Jaipur''s most famous building is simply gorgeous.
The famous pink facade is seen all over the world advertising India and it is one of the must-see''s of Jaipur. The big surprise is where it is. It is part of the city palace, but overlooks one of the main thoroughfares of the Old City and is squeezed between ordinary buildings. So the effect of seeing it for the first time is amazing as it is so unexpected.
It is undeniably beautiful. It spreads up and out like a decorous pink and white fan dotted with latticework, screens and balconies. It was designed for the court ladies of Jai Singh to view royal processions without breaking purdah. As someone said, it is rather like a peacock, all show with very little underneath - it only extends one room wide in most places.
To get the best view of the Hawa Mahal you must cross the busy street and photograph it from the opposite side. Here enterprising shopkeepers will bother you and say they have a better view from their roof - for a small fee of course.
After viewing the Hawa Mahal, my driver Suresh, showed me some other highlights of Jaipur. Down by the lake outside the Pink City is where the elephants are kept. As we drove past there was a herd of about ten pachyderms chowing down on some hay. And their enthusiastic mahouts were perched on their necks and calling to drivers as they passed by.
Nearby was the stunning Galta Palace (see picture). This like the famous Lake Palace in Udaipur was built in the centre of a lake and seems to float on its surface. It is built out of yellow sandstone with cupolas and towers and could only be visited on stepping stones when the water is low. As it was the middle of the hot season, this was the case when I visited and skinny buffaloes grazed on the waterweeds exposed by the heat.
The next stop was unexpected. I was taken by my driver to a carpet factory in the old city of Jaipur. There I was shown looms that were worked by boys not more then 13 years old. The sight was rather pitiful and I asked to leave. Mentally noting that there is rather an unseemely underside to tourist Jaipur.