down to the water.
The atmosphere excludes the fragrance of incense material such as dhoop, deep and sandalwood. The fifty feet high Eklingji temple has a multi- faced image of Lord Shiva made of black stone.
The various faces of Shiva can be seen in the four directions – the sun is east, Brahma in the west, Vishnu in the north and the Rudra in the south. In the centre of three images is the Shivlinga which is encircled by a silver snake. In this temple, Shiva is depicted with his family, Parvati and the elephant god Ganesh.
Images of Yamuna and Saraswati are also present. Specially attractive are the doors of silver which show Lord Ganesh and Kartikya. Near the temple, as we move up are the temples of Ambamata, Ganeshji and Kalika.
The trunk of Ganeshji is towards the right although generally it is found to be facing the left. The brackets show nymphs in erotic dance postures, while the life size image of Bapparawal is a piece of art.
One of the legends relating to Ekilngil is that after killing Vrakshasur, Indra had meditated and prayed toeklingji in repentance and to be free of the curse.
According to another legend, Bapparawa had seen the Shivlinga in his dream when he was in trouble and when the problem was solved, he constructed the tample and later build Mewar.
The ruler of Mewar regards Eklangji as the real kingdom. There are around a hundred more temples, big and small, around the Eklagji temple.
Fateh Sagar Lake – Udaipur
This delightful lake, bordered by hills and woodland was constructed by Maharana jai Singh to the north of Lake Pichola. It is an artificial lake dug up in 1678, reconstructed by Maharana Fateh Singh A canal links the two, via Swaroop Sagar and Rang Sagar Lakes. The beautiful Nehru Island as well as an islet bearing a solar observatory rises from the lake.
Lake Fateh Sagar is a medium-sized perennial storage reservoir constructed in the year 1678 A. D. by the rulers of former Mewar State. Although primarily constructed for irrigational purpose, this water body has lately formed a second major source of drinking water for the city of Udaipur.
The main feeder canal of the lake comes from Madar tank situated at a higher altitude about 15 km from Udaipur City. Lake Fateh Sagar is also connected to the adjoining Lake Pichhola through a canal having gates. This (former) lake has somewhat pear-like shape and is surrounded by hills except on its eastern side where a straight masonry dam of about 800 m length is located. The lake lies on the northwest of main Udaipur city.
The runoff emerging from surrounding hillocks drains into this lake. Along the eastern shore line runs a beautiful serpentine road which has a stone wall on the lake periphery. This lake has got three prominent islands. The largest is developed into a public park. The second island is situated on the northern side and has an installation of solar observatory. The smallest island on the western side near shore supports a jet fountain. The western bank of lake is occupied by marginal agricultural field. The vegetation cover around the lake is scanty. However, several species of plants are found along the undulating roads and hillocks around this lake.
Leaching of nutrients from the catchment area and agricultural activities in the marginal areas of the lake has influenced the nutrient level of this water body. Similarly, incoming silt has also reduced the water holding capacity of this lake.
Lakes are focal point for social and economic activities of Udaipur people. Every year thousands of tourists from India and abroad come to this ‘City of Lakes’. Yet this water body is facing acute shortage of water sometimes due to scanty rains.
For checking loss of water through evaporation, Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) has been using cetyl alcohol (hexadecanol) during drought period. In the year 1972 the lake exhibited heavy bloom of blue green algae Microcystis. In 1978, local citizen groups and environmental conservation organizations undertook desilting operation through human labour wherein about 10 thousand truck loads of silt were removed from the shallow basin of this lake.
Gadi Sagar Lake – Jaisalmer
A scenic rain water lake with numerous beautiful shrines around and a spectacular avian variety.
This tank, south of the city walls, once held the town water supply, and befitting its importance in providing precious water to the inhabitants of this arid city, it is sourrounded by small temples and shrines.
The beautiful yellow sandstone gateway arching across the road down to the tank is the Tilon-ki-Pol, and is said to have been built by a famous prostitute, Tilon.
When she offered to pay to have this gateway constructed, the Maharaja refused permission under it to go down to the tank and he felt that this would be beneath his dignity.
While he was away, she built the gate , adding a Krishna temple on top so that king could not tear it down.
Hawa Mahal – Jaipur
Poet king Sawai Pratap Singh built this palace of winds. This is the most easily recalled landmarks of Jaipur and is also its icon. Located in the city Palace it is best viewed from the outside for the palace is really a facade.
