From Agra, we began our journey west, towards Jaipur. On the way we stopped in the small village of Abhaneri. A few steps through the town takes you to an abandoned temple complex, and the Chand Baori, step well. From the outside, Chand Baori seems to be a small, grey, stone, structure. Entering the gate, it becomes a huge rectangle, larger than a city block. The grey stone has been excavated, creating a maze of stairs, an inverted square pyramid, descending nearly six stories into the ground. Decorated with fanciful carvings, and including a sunken temple near the old water line, we were reminded of Hollywood’s interpretation from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Thankfully, there were no lurking bad guys to chase us away.
Pink, or red desert sandstone is common throughout the buildings of Northwestern India. This was not enough pink to satisfy the city of Jaipur, however. In the 19th century, to spruce up the city for a royal visit, the local leader ordered all the buildings in the old city to be painted, the color of the sandstone. While not quite true pink, rather, more of a terra cotta shade, pink was the way British journalists described the color to the people back home, earning Jaipur, the nickname, The Pink City.
We started our touring day at the Amber fort and palace, an impressive defensive structure on a hill, with a wide wall surrounding the area. Similar to European castles, it had high walls, towers with arrow slits, and impressive entry gates to block attackers. A highlight was the mirrored palace, reminiscent of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Boy was far more interested in the snake charmer, demonstrating his skill outside the gates to the fort.
An elephant took us from the base of the hill to the top gate of the fort, a bumpy ride that Boy was not at all sure about. We, all three, sat together on a platform, with metal bars forming a back support and handles so we did not fall off. The entire contraption was attached like a saddle to the elephant’s back. We arrived safely at the top, and Boy was very proud to dismount and look back at the distance we had come, on top of the elephant.
The ancient city observatory of Jaipur was another favorite of Boy. He enjoyed running through the towering 17th century sundials and watching the shadows pass through the seconds markings.
Feeling adventurous, we left the observatory and went for a walk through the spice and flower market. Dodging motorbikes and tuk tuks, we enjoyed the smells and colors of the active market. Keeping all of us out of traffic took some practice, but we had a pleasant stroll and Boy found a shop selling chocolates, so he was happy, too.
Later, we had a chance to see how local craftsmen make the beautifully colored and patterned cloth used in bedding, tablecloths, and wall hangings. The ink is transferred to the cloth with elaborately carved blocks. These each print a single color onto the cloth. Another complementary shaped carved block is used to imprint the second color, and then the third color, and so on. Some of the cloth is printed with up to seven layers of color. Boy was given a small square of cloth, and with some help, managed a four color print of an elephant. He was very pleased with the result, as you can see below.
I had a find as well, coming across a bookshop with English language children’s books. We added a few of the Indian myths to our studies for the week.
The pink sandstone
Elephants at the fort
Block printing and a Mythology book for children
A Rajastan style marrionette