The pink wall of Hawa Mahal is a landmark of Jaipur.
Hawa Mahal was the first touristy thing I did in India. Let me quickly set the scene. I arrived in Delhi around mid morning, was chauffeured five hours all the way to Jaipur, dumped off my luggage, and almost immediately was out the door for some sightseeing.
Just as I was in the mood to settle down after too many hours of traveling, a few other volunteers were leaving to go to Hawa Mahal. What’s Hawa Mahal? I had no idea. Maybe I saw it in my pre-travel research, but at the moment it wasn’t surfacing in my mind.
I was tired, I was hungry, I was hot, and my jeans were sticking to my legs. But I wanted to see something. So I joined my fellow volunteers. I didn’t know them yet, and they didn’t know me, but when you are traveling that sort of thing doesn’t always matter. I didn’t yet know how to get around India, so I tagged along as they tracked down and negotiated a rickshaw.
The three-legged yellow and green vehicle bumped and rumbled down the packed dirt roads. I was sitting in tight with some girls I didn’t know, our sweaty shoulders sticking to each other. Hunching forward just enough so that I wouldn’t smack my head on the ceiling every five seconds, people, animals, trash, carts, and more people entered and exited my field of vision through the windowless window. Not completely sure of precautions I needed, I clutched my backpack tightly from any grabby hands that might happen to reach in.
Read: India street photograph taken from a rickshaw
Soon, the rickshaw came to a concrete-looking building.
It was a pale shade of yellow, but from the outside nothing spectacular to look at. Though surely I was jet-tired at the time, so my memory may not be the most accurate. The heat of the afternoon sun hit me as I stepped out, and I pulled out my camera. A few obvious tourists were milling about while I handed some rupees to a man behind a concrete screen, sitting in a dark, cool room.
Still not sure what I just payed an entrance fee for, I went into the sandstone palace. Hawa Mahal means “Palace of the Winds,” and the small open windows on the wall allow air to blow through, and it did feel very cool inside compared with the heat of outside. Pillars, arches, fountains, and stained glass all add to the beauty of Hawa Mahal.
The large pink wall was like a screen for women of the palace. A place for them to watch street life in privacy and secret. I can easily imagine how much fun it would have been to watch people on the street without their knowing. Though less fun is the idea that women should hide themselves.
Hawa Mahal is beautiful and it was a nice first tourist experience in India.
I’m glad I went in spite wanting to rest.
What sites have you been to by accident or without knowing what it was beforehand that turned out to be nice? Leave your comments below!
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