While the Taj Mahal is without a doubt the most famous man-made landmark in India, India is full of awe-inspiring ancient architecture. The Rajs and Empires (including the Mughal Empire) that once ruled over India were famously wealthy - something that is easily forgotten today.
While in India, do visit the impressive Taj Mahal - it is likely to be the most impressive mausoleum that one will ever see. India is an incredible country and one that every traveler should be prepared for. Expect a very different and extremely colorful experience there!
Jaipur, Hawa Mahal, And Its Attractions
Jaipur is the largest city in the state of Rajasthan in India and famously has some of the most stunning and spectacular forts and palaces to be explored. The Hawa Mahal is one of the most famous and certainly one of the most Instagram-able.
The Hawa Mahal is a palace beautifully made of red and pink sandstone on the edge of the City Palace of Jaipur. It extends to the women's chambers or Zenana.
Date: Built In 1799
Part of: It is Part of The Women's Chambers or Zenana
It was built by the Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh who had been inspired by another stunning piece of architecture in the region called the Khetri Mahal.
The original purpose of the latticework design was so that the ladies could sit and watch the everyday life on the streets below without being seen. The women had to obey strict rules of not appearing in public without face coverings (called "purdah").
The design also had the effect of allowing cool air to pass through and making it more pleasant in the hot summers.
The Back Of The Palace: While Many Think The Hawa Mahal Is The Front of The Palace It is Actually The Back
Today the Hawa Mahal is open to the public and is a must-see. While the facade is one of the most eye-catching in India, its cultural story and the lives of the women who once lived there is even more incredible.
Opening Time: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Entrance Fees: Foreigners: Rs.50 ($1)
Tourist Pass: Foreigners Rs. 400 ($6) Covers Entrance to 6 More Jaipur Monuments - Amber Palace, Jantar Mantar, Nahargarh, Albert Hall, Sisodia Garden, and Vidhyadhar Garden
Some of the other most notable attractions in Jaipur are the Albert Hall Museum, Jal Mahal, City Palace, Amer Fort/Palace, Jantar Mantar, Jaigarh Fort, Galtaji, Nahargarh Fort, and the Birla Mandir.
The most impressive (and Instagrammed) part of the Hawa Mahal is its five-floor exterior. It has an astonishing 953 small windows (called Jharokhas) which are decorated with intricate latticework. The whole edifice is built in a honeycomb-like structure.
The Secluded Life Of The Zenana - Women's Quarters
The women's quarters or "Zenana" was a Muslim, Sikh, or Hindu family part of the house that belonged to the women. These were on the Indian subcontinent and were the inner apartments of the house where the women lived, the outer apartments were for the guests and men (called mardana).
Meaning: "Zenana" Literally "of the women" or "pertaining to women"
The Zenana that practiced "purdah" was the Indian subcontinent equivalent of the harem.
Women of the Mughal court lived a sequestered life under purdah and everything in their living quarters was run entirely by women. They couldn't be seen by men other than their families. When they traveled they would have to cover their heads and be transported in covered carriages and in litters.
In Public: While Traveling In Public The Women Would Need To Be Veiled Carried Around In Covered Litters
The litters would be carried by female pallbearers within the zenana and would only be carried by men and eunuchs once outside of the zenana.
In Mughal courts, the zenana was exceptionally luxurious - especially for the princesses and women of high rank. But there is much that isn't known as there were extreme restrictions placed on access to the women's quarters and there are few reliable accounts today.
The women who lived in these quarters were typically wives, concubines, widows, unmarried sisters, cousins, and other female relatives who were considered dependent kin.
All the visitors, including servants and entertainers, were female - even the highly trained corps of armed women (female guards called "urdubegis"). Many of these women were purchased as slaves and trained for their role, there were often of Habshi, Tatar, Turk, or Kashmiri origin.
Female Guards: There Were Even Female Guards Called Urdubegis
As the Mughal emperors would often spend much of their time in the zenana and slept there at night, the Urdubegis would also sometimes be part of the guard protecting the emperor.