“Welcome to the city of Jaipur, the Pink City. We begin our tour at the Hawa Mahal, the palace of the winds. You can see the many windows where the princesses would sit and watch the people go by on the street. They, of course, never left the palace. It would not be proper. We will just drive by now.”
“Wait, we’re not stopping? I wanted to take a picture.”
“No, the tour will run late.”
“What nonsense, she came all the way from Canada to take a picture of the Hawa Mahal. We can stop for a second.”
“Very well, but only for one photo.”
So began my afternoon tour of Jaipur in September 2004. Scrambling out of the old white Ambasador car, I snapped a quick picture of the famed façade, disappointed to learn that the rest of the palace had crumbled over the years.
The tour continued on, taking us to the Jaipur Observatory (Jantar Mantar), built in 1728 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur. I snapped away at the imposing structures built to read the universe as accurately possible, only half-listening to the tour guide, thus annoying him further.
“…the paints for these walls were mixed with crushed emeralds, sapphires, and rubies…”
The rulers had built these forts to endure, which clearly their architects and artisans had accomplished, with the walls intact and still so vivid after being caressed for hundreds of years by the dust and dry winds of Rajasthan.
“…and this is the queen’s window, which I showed to you from the courtyard as we entered the Amber Palace. From here the queen would sit and throw rose petals as the king came home from the battles…”
Kneeling where the queen would have sat, I poked my camera through the window opening to snap a picture of what would have been her limited view of the outside landscape while she was throwing those petals.
Our tour ended at the City museum in Jaipur, under the patronage of the current Maharaja of Jaipur. Listening to tales of the Fat Maharaja, my cousin and I lingered in front of the diorama showing a queen sitting among her servant girls as they dressed her in jewels and embroidered clothing.
As I tried to sneak my camera out from my bag, the tour guide smirked and shook his head at me.
“No more photos allowed.”