“The Elephants are waiting”
After the rest and relaxation of yesterday’s light schedule and a good night sleep, we were ready for the packed schedule ahead. Today was our first full day in Jaipur, also known as the pink city. We were treated to a feast at breakfast with an unlimited supply of coffee, eggs, toast, and pancakes. Our day began with one of my favorite statements that our tour guide has said so far, “Shall we begin, the Elephants are waiting for your arrival.”
The bus wound its way through the busy streets of Jaipur to the Amber Fort, where like our tour guide, Deependra, had said, the elephants were literally 20ft from the bus waiting with their trainers to take us up the long uphill climb to the fort entrance. We hopped on two at a time and made the slow ascent to the top of one of the hills that overlooked the city, all while people tried to sell us trinkets, bags and turbans from down below. The elephant that I rode on was named Sarah and was 25 years old. Sarah, like all of the elephants that work at the fort take 3 trip per day before retiring to the elephant sanctuary just on the outskirts of the city. After entering the fort gates, we said goodbye to our giant friends and headed into the fort. There were four different levels to the fort, each giving a different view of the city below, and each adding a level of security for the family that used to live here. Each level was preceded with a grand arch decorated with intricate patterns in the smooth marble. The different layers each had side hallways that split off in a maze like pattern to the separate chambers that were once occupied by the rulers 25 wives and countless children. After exhausting the fort of all photo opportunities we then trekked back down the hill, and began the drive to the next stop. Farther up the hillside, was another fort, owned by the same ruler, known as Nahargarh Fort was built for one of the ruler of Amer’s first wives. More remote than the first fort, the Nahargarh fort offered a more secluded home for the women, and had a great variety of birds-eye-views of the city and lake below.
After a quick lunch break, we visited a block printing shop. Jaipur is famous for block printing, where a large piece of fabric receives its design when the printer repeatedly stamps the plain fabric with a large wooden block that has the desired design on the bottom. A simple fabric contains only one block repeated consistently on the fabric, but a more complicated design can have up to 7 different blocks placed over one another to create a colorful and intricate pattern. We got to try block printing, and used 4 different blocks to create an elephant with a colorful drape and saddle. After the fabric is finished being stamped, it must lay out in the sun to oxidize for 60 to 80 hours. This allows the colors to soak into the fabric, and they even change color as they oxidize. We took our finished products inside the store next door where they sold the fabrics, and they showed us the difference between machine printing and block printing. We then shopped around in the store for scarves, pants, bed sheets, and the big buy of the day was the Saris that were will wear to the Taj Mahal. We all sat in front of the hundreds of options as one of the salesmen pulled sari after sari off of the shelf for us to try on. After shopping for a little over 2 hours, we planned to return tomorrow for our tailored Saris.
The last stop of the day was to a small marble Hindu temple known as Tilak Nagar. The beautifully designed temple was filled with carvings of some of the Hindu Gods like Ganesh, Krishna, and Luxemie. Deependra gave information about each God and their stories as well as tips on how to identify each God given specific characteristics in each carving. Exhausted from a long hot day in the sun we retired to our air conditioned hotel to have dinner, journal the day's events, and host a quick braiding tutorial session where one of the girls taught everyone how to french braid hair, a popular look in the heat of the day.