hawa mahal

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Hawa mahal , jaipur

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I t was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, and designed by Lal Chand Ustad in the form of the crown of Krishna , the Hindu god. Its unique five-storey exterior is also akin to the honeycomb of the beehive with its 953 small windows called jharokhas that are decorated with intricate latticework.

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Though no historical record is available to its exact history, it is conjectured that Royal family ladies , who were under strict observance of purdah (the practice of preventing women from being seen by men) , had to be given opportunity to witness proceedings in the market centre and watch the royal processions and festivities sitting behind the stone carved screens. Hawa Mahal did just that in style, amidst its luxurious comforts and behind strict screened exclusivity, unseen by outsiders.

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Royal family of Jaipur, during their reign, also used the palace as a hot weather retreat , during the suffocating summer season of Jaipur, for several years, since the unusually designed window screens provided the much needed cool breeze and ventilation. The palace is a five-story pyramidal shaped monument that rises to a height of 50 feet (15 m) from its high base. The top three floors of the structure have a dimension of one room width while the first and second floors have patios in front of them, on the rear side of the structure.

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The front elevation, as seen from the street, is like a honeycomb web of a beehive built with small portholes. Each porthole has miniature windows and has carved sandstone grills, finials and domes. It is a veritable mass of semi-octagonal bays, which gives the monument its unique facade . The inner face on the back side of the building consists of need-based chambers built with pillars and corridors with least ornamentation, and reach up to the top floor.

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The interior of the Mahal has been described as “ having rooms of different coloured marbles, relieved by inlaid panels or gilding; while fountains adorn the centre of the courtyard Walls Lal Chand Ustad was the architect of this unique structure who also planned Jaipur city, considered then as one of the best-planned cities in India. Built in red and pink coloured sand stone, in keeping with the décor of the other monuments in the city, its colour is a full testimony to the epithet of “ Pink City” given to Jaipur.

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Its facade depicts 953 niches with intricately carved J harokhas (some are made of wood) is a stark contrast to the plain looking rear side of the structure. Its cultural and architectural heritage is a true reflection of a fusion of Hindu Rajput architecture and the Islamic Mughal architecture; the Rajput style is seen in the form of domed canopies, fluted pillars, lotus and floral patterns.

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Hawa Mahal was also known as the chef-d‘oeuvre of Maharaja Jai Singh as it was his favourite resort because of the elegance and built-in interior of the Mahal. The cooling effect in the chambers, provided by the breeze passing through the small windows of the facade, was enhanced by the fountains provided at the centre of each of the chamber .

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Panoramic view from the roof of the Mahal is stunning. The bazaar (the Seredeori Bazaar or market) on the east resembles avenues of Paris. Green valleys and mountains and the Amer Fort form the scenario to the west and north. The Thar desert’s “interminable line of undulating vapour” lies to the east and south. All this transformation of the landscape, from a stark and desolate land of the past, occurred because of the concerted efforts of the Maharajas of Jaipur.

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In 2005, restoration and renovation works on the Mahal were undertaken, after a long gap of 50 years , to give a face lift to the monument at an estimated cost of Rs 45lakhs . The corporate sector is also lending a hand to preserve the historical monuments of Jaipur and the Unit Trust of India has adopted Hawa Mahal to maintain it.

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