Jaipur's Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace) is undoubtedly one of the most distinctive monuments in India. It's certainly the most iconic landmark in Jaipur. The building's evocative facade, with all those little windows, never fails to arouse curiosity. This complete guide to the Hawa Mahal will tell you everything you need to know about it and how to visit it.
The Hawa Mahal is located at Badi Chaupar (Big Square), in the walled Old City in Jaipur.
History and Architecture
Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, who ruled Jaipur from 1778 to 1803, built the Hawa Mahal in 1799 as an extension of the zenana (women's quarters) of the City Palace. The most striking thing about it is its unusual shape, which has been likened to honeycomb from a beehive.
Apparently, the Hawa Mahal has an innumerable 953 jharokhas (windows)! The royal women used to sit behind them to watch the city below without being seen. A cooling breeze flowed through the windows, giving rise to the name "Wind Palace". However, this breeze diminished in 2010, when many of the windows were shut to stop tourists damaging them.
The Hawa Mahal's architecture is a blend of Hindu Rajput and Islamic Mughal styles. The design itself isn't particularly remarkable, as it's similar to that of Mughal palaces with screened lattice sections for women.
Architect Lal Chand Ustad took it to a whole new level though, by transforming the concept into a grand landmark structure with five floors.
The facade of the Hawa Mahal is believed to resemble Lord Krishna's crown, as Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh was an ardent devotee. The Hawa Mahal is also said to have been inspired by the Khetri Mahal of Jhunjhunu, in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, built in 1770 by Bhopal Singh.
It's regarded as a "wind palace" as well, although it has pillars to facilitate air flow instead of windows and walls.
Although the Hawa Mahal is made out of red and pink sandstone, its exterior was painted pink in 1876, along with the rest of the Old City. Prince Albert of Wales visited Jaipur and Maharaja Ram Singh decided this would be a great way to welcome him, as pink was the color of hospitality. This is how Jaipur became known as the "Pink City". The painting still continues, as the pink coloring is now required to be maintained by law.
What's also interesting, is that the Hawa Mahal is supposedly the world's tallest building without a foundation. It was constructed with a slight curve to make up for not having this strong base.
How to Visit Jaipur's Hawa Mahal
The Hawa Mahal fronts the main street of the Old City, so you're bound to pass it on your travels. However, it looks most spectacular in the early morning, when the sun's rays amplify its color.
The best spot to admire the Hawa Mahal is at Wind View Cafe, on the rooftop of the building opposite. If you look carefully between the shops, you'll see a small passageway and staircase leading up to it. Enjoy the scene with surprisingly good coffee (the beans are from Italy)!
You don't have to imagine what's on the other side of the Hawa Mahal's facade though. You can actually stand behind its windows, as the royal ladies once did, and engage in some people-watching of your own. Some tourists don't realize it's possible to go in because they don't see an entrance. This is because the Hawa Mahal is a wing of the City Palace. To access it, you'll need to go around the back and approach it from a different street. When facing the Hawa Mahal, walk left to the Badi Chaupar intersection (the first intersection you'll come across), take a right, walk a short distance, and then turn right into the first alleyway. There's a large sign that points to the Hawa Mahal.
The admission price is 50 rupees for Indians and 200 rupees for foreigners. A composite ticket is available for those who are planning to do a lot of sightseeing.
It's valid for two days and also includes Amber Fort, Albert Hall, Jantar Mantar, Nahargarh Fort, Vidyadhar Garden, and Sisodia Rani Garden. This ticket costs 300 rupees for Indians and 1,000 rupees for foreigners. Tickets can be purchased online here or at the ticket office at the Hawa Mahal. Audio guides can be hired at the ticket office.
The Hawa Mahal is open from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily. An hour is enough time to see it.
What Else to Do Nearby
You'll come across plenty of shops selling the usual tourist fare, such as clothing and textiles, around the Hawa Mahal. However, they tend to be more expensive than elsewhere, so bargain hard if you decide to buy anything. Johari Bazaar, Bapu Bazaar and lesser-known Chandpole Bazaar are better areas to shop for inexpensive jewelry and handicrafts. You can even get a turban!
The Old City, where the Hawa Mahal is located, has a few other popular tourist attractions such as the City Palace (the royal family still lives in part of it). Take this self-guided walking tour of Jaipur's Old City to wander around and explore.
Alternatively, if you want to immerse yourself in the atmospheric Old City, Vedic Walks offers insightful walking tours in the mornings and evenings.
The Surabhi Restaurant and Turban Museum is a unique concept about 10 minutes walk north of the Hawa Mahal. It's housed in an old mansion, and provides a cultural experience for tourists with live music and entertainment.
You can also take a trip down memory lane at the nostalgic old Indian Coffee House, hidden in an alleyway off M.I. Road, near Ajmeri Gate. The Indian Coffee House restaurant chain is the largest in India. It dates way back to the 1930s, when the British set it up to increase coffee consumption and sell their coffee crops. The coffee houses later became legendary hangout places for intellectuals and social activists. Simple but tasty south Indian food is served.