Travel: Man Sagar Lake

This morning, we both enjoyed the luxury of sleeping in before heading for a walk around the Man Sagar Lake to observe the beauty of the Jal Mahal “Water Palace.” We even got to see an elephant just strolling down the street amidst the motorcycles and rigshaws, and a camel just resting its legs!

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Interestingly, Maharaja Madho Singh I constructed the complex in 1750 intending for it to be a lodge for himself and his entourage during duck hunting parties, it was never intended to be a palace.

imageIt is considered a classic example of Rajput and Mughal Architecture, and as we’ve seen often during our trip, composed entirely of red sandstone. There is a rectangular chhartri on the roof, and four octagonal chhattris on each of corners of the building. They are elevated dome-shaped pavilions that have become a signature of Indian Design.

Based on plain observation, one cannot derive the complexity of design and technological forethought involved in this structure. While we only see it as a one-story building, in reality, the palace has five floors in total, four of which are submerged in the lake

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As we savored the nice weather and strolled along the lake, we came across a costume peddler and decided to have fun and play “dress-up.” The most awkward part of this, was when they wanted us to pose and take a picture as a couple. [Insert Awkward Turtle].

 

 

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

 

India is still a conservative nation, so when they see a man and a woman travel together, assumptions are often made. Additionally, seeing an Indian and an Asian together is almost an unheard of circumstance. Fortunately, Nick and I had a good laugh about this.

 

 

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We wandered the area and found ourselves a nice open garden to take a seat in and relax, before grabbing lunch and heading to hike up to Galta Ji.

 

imageThe pilgrimage site lies in the town of Khania-Balaji, just outside of Jaipur. It is known for its natural water springs that accumulate in tanks “kunds”. Thousands come to bathe in these waters every year as it is considered auspicious. Additionally, some believe that the Saint Galav lived here. He meditated, did penance, and survived for years just drinking cow’s milk.

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

 

Galta Ji is also commonly called “The Monkey Temple” as a tribe of monkey lives there. Nick was being mean and joking that he had reunited me with my family. T.T.

 

 

I’ve self-perpetuated this ongoing joke when, a few years ago, I discovered that my strangely shaped thumbs coincidentally align with the thumb shape of a gorilla. It is all in good fun though, and I enjoyed getting up close and personal with my brethren.

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

 

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Travel: Modern Jaipur

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

 

After our lunch break, we decided to cut through the Bazaar on our way to the Albert Hall Museum. I have never seen as much color as I have in Jaipur. Nick says that the handicrafts of Rajasthan are so vibrant to contrast the muted colors of the desert.

 

In truth, the aristocrats of Jaipur were avid patrons of the arts. They often coaxed skilled artisans from around India and abroad to settle in Jaipur and make it their home. I’ve included a few pictures below to illustrate the broadness of their crafts.

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

imageThe Albert Hall Museum was designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob in 1887, and exemplifies Indo-Saracenic Architecture. This form of architecture originated in the late 19th century as a movement by British Architects to merge elements from native Indo-Islamic and Indian Architecture with the Gothic and Neo-Classic styles of Victorian Britain. Some of the typical characteristics you may see include: Onion Domes, Scalloped Arches, Minarets, and Domed Kiosks. We decided not to meander too long on the exhibits, because Nick isn’t a fan of museums, and I’m still a little museum-dead from my epic Eurotrip.

Our last stop of the day was the Birla Temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the preserver, and his consort Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.

imageDespite being a “modern” structure, – completed in 1988 – symbolism is still rampantly prevalent in the architecture of the building. Each of the three huge domes of white marble represent the three different approaches to the religion, and intricately stained glass windows illustrate scenes from Hindu Scriptures. Something that is singularly iconic to Hinduism is the acceptance of all other religions. This is demonstrated by the carvings along the exterior walls that depict import figures from both history and other faiths.

 

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Taking one last glance at the temple as the sunset illuminated it in the background, Nick and I returned to the bazaar in search of a Saree for me. While I don’t typically buy ethnic clothes while I travel, I felt it necessary for this trip as I will be attending a traditional Indian Wedding when we reach Mumbai.

Unfortunately, as is often the case when I am shopping in Asia, we hit some roadblocks in the form of sizing. I found a color scheme and pattern that I loved, but, as Nick would put it, my broad,, manly shoulders made the top a bit too snug. T.T.

Travel: Old Jaipur

To recap thus far, we have visited the states of Delhi – the capital territory of India – and Madhya Pradesh – “the heart of India” – and are now exploring Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan.

imageJaipur was founded by Jai Sing II, the Raja of Amer in 1727. His capitol originally lay 51 km away, but water was becoming scarce, and Jai felt that shifting his city would increase the population. After much deliberation and the architectural guidance of Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, the city was laid-out in accordance with the classic principles of Vastu Shastra. Its core concept centers around urban planning for the comfort of its citizens and the integration of the built environment with nature, while trying to maintain perfect geometric patterns (Yantra), symmetry, and directional alignment.

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

The first stop of our day was the Hawa Mahal, “Palace of Winds.” Built in 1799 by the Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, the structure was designed by Lal Chand Ustad to form the crown of Krishna. The five-story exterior face is reminiscent of the honeycombs of a beehive, and has 953 jharokhas (small windows) with intricate latticework. Not only did the windows allow royal ladies to observe daily life without being seen, but it also resulted in the Venturi Effect, natural ventilation that helped promote the flow of cool air through the building in the summers.

imageI also noticed that a lot of the window slots slanted downwards. Jaipur, named “The Pink City” because so many of its buildings are painted pink, lies in the desert. The slant of the window perforations allowed residents access to fresh air, without putting them at the mercy of the blazing sun. I found this to be a particularly ingenious idea for being created almost 300 years ago.

We had then hoped to visit the City Palace, but were rebuffed by how expensive it would have been to tour the interior (about 2500 rupees for foreigners with no cameras allowed).

imageWhile the pictures shown at the ticket office were pretty jaw dropping, this price point would have been equivalent to $45! It would have been the most expensive tourist destination I’d ever gone to across every continent and country. At the same time, this is marginally understandable as Rajasthan is one of the few states with present-day Royalty. They only chose to merge with the Indian Union after Indian Independence in 1949.

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Just a few steps away was the Juntar Mantar. You may recall that it has a sister that we visited in Delhi.