Within a palace, there is another palace that stands beautiful and dignified. The Sheesh Mahal, unrivaled in its elegance and grandeur tells us an uncommon tale. As a traveler, exploring Rajasthan always gives a mixed feeling. Witnessing those bare wrinkled hills, parched stone monuments, massive walled fortress and vibrant bazaars in a single sigh. Rajputana architecture speaks of their proud traditions. Kacchwaha Rajputs were known for their valor in war, they were also expert diplomats. A walk through their fort tells the story of hardy people constantly adapting to flourish in the harsh conditions of the desert.
Amidst all the story of war and valor, lies an unsaid story amidst the walls of the Sheesh Mahal. As an astounding piece of architectural work, Sheesh Mahal is a beauty erected on the forty pillars. Each pillar tells its own folklore with thousand pieces of mirrors. Sheesh Mahal is an amazing example of architecture meets diplomacy. It was built as the winter home of the Maharaja since mirrors reflected light and kept the rooms warm. It also served as the Diwan-e-Khas – a distinctly Persian tradition borrowed by the Rajput in a shrewd act of diplomacy and alliance making.
For the casual viewer, Sheesh Mahal appears to be mainly the centre for hosting royal guests and diplomatic decisions.
The royals of Rajasthan had woven the most incredible shades of colors and carvings inside the Sheesh Mahal. All surfaces are sprinkled with vibrant hues of frescoes amidst of mirror inlay work. But you may miss this story.
Beyond the pretty surface, beyond the precise and minute details – were deliberate design decisions. Decisions that were made keeping in mind the changing dynamics of the political situations.
Sheesh Mahal is a unique combination of the Hindu and Mughal architecture with carvings, mirror and stone work. It not only oozes Mughal grandeur but also the rich traditions of the Rajput community.
Built heavily with red and pale yellow sandstone and white marbles, Sheesh Mahal exhibit one of the finest inlay or mirror mosaic work. As you look around , you see the painfully intricate pietra dura or stone inlay and complex mirror-work which reflects a sumptuous lifestyle of the Royals. The motifs here are carefully disguised diplomatic tools. The Rajput took care to ensure the vases engraved on walls never had spouts as Mughals being followers of Islam never touched alcohol. With carved flowers, flowerpots, jugs and tree branches, it holds close inspiration from the Mughal architecture. The floral motifs closely resemble Mughal floral patterns easing the visitor with a sense of familiarity amidst all that wonder.
To showcase the pride of the Rajputs, there are frescoes with Lord Ganesh adorning the whole concealment. The elegant pattern work in stained glass work with metal base depicts the mythological era of Radha and Krishna. The floral motifs are surrounded by unique seven designs – the scorpion, fish tail, lion’s tail, lotus, cob of corn, elephant trunk, and hooded cobra. All of these are motifs of the Rajputs – displaying their strength and pride in their land.
The interplay of Rajput and Mughal motifs blending seamlessly serve as a reminder to the guest on how these two seemingly disparate cultures could come together in new and beautiful ways.
The miniature Charbagh outside the Sheesh Mahal served as a garden with the calming sounds of running water and scent of flowers lingering in the warm desert evenings. Diplomats and important guests would be served food and entertained with music and dance here. The sounds of revelry would give way to serious conversations around -alliances and war.
These walls have witnessed the formation and breaking of alliances. Averting wars, building trust. Decisions that impacted empires and kingdoms.
Much of the Kacchwaha Rajput’s success has been its ability build strong military and matrimonial alliances with the Mughals in Delhi. These strong alliances allowed decades of peace and allowed trade to flourish in the desert bringing prosperity. Unknown to many, the Sheesh Mahal had been the mute yet powerful centre of war talks and alliances and till date.
The next time you visit the Amer Fort, take a moment at the Sheesh Mahal. Within the cool walls you will find a grave solemnity of a building that has witnessed more than the pretty façade will have you believe.
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