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Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Probably the most famous feature in Jaipur, this wonder structure is part of the City Palace and was built by Sawai Pratap Singh in the late 18th century. From the street passing by, it looks like a tapering facade of tiny windows that seems to hide nothing behind it. But, in fact, it is part of the Zenana Mahal, or the women's palace, that stands behind it. The top three of the five-floor structure are together just a room deep but the lower floors are connected to rooms and courtyards. As a matter of fact, what is visible from the road outside is actually the backside of the building.

The Hawa Mahal, or the palace of the winds, was designed as a window to the outside world for the women who led cloistered lives in the closed courtyards and apartments behind it. The 953 latticed windows, built tier upon tier giving a fragile lace-like effect, offered a perfect view of the road below while concealing the women from the outside world. The carved screen balconies are designed in such a way that the windows catch even the faintest breeze. The women could spend their day sitting here, hidden by the screened windows, watching the world go by and having a grandstand view of royal parades and other ceremonies from their airy littile perches.

The fancy structure has an odd pyramid shape and may seem more to be a whimsical folly of the king, but it was built following a medieval tradition of building palaces for women where they could sit and enjoy fine weather. For instance, there is the tapering five-storeyed Panch Mahal in Fatehpur Sikri. However, none of them possesses the unique imaginative design of the airy and delicate Hawa Mahal.



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