The vast, central courtyard of Amber Fort. Red sandstone pavers, red sandstone walls; baking hot surfaces, air swirling in the midday heat.
On the edge of perception, a haunting drone, a chilling squeal, like the cry of an angel, coming from where?
It’s coming through Suraj Pol, the Sun Gate. The squeal is rising in pitch, rising in fervour. A woman in a bright orange sari emerges from the gate, her mouth open wide, her head tilted back, the intonation rising from her lips. More women follow, all in saris, all singing,
Within moments there are hundreds of women inside the courtyard, all with their mouths open and their heads tilted back. They aren’t singing exactly, just emitting this one, sustained, high-pitched note.
A guard comes running into the courtyard from a far door. He yells at the women, his voice obtaining a berating tone.
The women ignore the guard till he right is at their side. By this time he is waving his arms in anger and red in the face.
The singing ends. Silence claps across the courtyard. Then giggling. Hundreds of hands raised to mouths to hide their collective mirth. The women continue across the courtyard and disappear through a far door.
What just happened here?
I honestly couldn’t say.
The founding of Amber Fort
Settlement of this particular part of Rajasthan dates back to at least 967 CE, when the Chanda clan, under the lead of Raja Alan Singh, appeared on the scene.
Centuries later, Amber Fort became the residence of the powerful Kachwaha maharajas.
The structure you see today was built by Raja Man Singh in the late 16th Century, and it was subsequently expanded by Raja Jai Singh I (after whom Jaipur is named).
The fort has four main sections, each with its own courtyard and gate.
Ganesh Pol (Ganesh Gate)
Ganesh Gate, the most impressive of all the gates, provided entrance to the private residences of the rajahs.
The gate’s concealed upper galleries allowed women to watch the goings-on in the main courtyard – where military parades and the like would be held – without being seen.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
In 2013 Amber Fort, along with 5 other forts in Rajasthan (Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Sawai Madhopur, Jhalawar, and Jaisalmer) were deemed to reflect the elaborate, fortified seats of power of Rajput princely states that flourished between the 8th and 18th centuries and their relative political independence and subsequently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Read more on the UNESCO listing here.
Practical information and how to reach Amber Fort:
Amber Fort is 11km from the city of Jaipur, and easily accessed by public bus. Jaipur is 270 km from Delhi.
More transport info here.