Jaipur was our final destination and the header image above is one of my favourites. Before actually getting to Jaipur however I wanted to visit a famous stepwell or ‘Baori’. Stepwells were a hugely important for people in years gone by, not only as a source of water but also as social places where women would catch up and chat. When you see them it’s easy to understand why they are called stepwells and the steps mean that the water can be accessed at any level, as it fluctuates according to the underground water table. I have seen photographs in the past of women wearing colourful saris on the steps, and really wanted to capture a scene like that, but they are now all fenced off and only tourists tend to visit. This particular one, Chand Baori has 3,500 narrow steps over 13 stories and is one of the deepest and largest stepwells in India. It certainly would have felt like a long way to climb up especially when carrying buckets of water!
One hour further on our journey and we arrived in Jaipur, known as The Pink City. It was painted pink in 1876 to welcome Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert but I actually found that most of it is more of a terracotta colour. Our first photo stop was on a very busy road to see the outside of the palace Hawa Mahal. Constructed with red and pink sandstone, it’s in the shape of a crown with the facade structured like a bee hive. The 953 small windows keep the wind blowing inside to act as natural air conditioning and they enabled the royal women to watch the bustle of the city without being visible to the public.
In order to take the photograph above I had to stand on the opposite side of the road and behind me were these two snake charmers, who had obviously positioned themselves in the spot where there were the most tourists. I like the contrast of the western clothing the tourists are wearing and the traditional dress of the locals.
Next was the Amber fort (also spelled Amer fort). It sits high on a hill and much to my disappointment and frustration, tourists still ride on elephants to take a path up there instead of driving on the road. 🙁
There was a steady stream of elephants carrying people up the hill, but elephants’ spines can’t support the weight of people and can lead to permanent spinal injuries. There are further complications from having a chair attached to their backs and this can rub, causing blisters that can become infected. Prior to being ridden though, elephants undergo a harmful training method. Young elephants are taken from their mothers and confined to a small place, then abused with bullhooks and bamboo sticks spiked with nails. They are also starved and deprived of sleep, in order to crush their spirits and become submissive to humans. In one of the national parks I witnessed an elephant being hit on its leg with a wooden pole in order to make it lie down so that it could be ridden, and it was bellowing in pain. It really upset me, so PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, never ride an elephant.
Here’s a selection of images from inside the complex.
Next stop was an interesting visit to a textile blocking workshop. This traditional process of hand block printing with rich natural colours has been practiced in Rajasthan for around 500 years and takes many hours to achieve a finished piece of material.
I was slow to achieve a small print with three colours!
In a little backroom a couple of men were busy at sewing machines.
Lastly, the city palace.
There is a fascinating story behind the giant silver urns you can see in the background of the photo below. Each one is 5 feet 3 inches in height, with a circumference of nearly 15 feet, and a carrying capacity of 4,091 litres. They were used to carry drinking water from the Ganges river all the way to England in 1902 so that the Maharaja of Jaipur could attend the coronation of King Edward VII.
Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/content/145224/long-story-jaipur-jars.html
That concludes my visit to India. The trip exceeded my expectations with the number of tiger sightings, and the colours everywhere were very uplifting. Even the 5 hour car journeys were enjoyable as there was so much to see along the way.
I’m thinking of running a trip to India next year or the year after with the aim of photographing tigers, adding on the option of also visiting the Taj Mahal and Jaipur. Let me know here if you might be interested in a spot. Non photographer partners are very welcome.