This five-storey building overlooking the busy bazaar street is a stunning example of Rajput architecture and artistry with its pink delicately honeycombed 953 sandstone windows known as ‘jharokhas’.
It was originally built for the ladies of the royal household to watch everyday life and processions in the city from their veiled comfort.
Most people come here to get a view of the facade but they can also climb to the top for a wonderful view from the latticed windows. There is also a small archaeological museum there.
The Hawa Mahal, or the “Palace of Wind” built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 A.D. is characterised by elaborate and fanciful architecture.
The broad pyramidical facade comprises five storeys of semi octagonal overhanging windows with perforated screens, domes and spires.
Rikhabdev: Rikhabdev was the first Jain Thirthankar. This place is famous for the temple dedicated to him. The Vaishnavas claim him to be the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The temple belongs to the Svetambara sect of Jains but at the moment is under the control of the of State Government of Rajasthan.
The idol is better called Kesariyaji drived from the name kesar or saffron which is put on the forehead of the Lord . The town of Rikhabdev is also called Dhulev by the name of the Bhil tribal Dhula who once protected the idol. The Bhils are very loyal to the lord and call it Kalaji. There is no inscription to mark the antiquity of the idol but is believed to very old and is suppose to be fulfilling the wishes of its worshippers.
How to reach: It is 42 kms away from Udaipurand has easy access from here.
Mount Abu: According to the inscriptions Mt. Abu was originally the seat of Saivism. Jainism was introduced in 11th century only. The Dilwara temples here are the most important Jain center of India. The first jain temple Vimala Vasahi was built in 1032A.D. by Vimala Shah, minister of Bhimadeva-I. Besides the famous temple at Abu, there are five temples of Neminath at Girnar. The Vimala Vasahi temple is the earliest and most important of the temples here and is dedicated to the first Jain Tirthankara, Adi Nath. The entire temple is carved out of white marble.
The Tejapala temple resembles the architectural plan of Vimala Vashi temple, nevertheless stands as the last of the monuments built in the Solanki style,which came to an end with the occupation of Gujarat by the Muslims towards the end of 13th century.
The striking feature of the Tejapala temple is its dome which stands on 8 pillars. The pendant of the dome is a perfect gem; where it drops from the ceiling it looks like a cluster of half open lotuses. The other attraction of this temple are the Garbh Griha or the main sanctum and the Hathikhana or the elephant room where there are ten elaborately carved elephants.
How to reach: It can be reached by train from Delhi and Mumbai via Ahmedabad.
Deep in the heart of the Thar Desert is Jaisalmer, one of the last princely bastions in the region. Founded on what was the cross – road of lucrative trade routes, this remote settlement came to be celebrated for the valour of its rulers, and for the aesthetic sense represented by their palaces and havelis.
The rich merchants engaged stone – craftsmen who worked delicately on the sandstone mansions they built, filling up facades with sculptural filigree, screen windows, delicate pavilions and beautiful balconies.
Today, these veritable art – museums are still inhabited, and their colourful celebrations and festivals have placed Jaisalmer Fort firmly on the world tourism map.
The golden – yellow sandstone of Jaisalmer Fort, over 800 years old, crowns the Trikuta Hill. Within its walls, defended by 99 turrets, lies the old city, nearly a quarter of modern Jaisalmer.
Seen from outside, the sight must be almost identical to what was seen by merchants on their overland camel caravans to central Asia.
Once this desert outpost was an important gate for the trade route, and Jaisalmer grew wealthy on the proceeds. But the advent of commercial shipping relegated the town to relative obscurity.
The fort stands almost 30 metres over the city and houses an entire living area within huge ramparts. Walking through the narrow lanes is an experience worth savouring.
It is approached through Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol, Bhoot Pol and Hawa Pol. Also, within it are many beautiful havelies and a group of Jain temples dating from the 12th to the 15th centuries.
Being part of the Desert Triangle and the venue of Desert Festival, the place is accessible by rail, road and air and has tourist accommodation ranging from high budget to low budget.
The city is also covered by the “Palace on Wheels” a train-cum-road package, which needs no description. This place too witnesses large flow of tourist traffic in winters.
