A TRIP TO HAWA MAHAL
Learn about Jaipur’s most distinctive landmark. From the purpose of its honeycomb shape to the consistency of the pink sandstone and the intent behind its 953 windows, we dive into the architectural history of one of India’s symbols
Words: Aleksandra Georgieva
Photography: Annie Spratt
04 November 2020
We welcome you to "The Palace of Winds", Jaipur’s most notable landmark and a bucket list stop for adventurers from across the world. Hawa Mahal, also known as "The Palace of Breeze", is a honeycombed hive, built from pink and red sandstone that overlooks Sireh Deori Bazaar from one side while displaying stunning scenery of Jantar Mantar and the City Palace on the other. Located around 300 km from the capital city of Delhi, the historical palace was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, grandson of Jaipur’s founder, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh.
The structure is designed to delicately resemble honeycomb, with its five-floor exterior of soft pink sandstone glimpsing around with its 953 small windows called Jharokhas. Hawa Mahal was built with the idea of enabling ladies of the royal household to enjoy the stunning view across the City Palace while overlooking the life of Jaipur’s citizens. As the ladies had to obey the rules of "purdah", they were forbidden to appear in public without a face covering, but the architecture of “The Palace of Winds” allowed them to witness the festive celebrations in the streets of Jaipur without being seen from the city. Another benefit of the building’s design was the so-called Venturi effect, which generates cool air and brings down the high temperatures in the area in the summer months.
Jaipur’s fame of "Pink City" translates delicately into the décor of the pyramidal shaped monument. The honeycomb appearance of Hawa Mahal combines a vast contrast between the plain design of its rear side and the playful dance of domes, semi-octagonal bays and 953 niches constructing its façade. Th palace reflects the cultural and architectural heritage of the region, while maintaining a sense of uniqueness, which appeals to tourist crowds from all over the world. The Hindu, Rajput style and Islamic Mughal architecture shows through interior and exterior design elements of fluted pillars, floral and lotus patterns, domes, carvings, miniature windows, coloured marbles and distinctive minimal ornaments.
The entrance to “The Palace of Winds” is located to the side of the palace through an imperial door, which leads to a spacious courtyard, revealing the elegant built-in interior of Hawa Mahal. Inside the aesthetics are minimalistic yet stylish, consisting of narrow corridors, fountains, colourful marbles, delicate arches and cooling chambers. The archaeological museum displays relics, miniature paintings and ceremonial armour – a reminder of Jaipur’s royal past. In honour of Prince Albert of Wales, who visited in 1876, the exterior of Hawa Mahal alongside the rest of the Old City was painted pink, which was considered the colour of hospitality and ever since the city has maintained its striking pink colour by law.
Nowadays the Pink City continues to awe with its magnificence and rich history. For the price of 200 rupees between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. travellers can enter the palace and look outside the windows of Hawa Mahal just like the ladies did all that time ago. Walk around the markets and buy handmade jewelry and handicrafts; you can even get a turban. At sunrise and sunset, the place looks almost unrecognisable as the sunrays bathe the pastel colours of the palace, defending Hawa Mahal’s reputation as one of the most magnificent symbols of India.
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