By Somali K Chakrabarti
“Sublime wonders lie in store,
I am shown a regal residence;
a mighty kingdom, an empire
with more grandeur than before …”
– E.A. Bucchianeri, Poetry for the Phantom of the Opera
Forts and palaces never fail to fascinate me. These rare examples of architecture offer a glimpse into the past grandeurs and reveal many a story of kings and their kingdoms, the wars they fought, the courts they held, and the way they lived.
Here are some pictures and photographs from the 19th century that capture the oriental magnificence of the historic forts and palaces of Rajasthan.
Amber Fort, part of Raj Mahal & Maota Lake, watercolours by William Simpson ca.1860
Eleven kilometres to the north of Jaipur is the town of Amber.
The impressive fort and the palace complex, on a hill overlooking the Maota Lake, was built at Amber, in the late 16th century by Akbar’s famous general, Raja Man Singh (ruled 1592- 1614). Alterations and additions to the palace structures continued throughout the 17th century and beyond until the fort was finally abandoned in 1727.
Ganesh Pol in Amber from ‘Photographs of Architecture and Scenery in Gujarat and Rajputana’ taken by Colin Murray in ca.1872.
The fort-palace of Amber is a blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture, combining Hindu artistic elements with Mughal styles. Elaborate gates, and a number of courtyards and temples can be found in the fort and palace. Ganesh Pol or Elephant Gate is the gateway to the royal apartments that are built around a garden. It derives its name from the painted panel of the god Ganesha (the Lord who removes obstacles), above the entrance arch.
Interior view of Sheesh Mahal, Amber Palace. Photograph by Lala Deen Dayal ca.1885
Mirrorwork was inlaid in intricate patterns on the walls and ceilings, and coloured glass set into arched niches and window frames. The Mughal influence was apparent in the floral and geometric designs contained in arch-shaped indents, a style that had evolved under the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (r.1628-58).
Chandra Mahal or Moon Palace, Jaipur. Photograph by Bourne and Shepherd in the 1870s
The City Palace is situated in the centre of the city of Jaipur. Surrounded by gardens and courtyards, and enclosed by a high wall, the palace dates from 1727 with later additions. The palace has the screened balconies and a roof-top pavilion, and symmetrical design which is characteristic of the city as a whole.
The Chandra Mahal (c.1727-34) is the earliest and most important part of the city palace.
Gateway in the palace at Jaipur in Rajasthan. Photograph by Lala Deen Dayal, in the 1890s
The arched entrance gateway leading to the Chandra Mahal is covered with floral, geometric and figurative designs.
Photograph of Dig Fort in Rajasthan, taken by Raja Deen Dayal & Sons in the 1890s
Deeg is a small town which was once the summer retreat of the rulers of Bharatpur 22 kms away. Deeg was established as the first capital of Bharatpur State by the Jat ruler Badan Singh (ruled 1722-33).
The fort was built by his son Suraj Mal in 1730. Twelve massive bastions reinforce the fort walls. This view shows the Lakha Burj at the north-west corner, the largest of twelve bastions, and the moat which encircles the fort.
Suraj Mal (ruled 1755-63) later shifted the capital to Bharatpur while filling Deeg with pleasure palaces, where the chieftains could take a break from skirmishes,with the neighbouring Rajputs and the Mughal empire that had begun to decline.
Photograph of Gopal Bhavan at Deeg in Rajasthan, taken by Raja Deen Dayal in the 1880s
Pictures from : The British Library,
Some pictures were shared by Mr Abdul Ghaffar (@ghaffar12)
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