Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan has been dubbed as the Pink City of India owing to the pink structures constructed using natural sandstone, which has a distinctive rosy color. One of the beautiful pink edifices, considered as a monument in Jaipur with excellent architecture, is the Hawa Mahal, which literally means Palace of Winds.
The Mystery behind the Pink Palace
The Palace of Winds, built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799, was used as an extension of the women’s chambers or zenana, which is the harem of the palace. Thus, the use of the pink sandstone, rendering the characteristic rosy color of the palace just like the other edifices in Jaipur, couldn’t be more appropriate.
In 1876, the exterior wall of the palace was given a facelift. The paint used in the restoration of the walls contains calcium oxide to give it a pinkish hue just like the sandstones.
It is an Architectural Delight
The 50-foot Hawa Mahal is regarded as one of the finest architectural work in in the country that blends Rajput and Islamic architecture. These are visible in the elaborate designs, floral patterns, domed tops, furrowed columns, stunning stone inlay and archways. Since the Maharaja was a big believer of Lord Krishna, Lal Chand Ustad designed it in a pyramidal shape to resemble the crown of this Hindu god down to the peacock feathers.
The Palace of Winds owes its architectural drama from the unique façade consisting of 953 “jharokhas” or small windows shielded by elaborate latticework. The final effect is an optical illusion reminiscent of a five-layered honeycomb of a beehive that seems not be anchored to the ground, but instead attached to a wall.
A Practical Piece of Art
The windows, all 953 of them, are angled to give the royal ladies the opportunity to observe day-to-day life, religious ceremonies and royal processions as they unfold daily in the street below and the main market. The latticework was deliberately designed so that they can stare down without being seen in accordance to a custom or system called “Purdah,”which literally means “curtain.” It refers to the compulsory separation of the maharajah’s wives and concubines from the rest of the world.
The latticework that serves this purpose is a gorgeous piece of art. It can best be appreciated when closely viewed from the inside to see the fine craftsmanship of the artists. The window design is also practical during hot seasons as they allow the cool air to filter through the lattice, conditioning the air in the rooms in the peak of summer. Its name “Palace of the Winds” is actually a reference to this clever cooling system that allows gentle breezes to flow through the windows and into the chambers inside.
Hawa Mahal is best appreciated when you visit it in the brightness of the morning sun. It is located in the Badi Chaupad intersection in the south of Jaipur. Remember to enter the Palace from a side street to the back end, and not from the front. If you are facing the Palace, turn right twice before passing through an archway entrance. Proceed to the rear end.