The uniquely shaped Hawa Mahal is one of the best known tourist spots in Jaipur. It has become a symbol of tourism in Rajasthan, being featured on the covers of most guidebooks and travelogues about the state. This amazing structure is a glaring example of the mastery of the architects of India attained over a period of several centuries. A trip to Jaipur must include a visit to the Hawa Mahal.
The red and pink sandstone building was commissioned by Sawai Pratap Singh, the ruler of Jaipur, in 1799. The structure is a part of the City palace complex, which is another of the tourist attractions in Jaipur. The Hawa Mahal was meant to be a guarded vantage point for the women of the palace from where they could watch the processions of the city without being watched by outsiders. Thus, it is an extension of the female quarters, known as the Zenana. The design of this five storeyed building is attributed to the architect Lal Chand Usta. From the front, the Hawa Mahal looks like a huge honeycomb, with the large number of screened windows and small balconies. It is said that the design was deliberately meant to resemble the crown of Sri Krishna, the God loved and revered all over India.
The structure narrows down from the base towards the top, giving it a pyramidal shape. The five storeys comprise a total of 953 small windows with intricate screens called Jharokhas. These screened windows serve the dual purpose of guarding the women of the palace, and providing efficient air-circulation in the building, the reason why it is called the Hawa Mahal (Hawa meaning air in Hindi). Sunlight filtering through the screens of the windows presents a spectacular sight to the onlooker. The casements are adorned by delicate carvings and arched roofs. The intricate motifs further add up to the beauty of the building.
A majestic doorway leads one into the Hawa Mahal. Crossing the door, one reaches a vast courtyard that is surrounded by buildings of the city palace on three sides. An archaeological museum has been set up here. The top three storeys of Hawa Mahal are barely a room wide. This indicates that the purpose of its construction was never residential. The interiors are connected by ramps and there are no stairs to reach the upper floors. A unique feature of the building is that it remains cool even during the harsh summer of Rajasthan. This is due to the excellent ventilation that allows cool air to freely flow throughout the building.
Apart from the unique features of the building, the Hawa Mahal is also a point from where one can get a wonderful view of the city of Jaipur and the streets below. The State archeological department is currently in charge of maintenance and supervision of this heritage structure.
Find more about the Hawa Mahal and other tourist attractions in Jaipur in touristplacesinindia.com.