The Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of Winds, is arguably Jaipur’s best-known monument. For one, it is unlike any other Rajput monument – fort, palace or temple.
Adjacent to the City Palace (where the family of the last Maharaja of Jaipur still lives) is the Hawa Mahal Jaipur, built by Sawai Pratap Singh and designed by Lalchand Usta in 1799. If you view it from a distance, it looks like a palace with the promise of big, spacious rooms inside. But once you cross the road for a closer inspection, you realise that it is little more than a finely chiselled facade. Out of its five floors, the top three are just a room deep while the lower floors are connected to rooms and courtyards. Hawa Mahal, Jaipur, is an enormous tapering structure with numerous arches, spires and a mind-boggling 953 latticed casements and small windows.
The building is a bit of an enigma as nobody knows precisely why it was built. A couplet ascribed to Sawai Pratap Singh, a poet and a devotee of the Hindu deities Radha and Krishna, suggests that the monument was dedicated to them. However, the most widely accepted conjecture is that it was a viewing gallery for the ladies of the royal household. Sitting in the cool, airy interior of the Hawa Mahal, they could watch the goings-on below while remaining hidden themselves. The carved screen balconies meant that the windows caught even the slightest whiff of breeze, making the ladies comfortable as they watched the royal parades and processions.