Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal (Hindi: हवा महल, translation: "Palace of Winds" or “Palace of the Breeze”), is a palace in Jaipur, India. It was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, and designed by Lal Chand Usta 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. The original intention of the lattice was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen, since they had to observe strict "purdah" (face cover).

Built of red and pink sandstone, the palace is situated on the main thoroughfare in the heart of Jaipur’s business centre. It forms part of the City Palace, and extends to the Zenana or women's chambers, the chambers of the harem. It is particularly striking when viewed early in the morning, lit with the golden light of sunrise.

History

Maharaja Sawai Jai singh, the ruler of Rajasthan of the Kachwaha clan, was the original planner and builder who built the Jaipur city in 1727. However, it was his grandson Sawai ujjawal Singh, son of Maharaja Sawai Madhosingh I, who built the Hawa Mahal in 1799 as a continuation of the Royal City Palace. Pratap Singh's deep devotion to the Hindu god Lord Krishna is inferred to have prompted him to build it as a dedication, in the form of a Mukuta or headgear, adorning the Lord. 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.

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.

Architecture

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. 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 façade. 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. 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”.

Lal Chand Usta 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. Its façade depicts 953 niches with intricately carved Jharokhas (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, and the Islamic style is evident in its stone inlay filigree work and arches (as distinguished from its similarity with the Panch Mahal - the palace of winds - at Fatehpur Sikri).

The entry to the Hawa Mahal from the city palace side is through an imperial door. It opens into a large courtyard, which has double storeyed buildings on three sides, with the Hawa Mahal enclosing it on the east side. An archaeological museum is also housed in this courtyard.

Hawa Mahal was also known as the chef-d'œuvre 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 façade, was enhanced by the fountains provided at the centre of each of the chambers.

The 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. So much so that the Mahal has been stated to be a counterpart of Versailles. Views of the Jantar Mantar and the City Palace can also be witnessed from the top floor of the monument.

The top two floors of the Hawa Mahal are accessed only through ramps. The Mahal is maintained by the archaeological department of the Government of Rajasthan.

Restoration and renovation

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 45 lakhs . 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.

Visitor information

The Mahal, called as the “specimen of fanciful architecture”, is located to the south of the Jaipur city, at the main road intersection called the Badi Chaupad (big four square). Jaipur city is well connected by road, rail and air links with the rest of the country. Jaipur Railway Station is a central main station on the broad gauge line of the Indian Railways. As well, Jaipur is connected by major highways, and by the International Airport at Sanganer, at a distance of 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from the city.

Entry to the Hawa Mahal is not from the front but from a side road to the rear end. Facing the Hawa Mahal, turning right and again to the first right, leads to an archway entry and then to the rear side of the building.

Building Activity

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