Architecture in Focus: Hawa Mahal - the Palace of the Winds

Tucked within the busy streets of Jaipur, is an architectural marvel standing pyramidal 50 feet highof red and pink sandstoneadorned with 953 jharokha windows designed intricately with latticework. Built in 1799 under the orders of Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, the Hawa Mahal ("The Palace of the Winds") was designed by the architect of Jaipur city Lal Chand Ustad and is an example of Rajput Architecture prevalent in the state of Rajasthan. In the olden times, peeking behind those windows were the royal ladies practicing the purdahobserving the happenings on the street without getting seen. The direction to which the windows of Hawa Mahal opens to allows a strong breeze of wind to cool the hallway measuring just the width of an arm.

Hawa Mahal  facade

Aileen and I woke up early to start our day of exploring Jaipur. The day before we arrived on a train from New Delhi and spent the afternoon rummaging through many interesting items at Johri and Bapu bazaars. Surprisingly, the vendors here aren't as annoying as the ones on the previous stops we've had. Yes, they would beckon us to "come take a look inside five minutes", but when we politely say "No, it's alright" they'd smile back and say "no problem"

Facade of Hawa Mahal in Jaipur

Jaipur was our 5th stop in India after Kolkata, Varanasi, Agra and New Delhi and I've come to relax my senses and the paranoia of being scammed or the fear of Aileen at being gropedas suggested by many travel warnings I've read online prior to our tripwere almost forgotten. Mainly because since the start of our trip in Kolkata, we've had the good fortune of meeting kind and helpful locals. 

Koryn Iledan in Hawa Mahal

Of course, the touts along the ghats of Varanasi were totally out of this world, but understandably so as they're just plying their boat trade. En route to Jaipurour first destination in the state of RajasthanI quickly noticed the sudden shift of the landscape. The roads are littered with speck of golden dust, the architecture quickly turning to another page and as mentioned, more bazaars selling items escaping suggestions of modernity.

Elal Jane Lasola in Hawa Mahal

From sarees, pashmina shawls, tunics, scarves, traditional decorated shoes, lehangas in colorful bhandhej, gemstone jewelries, Jaipuri jutis, salwar suits, bedsheets, handcraft items and a lot more, had Aileen almost going mad just by trying to decide which item to buy. 

Levy Amosin in Hawa Mahal

We arrived near the Hawa Mahal area around 8:30 am. The wind was a bit cold since it is still the tail-end of winter. Good for us, because summer can be hotly unbearable and walking around this weather gave us more time to explore on foot. Being in India this long we've embraced the frenetic street activities and that morning, people on the streets are just starting their day. Shops and offices are slowly starting to open. 

Coming at par with the 'specimen of fanciful architecture' label of Hawa Mahal, the surrounding buildings which also include the nearby City Palace of Jaipur does not disappoint either. There is always these contrasting images that battle it out with our senses each step we take. 

Gretchen Filart in Hawa Mahal

One moment we were walking a narrow street reeking with piss, cow and dove dungs, then a few steps after we will be greeted by a marvelous structure - in this case, the outer wall of the City Palace. There's always a place for chaos and beauty in India as magnified here in the streets of Jaipur. Something that our friend Mina told us, 'will blow your senses away'. 

Celine Murillo in Hawa Mahal

As a traveler, it is exactly what I intend to experience. Jaipur and the bazaars, Hawa Mahal and later on during this day, the City Palace, the Amber Fort, more street walking and local foods and then some, reinforced me with what I was really expecting of India. 

As I stand across the Hawa Mahal - I imagined the royal ladies of the old days, their faces covered with only their visible sparkling eyes staring back at me. The wind blows across their veil exposing their attractive features and for a rapid stolen moment I locked eyes with one of them.