Amer is one of the most famous forts in Rajasthan. This magnificent fort is thronged everyday by travellers from across the globe. Spread across the spur of a hill, this fort encloses beautiful palace apartments and huge courtyards. Situated off the Jaipur-Delhi highway, Amer is about 14 km from Jaipur city. It has taken its position on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2013. The setting of the fort amidst the Aravalli hills is as pleasing as the fort itself. Its ramparts snaking up and down the surrounding hills add an element of might into the otherwise graceful fort.
Before coming under the control of Kachchwaha Rajputs around 1037 AD, Amer was home to Meena tribes. The fort palace was commissioned by Raja Man Singh in 1592. Subsequent rulers added to the structure eventually making it a stunning fort palace. Amer Fort was the seat of power of Kachchwaha Rajputs until Jaipur was developed in 1727. After that the palace complex was abandoned and it lay unattended for a long period until ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) took over after the independence of India. Despite lying unmaintained for a long period, it has retained a lot of charm. The art and architecture have both Rajput and Mughal influences. It is constructed on the site of an 11th-century fort.
There are several ways to reach up the fort from the base of the hill. The best way is to walk up the ramp. It is a gentle climb which could hardly take 10 minutes. For those who want to keep it easy can drive up from the rear end. There are jeeps shuttling up and down. You can either hire a full jeep or can go on a sharing basis. If you want to have a feel of how royalty would have been approaching in the past, you can ride on an elephant. Elephants carry up to four people on a padded seat and are available only till 11 am.
The Fort Palace
The main entrance to the fort palace is through the ‘Suraj Pol’ (Sun Gate). It is so named because it faces the direction of the rising sun. This gate leads into a huge courtyard called Jaleb Chowk. Two flights of stairs, from the southern end of the courtyard, lead up from Jaleb Chowk. The one on the right is meant for ‘Shiladevi Temple’ and the other leads to the upper courtyard.
It is from this upper courtyard that one begins exploring the palace complex. On the left corner of the courtyard is Diwan-i-am (Hall of Public Audience). It was built by Raja Jai Singh I in 1639. Next to it is the interesting ‘Sattais Kacheri’. It is a colonnade of 27 pillars. This was the place where the officials recorded the revenue petitions.
From ‘Sattais Kacheri’, you can take in the stunning views of the surrounding hills and the lake below.
Ganesh Pol, south of the courtyard, is the most beautiful gate of the fort. It is colourfully painted and has beautiful mosaics. There is a prominent figure of Lord Ganesh above the door.
Entering through the Ganesh Pol, you reach a fountain-studded garden flanked by Jai Mandir and Sukh Niwas.
Jai Mandir was utilized as Diwan-i-khas (Hall of Private Audience) and also has Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace). The walls and ceilings of Sheesh Mahal are decorated with intricate mosaics made of shards of mirror and coloured glass. Jas Mandir is situated exactly above Jai Mandir and is notable for its marble ‘jalis’ (screens). It is also called the summer palace because the screens, facing the valley, let in the cool breeze.
Sukh Niwas, on the right side of the garden, was a pleasure palace. Its rooms were cooled by the water channelled through the conduits carved into the walls. It was a natural alternative in the absence of air-conditioners.
From the same courtyard, there is a flight of stairs to reach ‘Sohag Mandir’. It is a rectangular chamber with beautiful latticed windows. This is the place where queens would wait for the king’s return from the battle. On his return, they would sprinkle scented water and flowers down upon him.
As you come down from Sohag Mandir and move further, you reach the last courtyard. On one side of the courtyard is the palace of Man Singh I and on the other side is the harem. There is a pillared pavilion, called ‘Baradari’, in the centre of the courtyard.
Note: It is advisable to hire a guide or rent an audio guide. Audio Guide provides intricate details about every place in the fort palace. Amer Fort is now open for night viewing.
Light and Sound Show
Every evening light-and-sound shows are conducted in both English and Hindi languages. The seating arrangement is on the rooftop of a building adjoining the Maota Lake below the fort. They have done good lighting arrangements on various points on the hill and in the fort. The explanations are also easily comprehensible, given the good sound effect. The setting is also beautiful as the viewers are seated on a terrace near the lake and surrounded by the hills. The show portrays the story behind the formation of Amer.
The Old Town
If you want to check out the old Amer town (now a small village), you need to exit the fort palace from Chand Pol – the gate near Shiladevi Temple. If you have some time, this settlement is worth exploring as it gives you a peek into some of the remains of the Kachchwaha empire. There are some ancient temples in the town, of which the most popular is Jagat Shiromani Temple. Dedicated to Lord Krishna, this temple has a beautiful ‘torana’ (gateway). A temple of Narsinghji and Panna-Mian-ki-Baoli (a stepwell) are situated nearby. To the north lies the Akbari Mosque built by Akbar in 1569 and to the east is Bharmal ki Chhatri which is a group of memorials.
For guided walks in Amer and other places of Jaipur, you can contact: www.virasatexperiences.com
Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing
This museum is housed in a quaint old ‘haveli’ (mansion) and has an interesting collection of hand block-printed textiles and fabrics. Here you can also get to see the live demonstration of printing by the craftsmen. Anokhi is a short walk from Jagat Shiromani temple in Amer town. There is a cafe in the same building.