If these walls could speak: Jodhpur Fort
[NOTE: I originally wrote this for the Art Gallery of Ontario's Art Matters blog for Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts, the exhibit that runs from November 20, 2010 to April 3, 2011.]
When I was a child, I was obsessed with the 1,001 Tales of the Arabian Nights. I read every book in the library and painted huge colourful murals on my walls of genies coming out of bottles, turreted palaces and fairy tale forts. Many years later, as an adult, I went to India to recover from loss and depression, stemming largely from the sudden and unexpected death of my Mother.
Imagine my surprise when I went to the Maharaja’s Palace in Mysore, and to the land of Maharajas, Rajasthan – and saw my bedroom walls come to life! I cried many times touring these fantastic palaces as I remembered my Mother and how she had brought me up to believe in magic and the possibilities of life.
India turned out to be the land of my imagination, heart and soul. Traveling in India healed me, and gave me back my enthusiasm for life. And I am especially enthusiastic about Rajasthan.
In Rajasthan, there seems to be no end to the wonders. The golden city of Jaisalmer with its fairy tale fort; the riches of Udaipur and the shimmering lake surrounded by palace hotels; the massive Amber Fort overlooking the pink city of Jaipur.
But one of my favourites is the Mehrangarh Fort in the centre of Jodhpur. I was advised to rent the audio tour and I am so glad I did. The present-day Maharaja’s voice regales you with spell-binding tales as you walk through the huge fort-palace, past magnificently furnished rooms, a somber enclosed courtyard in the women’s quarters and ramparts that soar hundreds of feet above the Blue City.
The most moving stop on the tour was the site of rows of small handprints at the massive exit gates. These are the handprints of the wives of Maharaja Man Singh, who committed sati by throwing themselves on his funeral pyre in 1843. They made these marks on their way out of the fort to a certain death.
Rajasthan is not just about glorious art and architecture. It is also about stories – stories that come alive when you visit the Land of Kings.
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