Jantar Mantar – Jaipur
Jantar Mantar is the most famous and elaborate observatory of its time. It was constructed in the year 1724 A.D. by Sawai Jai Singh II, even before the city of Jaipur was built, and has been described as the most surrealistic and logical landscape instone.
It was built to measure the local time, the sun’s declination, altitude, the declination of stars, planets and to determine eclipses. Across the road from the palaces is the famous JANTAR MANTAR one of the five observatories in India.
Built by Sawai Jai Singh, this is one of the largest and the best preserved. A passionate hobby of the king in the field of Astronomy, numerology, insighted him to execute this observatory and with the help of skilled labourers, they managed to create a collection of complex astronomical instruments chiselled out of stone and most of which continues to provide accurate information to this day.
The most striking instrument is the Brihat Samrat yantra Sundial, an imposing yellow edifice to the far right of the observatory complex which has a 27m high gnomon arm set at an angle of 27degree.
The shadow this casts moves up to 4m in an hour, and aids in the calculation of local and meridian pass time and various attributes of the heavenly bodies, including declination the angular distance of a heavenly body from the celestial equator and altitude.
This highlight of the observatory has made it a centre of attraction for the tourist visiting Jaipur.
Lake Palace – Udaipur
The Lake Palace is located on the Jag Niwas Island and covers the whole of 1.5 hectare of the island in the middle of the Pichola Lake. Built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1743 it was meant as a royal summer palace and now converted in to a five star palace hotel.
It is a magical palace and its image in the middle of the lake is like a leaf straight out of a fairy tale book with an excellent taste of intricate craftsmanship and the ethnic themes using the textiles and handicrafts all over highlight the beauty that is simply beyond compare the lake around makes a pleasant murmur with its rippling waves and lapping that adds to the mesmerising moments.
The Lake Palace is one of the most beautiful palaces in the world, arising out of the Turquoise Waters of the Pichola like an elegant fantasy in white marble.
The Lake palace was built in the 17th century on a natural foundation of 4 acers of rock. It was initially called Jaginwas after its founder Maharana Jagjit Singh.
The Maharana, ruler of Jaipur from 1628 to 1654, was very friendly with Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and encouraged his craftsmen to copy some of the glories of his incomparable buildings at Agra. The successive rulers used this cool haven as their summer resort, holding their regal durbars in its courtyards.
These courtyards lined with columns, pillared terraces, fountains and gardens all add to its impressive image. The rooms are decorated with cusped arches, inland stones of pink, and green lotus leaves and painted mirrors
Perched on a 150 m high hill its sprawl is the most formidable and magnificent fort in Rajasthan. Rao Jodha founded it in 1459 but subsequent rulers of Jodhpur have also added to it over the centuries.
A meandering road leads to the from the city 5 kms below. Battle scars of canon ball hit by attacking armies of Jaipur can still be seen on the second gate. To the left is chhatri of Kirat Singh Soda, a soldier who fell on the spot while defending the fort against the armies of Amber.
There are seven gates, which include Jayapol meaning victory built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over Jaipur and Bikaner armies. Fattehpol also meaning victory gate was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh to mark the defeat of Mughals.
And Lohapol meaning iron gate has a moving memorabilia on palm print of the queens of Maharaja Man Singh who threw themselves on his funeral pyre in an act of sati. The palm imprints still attract devotional attention and are covered by vermilion paste and paper-thin silver foil.
This is one of the finest museums in Rajasthan and certainly the best layed out. In the palanquin section of the fort museum, you can see an interesting collection of old royal palanquins including the elaborate domed gilt Mahadol palanquin, which was won in a battle from the Governor of Gujarat in 1730. The museum exhibits the heritage of the Rathores in arms, costumes, paintings and decorated period rooms.
The grandest of Mehrangarh’s period rooms, the Phool Mahal was in all likely hood a private and exclusive chamber of pleasure dancing girls once swooned in exhaustion here under a ceiling rich in gold filigree. The Phool Mahal was created by Maharaja Abhaya Singh (1724-1749) and the gold came from Ahmedabad in Gujarat as war booty after his famous victory over the rebellious Mughal governor, Sarbuland Khan. The paintings, royal portraits and the ever-popular raga mala, came much later, in the reign of Jaswant Singh II.
The Jhanki Mahal, from where the royal ladies watched the official proceedings, in the courtyard, today houses a rich collection of the royal cradles. The cradles are decorated with gilt mirrors and figures of fairies, elephant and birds.