India- chapter four

We spent the next day in and around Jaipur. The imposing Amber Fort lies on top of a forested hill. Rows of decorated elephants climb up and down the serpentine staircase towards the king’s gate.  Close to the entrance, a ragged, disheveled, barefoot snake charmer opened his basket as we walked by. His sadness and sanctity were overpowering, and encased me, the westerner, in guilt, remorse and sorrow.

A priest offered us flower garlands in a small hindu temple near the queens’ gate. The 500 year old opulent palace opened with the first courtyard and terraces overlooking the lake forefront and its surroundings. The red sandstone, massive silver doors, latticed screens, flower frescos carved in white marble, intricate mirror ceilings and elaborate paintings, gates decorated in precious stones, domes, gardens, fountains, pillars carved with hindu, christian and islamic symbols, were all in front of us. We recrossed the labyrinthine passages, the courtyards and pendulous gardens, the chambers, thermes, libraries, balconies and we barely talked to each other. The words were irrelevant. We looked, touched, and listened. We envisioned the people, the colors, the kings, the elephants, the lost world. We felt too small and yet we felt majestic. Our soul was overfilled by too much beauty.  We had to take time, to sit down and slow our breath.

We remained speechless on our way back to Jaipur. We visited the city palace, and walked by the wind and the water palaces. In the city palace, we learned more on the history of Jaipur, its splendid architecture, and religious foundation. Once again, we were carried through an array of courtyards, chambers and stone and marble carvings. We were inebriated, and yet, we continued to Jantar Mantar, a testimony of the skills and knowledge of the astronomers and astrologists three hundred years ago. Architectural astronomical instruments still precisely calculate the time and planetary motion.

We returned to the old city. Thousands of people, vendors, beggars, children, merchandise, bicycles, cows, the same mixture of smells and colors, became normality. Slowly, we started to converse. The day was overwhelming and we agreed that we witnessed too much beauty and wealth for one person to handle…

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