The Amber Fort is probably the main thing people come to see in Jaipur; it was the palace of the maharaja of this entire part of Rajasthan, and it's huge. Raja Man Singh started building it in 1592, and Mirza Raja Jai Singh and Sawai Jai Singh continued the contruction over the next 125 years. It was the capital of the Kachhawah Rajputs for centuries, but when the capital shifted to Jaipur in the early 18th century, the fortress was abandoned. There are labyrinthine halls and tiny little windowless rooms that the maharaja's women stayed in; all were connected to the maharaja's room for his nocturnal wanderings.
You get to the fort, which is on a hill, by walking (our approach), by jeep, or by elephant. It's remarkable to stand on the road below and see the zigzagging roads leading up the hill, filled with elephants carrying people. We didn't want to take the elephants because they are treated badly and in poor health from overuse.
We've had a hard time finding people who can take our picture together when we're out and about. There were American tourists in the fort today, but they were mostly in huge tour groups (this group all had matching pins, that one had matching hats) and they were listening to a tour guide when they were stopped, making it hard to ask them to take our picture. We finally found someone, but the whole thing was so rushed so we're a little awkward:
After walking through the Amber Fort for awhile, we were hot and tired of forts, so we decided instead to do some shopping, see if Sunil would just drive us around Jaipur, and then get some lunch. The shopping was a bust, the little mini tour with Sunil was a bust (although I learned a lot: Indira Gandhi is still seen as a wonderful leader; Jains don't eat or wear shoes for one solid month, only drinking boiled water and walking through the streets, and those who die are seen as noble; the Muslims and Hindus don't want to live with each other at all; men who die are carried along the road on a stretcher, covered in flowers, and taken to a spot in the forest for cremation -- 3 days later their ashes are taken to the river). When we saw the funeral procession, Sunil said, "Oh, he is gone." We say "passed away" and they say "he is gone," a kind of interesting thing to think about.
Our lunch was at this famous place called LMB (Laxmi Misthan Bhandar), a vegetarian restaurant that's most famous for their sweets. Marc had a 15-item thali and I had 3 sweets, so good. The front of the menu had this 3 paragraph warning from Krishna about people who like putrid and polluted food. Gets you right into the mood for eating. Marc said it was the first really spicy food he's had here.
We've seen lots of camels in the streets, but I haven't gotten a good picture yet, perhaps tonight. We've seen what we want to see in Jaipur and feel ready to leave tomorrow morning for Varanasi. I feel anxious about it, although it's the place I most want to see, for so many reasons. Marnie went there and it's important to her, so I want to see it for that reason, and it's the most holy city for Hindus, the place where heaven meets earth, so I want to see it for that reason. But it's chaotic and a little bit dangerous and full of people wanting something from you, clutching probably, and noisy. We'll see tomorrow.